Back when he was known as Nathi Maphumulo in the township of Mtahtha in South Africa, Black Coffee’s connection to Ibiza came via music compilation CDs. The Ibiza that was depicted was a party island and the music was commercially driven house. When he was first invited to the island four years ago to play Circoloco at DC-10, Nathi looked at the experience as strictly work and wasn’t entirely sure how his musical offerings would be received. “When I got to play, I realised Ibiza really was not what I thought it was,” he recalls of the experience. “I came here thinking the whole island was commercial but found there are so many different vibes here.”
Fast forward to 2017 and Black Coffee is now one of the biggest names in Ibiza, his image seen on billboards all over the island advertising his Saturday night residency at Ibiza’s newest superclub, Hï Ibiza. “Over the years, I realised every kind of music exists in Ibiza,” he says. “It just depends on the place and the time of day. Not everyone can play a prime-time slot in the clubs, but everyone can come and play here, whether it is in a big room, at a sunset party or by the pool.” And although he could be considered the current king of big rooms, in reality, he is truly humble, feeling blessed to have been given the opportunity to play his own style of music to the club’s varied audience on a weekly basis.
Does Ibiza feel like work or holiday to you? It is work. You know, I get in on a Saturday morning and leave the next day. There have been some times when I’ve stayed longer, like a week, but it’s not where I would have a holiday – everything in Ibiza takes you towards a club, from the billboards to the music in the beach bars.
What have your impressions of Hï Ibiza been so far? Hï Ibiza is the number one club in the world right now in every sense: sound, lighting, production. It’s ready for any DJ and it totally transforms with every night. They brought in all the experience they had with Ushuaia and they really know what they’re doing with production. The opening party was such a huge thing – it was kind of overwhelming to be honest! Everything was so huge and we were all trying to get the hang of it for the first time along with the crowd. The lighting guys, the sound guys, me… we were all trying to find the centre.
How did your Saturday night residency come about? In 2015, I was playing at an industry pool party at the International Music Summit and I met the people from Ushuaïa and they started talking to me about the new club and said that it would be cool for me to be a part of it – that’s when the conversations started happening. All the stars were aligned and I feel very fortunate to have gotten Saturday night in particular. I am entirely new to the mainstream crowd, and if it was a Tuesday, maybe I would have struggled with numbers but on Saturday I have the crowd who want to come across from Ushuaïa to build on. We were so lucky in so many ways.
The impressive lighting and visual displays at Hï Ibiza.
Do you think you’ve found the centre now? It’s beautiful now. We had to try different things. There were times on that first night when I thought, I don’t know if this is my place, could it be too much… because I was moving from the Circoloco side of things. I thought people could be really lost with my music. So, we sat down to find a way to make the room work for us. The music I play is not so driven by the visuals – we want people to come for the music, to dance. When we moved the booth down to where the people are, it transformed the night. It became so much more intimate and amazing.
Tell us about the crowd your night is attracting? I feel like we are starting to be a community, it’s been really nice and I am starting to see familiar faces which is what I wanted. I wanted it to be a night people could come back to, and one of the first compliments we got was that a lot of local people were looking forward to the summer with us. We also get the young crowd who come straight across from Ushuaïa in high spirits, and the VIP people spending a lot of money on the tables but you know, these are the people who are also really appreciating the music more. I’m starting something new. This is a brand-new space and there hasn’t been anything like this musically in this area before. I feel like I am getting to touch different age groups. I love that. I am educating the younger ones on what I’m doing and for those who stick around, we can grow together.
Do you get the chance to get out and see other DJs in Ibiza? I try to get out to other nights when I’m in town for longer than one night. Recently I went to see Marco Carola, I’ve been to see David Guetta and Solomun. When I first got here, I didn’t know anything about the scene so I had to learn. I mean, all the DJs know who’s who – but when I first played at Circoloco, I had never heard of anyone on the line-up with me. All of them! I met Seth for the first time that day – I’d played before him and I didn’t know who he was and it turned out he was the one who recommended me to Circoloco in the first place. Now I know… I’ve gotten to know The Martinez Brothers well and we’re going to go into the studio together when we’re not travelling. We’re always meeting in airports these days!
The striking limestone formation of Es Vedra, rumoured to be the source of Ibiza’s mythical magnetic energy.
Best DJ booth on the island for you? It has to be Hï Ibiza. I have great memories of DC-10, but now it feels like I was given a blank canvas to paint on for the entire season, so I am still working on this painting. It has become the place I look forward to most. When we were originally planning and they’d tell me I would play from 2am until close, I’d think that was a really long time but now it just feels like an hour. Once I start and feel the energy in that room, I don’t want to stop playing – it’s my favourite spot.
What’s your ultimate Ibiza track? The Year of the Underdog by Culoe de Song, a song that was out on Innervisions. I hardly ever play it now but used to play it a lot at Circoloco. Every time I hear it, it takes me back. Sometimes Dixon plays it… it doesn’t matter who plays it, for me, it brings me straight back to Ibiza.
Do you have a favourite place on the island? Two actually! The first is Es Vedra – I went there to do a shoot and I really, really fell in love with the energy there. We stayed for much longer after the shoot was over. And last week I went over to Formentera… well, I didn’t even really get there, we were just on a boat but it was just so cool, being over there with other people and going back and forth on each other’s boats.
Do you have a favourite beach in Ibiza? Umm, no. I can count the times I’ve been to the beach in Ibiza on one hand!
The crystalline waters of Ibiza’s sister island, Formentera.
Any recommendations for dining? The Fish Shack. That’s the place I don’t miss, and I always tell everyone about. Whenever I’m here I make sure I go. The seafood there looks so amazing, but I have never eaten any of it – I love the lamb chops! They’re so simple, just cooked in oil… they know when I come, that’s what I’m going to order.
What do you do in Ibiza for relaxation? I want to get a membership for a spa… at the moment, I just check in to my hotel, put the ‘do not disturb’ sign up, close the curtains, I sleep, I have dinner in my room and I deal with my music before the club. Because I travel so much, I always pace myself – I know I have to otherwise I wouldn’t be able to function fully. I don’t always stick to that… sometimes it’s the fault of social media, I can be in bed but I don’t stop – the people I work with are like, get off the phone!
Best Ibiza memory? The best memories for me are things that are coming out of what we’re doing at Hï Ibiza. The past three or four shows have been so amazing and afterwards, we’re supposed to go home but we don’t want to leave the green room. The employees get upset with use because they want to go home! Being with the people I work with, with Yann and the team from the club – it’s so nice to have the relationships we do. After the night when it’s been really successful – it’s like a celebration. They’ll get champagne and we talk non-stop. Those experiences are quite heart-warming, you know…
Away from the music, in the magic garden area at Hï Ibiza.
BLACK COFFEE PLAYS EVERY SATURDAY NIGHT AT HÏ IBIZA UNTIL SEPTEMBER 30, 2017.