Interview by ARMC | Edited by Reggie Rasodi

In a world where pioneers of change are the guiding stars of progress, Tsholo Rabotsho shines brightly as an extraordinary catalyst for transformation. “Through unwavering determination, innovative thinking, and a heart dedicated to making a difference, Tsholo has carved out a path that inspires us all” – Reggie Rasodi adds. Join us on this journey as we delve into the remarkable story of Tsholo Rabotsho, a true visionary and a force for positive change.

Please introduce yourself and share a little about your musical journey?

I’m Tsholo Rabotsho, a creative director in Advertising, entrepreneur, voice-over artist, DJ and event curator. My journey with music has been 11 years in the making. It started when I was 15 year’s old when I asked a DJ who was booked to play at my late aunt’s tarven, how come I’ve never seen women do what he was doing, to which he responded ‘Because women can’t DJ’. That exchange is how my journey began. I started collecting music and practicing. I got good.

So much so, in 2017 eTV approached me to become a residential DJ on two of their youth shows, ShizLive (a hip-hop show) and Crazy World Live. In the same year, Rapid Lion approached me to be the official DJ of the South African International Film Festival. It was an amazing career until 2019, when I had to leave DJing because of spiritual obligations. It broke my heart but I was happy more and more women who DJed were budding. I told myself, ‘the game is in good hands.’ When my ancestors allowed me to come back this year, I knew it wasn’t just to rock crowds – I had done that before. This time around, I felt a heavy responsibility and obligation to contribute to the music industry and start a culture that belonged to women in music. There was a need for more female led sonic experiences and I have made it my mission to fulfil it.

That’s when I shifted my focus more to organising and curating events focused on all women DJ line-ups. I sat and thought, women who DJ don’t have something that is theirs, that belongs to them and celebrates them and all the work that goes into building their brands.

You sound very much multi-layered, what motivated you to choose music?

I’ve always been surrounded by music for as long as I can remember. The radio at home was always on growing up. I bothered every classmate in Primary School with my Jam Alley music quizzes. I sang in the church choir. I can never think of a time in my life music was never there. DJing was the most natural thing to me when I started, since I don’t and can’t sing or hit an instrument. I know it’s a path I will keep choosing lifetime after lifetime, simply because of the impact I have seen music have and the importance of its existence.

Please share a moment when you felt empowered as a woman in the music industry, and how did it shape your career?

Funny enough, that moment was in 2023 – 11 years later. Definitely when I started with my first event – Que Sera Sera. A platform I launched in April that has featured 34 South African women who DJ in 2023 alone. It’s a monthly sonic experience I organise and curate every last Friday of the month at 86 Public in Randburg. I scout and handpick women who DJ that are pushing and working hard at building their brands and visibility. I have since launched two more female led sonic experiences, Garden of Eve and The Forbidden Groove. In the next year, I am hoping to get more support from brands and entities so that I grow these 3 platforms to bigger stages and platforms.

Representation always matters. How has the concept of representation influenced your career, and what approach do you aspire to adopt in the music industry to serve as a positive example for future generations?

Representation has influenced my career by making me realise that there is no honour in being the ‘only girl’ in the room. More than anything, when we have diverse perspectives and more voices in the music industry, it becomes easier to amplify the diversity we see in society. It has also made the marginalised see that music and the music industry, be it DJing or something else, is for everyone. Lastly, we level the playing field and create opportunities for women who may have been previously overlooked due to biases that exist in the industry.

My approach? I took the template of the people that put me on and I put others on. I saw nothing honourable about being the only woman in the spaces I was in. We need more women occupying the music industry, and not just as DJs. As A&Rs, label managers, artist managers, event organisers…I am hoping that with the work I do, we get to see the inclusivity and diversity. I hope that this cultivates a culture of more women creating their own female led sonic experiences until it becomes a norm for future generations.

Collaboration is key in the music world and you mentioned that the music industry is male dominated. . Could you tell us about a memorable collaboration with another talented woman and what you learned from the experience?

In 2022, I collaborated with entrepreneur, award-winning marketer and digital literacy advocate, Jaylene Ramalatso to put together my annual event, Brunch With Tsholo. This experience taught me the real meaning of ‘no woman is an island’. While I had been organising the event myself over time, having someone as capable as me come in with a different way of working and perspective really made me see that collaboration is key. It was an invaluable lesson I learnt that you need capable people who are strong in their field. We really do get further together. Lastly, our network grows larger and we gain the visibility we need for the work we do in collaboration.