Slice Of Life: ​The food of life

Playing the music that he loved made Johannes Musekwa's sales career a hit. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Playing the music that he loved made Johannes Musekwa's sales career a hit. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

When I first came to Jo’burg from Venda in the 1970s, I worked as a domestic worker. I cooked and did the gardening. When the people who owned that house sold it, the new owners asked me to stay on. In those days, you needed to work for 10 years before you could even apply for another job somewhere. But the new owner of the house asked me to come and work in his record store. He had a shop right here in Rosebank, before this mall was built. The store was called The Turntable.

He said he wanted me to work in the store because, with my style and my afro, people would think I’m American, so more people would come into the store. Those days, we used to wear bellbottoms and platform shoes, which I liked a lot. White girls would often run up to me saying I looked just like Richard Jon Smith.

When I started working at that record store, I worked as a cleaner and also ran errands, but whenever a really nice song would play, I’d write the name and the artist down. So I ended up learning a lot about music.

One day the owner asked me to play music for the store, because he wanted to hear what my music taste was like. The store’s music was played over the main speaker system and we had a speaker outside. That day, when I played my music – I really loved Barry White, The Commodores, Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye – people who were just walking past started coming into the store and asking what music was playing.

I remember feeling like, ‘Wow, I am playing really good music; I am making people happy.’ From that day on, I was the shop’s best-selling salesperson.

To this day, I love music. Whenever you play music, all that stress you had just goes away. Even if you’re alone and you just play some really good music, you’ll be happy. Just for that moment, you’ll be happy. Music, my brother, makes people very happy.

Johannes Musekwa, 74, as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail&Guardian

Carl Collison

Carl Collison

Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian. He has contributed to a range of local and international publications, covering social justice issues as well as art and is committed to defending and advancing the human rights of the LGBTI community in Southern Africa. Read more from Carl Collison

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