Michael Lesar is well-known around party scenes – popularly as “The King of Swing”. He’s a DJ from Johannesburg who’s developed a specialisation in swing sets, where he meshes old music with newer beats, and never fails to get a dance floor moving. But when I asked him about it, he told me that he really doesn’t mind if people are sitting down…
Lesar first started dabbling with DJing at twelve years old with his best friend – “We started with 2 tape decks DJing with cassettes, playing at our friends’ birthday parties in our neighbourhood. We did this for about 3 years then fast forward a few years until I witnessed my first live set: Phat Jack playing a House set at ”The Function” in Cape Town. I was hooked.”
“Him and a few other local DJs inspired me to get my first two cheap, belt-driven turntables and a few vinyls. After being a bedroom DJ for a while and playing at friends braais I needed a gig but nobody would book me because I was unknown.”
So, together with two friends (as MLF Productions), he started his own events – called ‘Deep Heet’ – and booked himself.
“‘Deep Heet Parteez’ was a success from the first event, and ended up becoming one of the top brands on the Cape Town house circuit, and ran successfully for 10 years. I owe everything to this event. It was the best platform ever.”
Years later, I first discovered Michael’s sets when he was the resident DJ who closed the party at Park Acoustics monthly. For those who aren’t familiar, he describes his set as “a journey of good music blended together in the naughtiest, most silly and fun way possible!” I’ve always been fascinated by his sets, but mostly the fact that he doesn’t seem to rely on the rocketing energy of a dance floor audience – Michael gets booked at a variety of gigs, and often for quiet, daytime, sit down events.
“I absolutely love playing at these sit down events, and [passive audiences] are equally fulfilling [as party dance floors], as it gives me the opportunity to explore a different side of my music – a side I don’t usually get to play at big festivals or clubs. At a sit down event there may not be a dance floor, but the passive enjoyment is awesome: Peeps still ‘get down’ with simple gestures like tapping their feet, clapping, head movements, and finger tapping. This is enough for me; it usually ends with a big applause.”
“A good swing set is a combination of things. I like to take peeps on a little journey of swing music to keep it interesting, mixing up original 1920/1930’s stuff with Swing Breaks, Swing House – even some drum & bass.
“I love mixing different swing genres together so you never know whats going to happen next, so I think the element of surprise plays a big part… Also knowing how to read the energy of the crowd, being able to play the right track at the right moment, and a damn fine collection of music.”
“I don’t have a favourite,” he says, when prodded about genres he prefers to blend. “It really depends on the brief of the event – if it’s swing orientated or other.”
“Again it also depends on the crowd at that moment, which will determine my next track. Besides the swing I enjoy mixing a blend of funk, disco, house, lounge some afro, and a bit of breaks, but nothing of a commercial nature.”
This coming Sunday, 30 October, Michael will be joining Al Bairre, Tresor, and The Kiffness at The Good Luck Bar in Johannesburg for the next OneSight Acoustics event – a series of concerts in aid of OneSight – a global nonprofit which provides sustainable access to quality vision care and eye wear to those who cannot afford it or do not have access to it. Michael is looking forward to playing.
“I’m so humbled and honoured to have even been asked to be part of such an amazing cause. It is the most important thing ever, to be able to give back to the universe for all your blessings. The thought of my contribution making a direct impact or difference to people in need, is the best feeling ever! A big thumbs up, well done and thank you to the OneSight Acoustics team for this great initiative.”
Michael Lesar is the “King of Swing” – a DJ from Johannesburg. You can see him at OneSight Acoustics (with Al Bairre, Tresor, and The Kiffness) at The Good Luck Bar on 30 Oct – if you jump, you might still be able to score free tickets from TheFlow.co.za. Otherwise, get your tickets from WebTickets.
Floris sometimes writes things when he’s not watching movies or playing video games or editing videos or folk-rock singing/songwriting.