It’s quite easy to fall into the trap of believing that you’ll only pursue a certain career or passion once you’ve reached a particular age, when reality is, if you don’t start now, you quite possibly never will.
At only 17 years old, Celso Fabbri is already making a name for himself on the PE social scene, DJing events and sharing his music producing skills. Armed with the special ability to get a crowd in the mood to groove, Celso is definitely one to watch.
Read on to find out more about how Celso’s music-making journey began, how he manages to juggle making music while still being a matric-year high school student, what he likes the most and the least about our city Port Elizabeth, and what his dream collaboration would be.
How did you first get into creating and sharing music?
In Grade 8 I started messing around with music production and software, and then for my school social, they asked me to come and play music because they were short a DJ. When I saw how people responded to what I was playing I was like ‘Okay, this might be something that I’m good at’, or can become good at. Seeing people dancing to my stuff and enjoying what I was playing, I thought ‘Well, I can take this somewhere.’
In Grade 9, my first event with MixLab was with Kyle Watson. It was nerve-wracking, but I didn’t clear the dance floor – everyone was coming in to listen and dance, and enjoy themselves. From there, I just started making my own music, but it wasn’t good, at all!
In Grade 10, I started doing 13th birthdays and little things to make a bit of money here and there to start buying equipment and stuff I could use.
Grade 11 was very busy for me, so I didn’t really work as much. But this year, I’ve really been pushing my name and producing a lot of remixes. A lot of my own stuff is gonna come out, and I’m hopefully gonna release an EP soon.
How old were you when you did your first event and what was that experience like?
My first proper event was with Kyle Watson. I was 15, and it was an under 18 event so there was no drinking – that type of thing.
But everyone was just enjoying themselves, it was just a whole vibe. The whole town hall was packed with people just dancing, which is what you don’t really see a lot of. A lot of people sit around, and then you have a small group of people, but because everyone was so young and still full of that energy, they wanted to get into that grooving vibe. That was the first one where it kind of took off.
I phoned the organiser and asked if I could play at his event, and he said “Okay, first make me a mix”, then I made him a mix and he was like “Ja! I like what you’re playing, come do it” and that’s how it started, my first event.
What’s been your favourite event experience and why?
It’s gonna have to be a tie! During the last Food Truck event that I did, I played a whole new set. I played a lot of throwback songs that a lot of people knew the words to, and everyone knew the rhythms because those songs were overplayed in 2016, but when you play them again this year, people are keen to listen to it again.
I did the [St Dominic’s] Priory social, my school social. I guess it was more sentimental because it was my school. When I see all the people that I know dancing to my stuff – it’s like if your family were to come and tell you that you’re doing good – that type of vibe.
Those are my favourite ones.
Are people ever surprised when they hear about how old you are?
Yeah. I mean, exhibit A, you were when I said I’m about to turn 18, like “Whaaat?” But I mean, better to start young.
What are your favourite genres of music?
I listen to everything! Some days I’ll be listening to R&B, like Ella Mai, and Khalid – I really like him.
I listen to a lot of South African artists, that groovy house type like Luke M, Sean Munnick, JM, Four7 – all of their music I really enjoy as well.
My favourite genre is this new thing called down tempo. In my mixes I just call it groove. So, down tempo, house, and I’d say hip-hop, are my top 3. That’s just what I enjoy listening to the most.
How would you describe your sound?
I’d say my signature sound would be African instruments, the marimba and steel drums.
Do you have any pre-event rituals?
There’s a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes. When I’m playing, if I’m making a track-list I’ll run through everything first. Before I have an event, I’ll listen to all the songs and then take out the bad ones. Sometimes, you’ll put in a song and think ‘Yeah this is gonna be good’, then you listen to it after another song and be like ‘Nah it’s not gonna fit’ and then you have to chuck it out.
Everyone thinks that you just rock up and plug in, and then play whatever. But you have to plan a set. In my opinion, it would be a little bit lazy to just rock up with a list of music and then play the same music at every single event.
So I don’t really have any rituals. If I’m early I’ll go and dance with the other DJ and hype up the crowd, if you wanna call that a ritual.
How long does it take you to put a track or a mix together?
A mix is about half an hour, 20 minutes. I’ll be listening to a playlist on my phone on shuffle, then I’ll hear a song, then another song and be like ‘Woah, those sounded good together’. Then I’ll find more songs with that sort of sound and vibe, and make a mix with that.
When you’re remixing songs, I’d say it takes maybe a week of 3 hours’ work a day to get everything sorted, because sometimes you add things, sleep on it, then realise ‘No, it doesn’t sound good’.
You have to keep on, because if you’re pushing out a song that’s got your name written on it, you want it to be good.
When you’re making original music, and have to try and make up your own melody and your own songs, some days you’ll just have the idea, and it seems like everything you play sounds good, but then other times it can take a long time.
I’ve got projects that I’ve been working on for a month now, and it seems like I just can’t get it to that finishing stage, but I know it’ll come eventually.
The amount of time and effort you put in, you can hear once you’ve finished. So I guess it just depends on if you’re in the zone, working, and you wanna get it done.
Which musicians do you look up to and why?
The first PE artists that I knew were Four7 and Luke M. They just rocked the whole scene. These days I just look up to PE artists. You respect where they are today, because now you understand where they came from as well. Now when you’re trying to make a name for yourself, you realise that they also had to go through all of that too.
So in no specific order, it’s Sean Munnick, Luke M, JM, and Four7. Four7 passed away, but I still look up to his sound.
What would your dream collaboration be? And dream event or place to play at?
Oh my word, that’s such a good question! Okay. How many people, just me and one other person?
Black Coffee. Me and Black Coffee collabing, and then…event? I’m gonna have to go for a big one then! Go big or go home. I’m gonna say me and Black Coffee playing at Ibiza, ‘cause his sets there are unreal. Or London, somewhere in London. Believe it or not, Gqom is big in London. I’ve seen so many YouTube videos popping up of like, DJ Lag ‘Switz’, London…they just like the energy and the music and stuff.
So Ibiza or London I’d say. But Black Coffee for sure.
How do you juggle high school and finding the time to make music and still have a social life?
To be honest I do work a lot on music at school when I shouldn’t be. If I have an idea, I’ll be in the middle of a lesson, and I’ll just write on my phone ‘You should make this’, or on my exam pad, I’ll be writing down ideas for things.
But I work at school, because I still have to get my work done. At home, I finish the schoolwork that I have to do, and afterwards, even till late, I’ll start working. Sometimes I’ll go to bed at like, 12, just because I forget about the time and I’ll just be working on music.
You’ve actually had your music featured on Algoa FM, what was that experience like?
They were really nice. They asked me about how I got into music and my short journey so far. They played one of my songs as well.
What do you love the most about doing events?
Yoh, just the emotion that I feel, and also seeing how other people react to what you’re doing. You feel like you’re just making the vibe better for them, and that in itself is enough to make me happy. When I’m playing and I bring in a new song and everyone goes “yooooh!”, you just feel so good inside. You just feel full of positive energy.
What’s your favourite social media platform and why?
Instagram. There are people who have an awesome aesthetic and take artistic pictures.
One of my friends has a make-up account, so she does crazy make-up and stuff.
It’s where a lot of people get to show off their creativity.
Are your parents supportive of you doing events?
I think they are. As long as it’s work, and it’s contributing to something that’s gonna be an investment. Gaining experience is obviously gonna be an investment.
Nothing unreasonable. If I had to come home and say ‘I’m gonna work on Wednesday from 12 to 1’? No ways! They’d tell me to cancel. So they still care about my wellbeing, but because it’s work, they are supportive of what I’m doing with events. I know that my parents are always gonna be behind me.
What do you love the most and the least about living in PE?
The most is that your squad, in my opinion, never ends. You have your close group of friends, but then, mutuals, mutuals, mutuals – you just know everyone. Everywhere you go you’re never really gonna be alone, you’re always gonna know someone. I just like the culture in that sense, everyone seems to be connected.
But the least could be the same thing, because tea can spill very far, very quickly as well! One slip up and everyone’s gonna know.
Advice for anyone who wants to do what you’re doing but doesn’t know where to start?
Where to start? I don’t even know where to start! Just start contacting people, and pushing yourself, make an impression. If you see another DJ, go and greet them and make conversation, leave your mark, because then they’ll remember you if they see you at an event.
If you score an event, and you play well, always have your manners and say thank-you, always, because there are a lot of DJs. If they chose you, you have to say thank-you, you have to have respect for them.
Otherwise, work, a lot! Make a sound.
It was an absolute pleasure getting to meet Celso and learn more about his music journey and budding career.
Be sure to give Celso a follow and check out his music via the links below!