Traversing two civilisations, South Africa’s Metro FM DJ and businessman, Thabo Molefe (TBO Touch), seems to have touched the fabled Midas for good. A special kind of DJ that reminds you of Soul Train driver, Don Cornelius famous for “You can bet your last money, it’s all gonna be a stone gas, honey! I’m Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul”, Molefe is spontaneous and ingenious. He demonstrates greatness in his promotion of soul music. With the inspiration of DJ Enuf and Funk Master Flex, Molefe has taken the profession to a new height and his eventual last stop of becoming Africa’s number one media mogul is evidently on course. The media entrepreneur, at his New York’s Waldorf Astoria tells Nduka Nwosu about his life, philosophy, business and the woman in his life
The argument on whether South African Metro FM DJ, Thabo Molefe, otherwise known as TBO Touch, is the most popular show host in his country has gone viral severally in the social media. If you are one of the regular social network users, you must have come across TBO Touch being described as a successful radio personality hosting the drive time show and working on Metro FM for over ten years after debut on Hot FM 97.
Put the other way, who does Molefe hang out with when, for example, he is in New York City, where he studied and walked the ropes in the art that has brought him so much fame and fortune?
If you visit Molefe on Instagram and find him posing with such celebs as Suge Knight, Diddy, DJ Khaled, Fabulous and Floyd Mayweather, that will begin to tell the story. It is in the territory of Molefe to re-jig, by say flying into New York and be one of the celebrities watching his friend, Mayweather demolish one of his many victims at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas or at the NYC Madison Square Garden or better still unwind at the NBA All Star Weekend.
That is the essential TBO Touch. Every minute of his life is eventful. Touch seems to be living his life with no stone unturned, sometime ago launched his condom brand to celebrate a late friend.
At 34, he can claim to have seen so much and achieved so much to give himself a real life of luxury. Recently, Molefe married one of the beautiful damsels in South Africa and engaged his fans in robust conversations over what they called his secret wedding. Touch felt differently asserting there was nothing secret about his wedding to the love of his life. “There’s nothing private about my love life. Watch E! Entertainment in your local scheduling as they reveal uncensored truth about Thabo and Nandi Molefe,” he said.
Touch proudly tells his guests he grew up in a family that represents a dynasty of ministries in Southern Africa and salvation was the first lesson in his catechism; a lesson that taught him another principle – selflessness, known as “Ubuntu,” in his native language. Literally translated, it means “you are who you are, because of others; you therefore have to love not just for the sake of yourself, but for the sake of the person next to you.”
Molefe added, “My grandmother, Rose Ntombiyokuthula Molefe, a champion of faith, always shielded the disparities of poverty. Hence, how I grew up thinking I was from a rich family.”
Like every young man and woman of his age coming to America was prompted by a desire to conquer the world and gain the ultimate experience of life on a higher turf. That explains why at an early age, Molefe started dreaming of a ‘New World’. Before then, the radio host was asked what was special about growing up and the friends he made along the way both at high school and university. He may not easily accept he was already having a silver spoon tucked into his mouth but his narrative tells it all: “In late 1997, I made a shift from a South African public high school in Vereeniging into a US private Catholic high school, Bishop Grimes in New York.”
The famous radio personality admitted he felt something special about his new school environment, which was the freedom and ability to interact and compete with children of other races that valued you more on what your personality or test scores were, instead of what your skin tone was supposed to be. Referring to the post-Apartheid era, he observed back home in South Africa, he was part of the first generation of mixed races especially the black people of the land to be allowed into a multi-racial school, an environment filled with sentiments of Apartheid.
On this critical issue, Molefe educated his audience that being the first few in a classroom with mixed races was enough motivation for his generation striving to excel and not allow the investment of their parents to be counted as a waste. “To this day, I still keep in contact with my close South African and US high school friends because our friendship was never based on what we could benefit from another other. New friends are hard to come by because early bonds are not easily broken by new acquaintances.”
As part of his American experience, Touch worked, even if briefly, as a bartender at the popular Xstasy Night Club and Lounge at Sunset Park in Brooklyn. Was that an experience to cherish? According to him, that experience taught him a lot as a bartender, and possibly his vision for showmanship as a radio host must have been partly honed there.
But, how did Molefe metamorphose into TBO Touch? It has to do with being in the right place, at the right time – New York City was the theatre of action in the 1990s and his ambition was to merge two dynamic and colourful worlds, Africa and America; a synthesis that provided the third point of the triangle, the essential TB Touch. This philosophical proposition, according to Molefe fuelled his desire to transform into the realm of radio broadcasting with such celebrities as Funk Master Flex and DJ Enuf as mentors. He watched the duo work on a day-to-day basis and that led him to a boundless measure of entertainment. “As Thabo, the core content is always spiritual but with Touch, the content is more contemporary, edgy and cool,” he said.
Molefe invented TBO Touch as the media and stage vehicle to not only touch the soul of his audience but their minds. His business drive comes from his long time exposure to living with Grace Jones, who he refers to as ‘big sister,’ learning as it were, the fundamentals of the business side of entertainment.
Touch is reminded of his once popular expression that building relationships and establishing sound networks could only come about by striving to be the best in everything one does and knowing one’s position in life. Elaborating on that he said, “If you think your wealth is in your bank account then trust me you are lost.” To him, riches and future wealth lie in the quality of relationships everyone has with people as they evolve in the pursuit of comfort and happiness.
“I am fortunate enough to enjoy the pleasure of travelling extensively and in every city I land in, I have somebody significant to reach out to – money cannot buy this,” Touch said.
Nobody, according to Touch, is an island complete on his own, adding that creation wouldn’t be complete without the law of opposites. “There has to be drought for rain to come, males to meet females and so on. I’m not in this world to advance my own course in life, but to help the person next to me to walk through the door of his or her own destiny. There is more fulfilment in knowing that you’ve enabled the next person to reach self-actualisation.”
Molefe pointed out that his assets are not the balance in his account, where he lives or what car he drives.
“My assets are relationships; they are as significant as the value of making it in life without even thinking of failure as an option.”
At 33, Touch seems to have done so well for himself combining his media engagements with business. How did this happen? His story is that of a man who runs and falls but keeps getting up to keep running. “I have failed enough in my previous ventures, in order to understand that it is noble to dust yourself off and get back in the race. Unlike many success stories, I’ve seen more misses than hits. What is empowering though is that today, I am able to face any new prospective opportunity and speculate on a higher level, as to what will be successful,” he noted.
Just last year, the radio host hinted he was preparing for a major business launch he tagged ‘Touch Life Style’ products with his business partner. “Thembilihle Jiyane-MynhardtTouchWarick is one of South Africa’s finest wine vintage makers. This is the story of two South African brothers who came together from two very different backgrounds, ethnicities and histories, for one good common purpose. This is the first venture that the Ratcliffe family of Warwick wine estate has partnered with the Molefe family. You can visit our website to see what our newest initiative will be supporting,” he said.
Yet, the inspiration lies in the fact that Touch combines easily his radio and entertainment exposure with his radical entry into new business ideas. His first love is business, otherwise he wouldn’t have gone to study business administration at the university. He tries however to defend media as his first love. Of course, there is the business angle to every venture and new idea and media has many angles that have made billionaires of those who dared. This seems to be Touch’s realm and aspiration to be a top African business mogul. “Media is everything. We shape the world’s perception and opinion through the media. Presidential campaigns become successful as a result of powerful media strategies. I have found that my way of thinking and knack for personal skills have been better transcribed in the world of media and business in the media world.”
Would Touch say his sojourn to America has made the experience a dream come true? Looking back, he has done well for himself and his American dream has gone a long way to make a success story of his early aspirations. “America is a country that prides itself for the opportunities it presents for one to flourish. And when the intention is strong, the universe conspires. The world has taught me that time is the most precious commodity and till this day I live by this principle,” he admits.
Touch’s comparison of business in the US and on the African continent is one of a person who has traversed both continents often. He schooled in South Africa and the US and has been practising his art and business across both divides. “America has had the right business model for the past 80 years. Africa has had the right show model for the past 20 years. It is our responsibility to master the business aspects of these (two countries) correctly,” he stated.
Touch also talked about his Nigerian experience with passion. “My trip to Nigeria is always blissful. In reference to my recent trip, in September, the people were warm and receptive. Their indigenous business flair is forever inspirational. I always look forward to my next trip.”
Ten years from now, what should his audience be looking at as the essential TBO Touch?
“Africa’s number one media mogul,” he said.