The Living Room Sessions:
A Conversation with DJ Ultra Mel
Words / Photos: Joanne Olivier
I’m no hippie. I glare with judging eyes at floral tie died people who walk through Clicks with no shoes on. It’s a thing I have. And yet the other day I watched this Documentary called ‘Finding Joe”. The byline reads – “We Must Be Willing to get Rid of the Life We’ve Planned, So As to Have the Life That Is Waiting For Us.” It made me think of myself, and of some of the people I surround myself with. It also made me think of Melanie Motto Ros – a once happily employed girl who left it all for the bright lights of the dance floors. She now goes by the name DJ Ultra Mel and has become the most requested DJ at events like JHB Diner En Blanc, Corporates, Clubs and your aunties 50th….But DJing wasn’t a conscious life choice.
It’s Wednesday Afternoon in an Autumn Blairgowrie. Mel and her wife Emily are working at home. The kitchen table is amess with baby bottles and Formula cans. They have just recently adopted their baby girl Ruby. Mel who had studied architectural design and worked with steel and furniture design in her previous job decided to resign one day and become a DJ. In ‘Finding Joe’, they talk about “following your bliss”. This sounds very shoo Waa but basically quite obvious. If you do what you love, you are on the right path. “I was doing this course called ‘The Artists Way’ says Mel, “and one of the exercises was to say ten things you wanted to be in your life, regardless of your age, your money, your learned skills, etc.
One of mine was to be a DJ. I was 30 at that time. Nobody becomes a DJ at 30”, she smiles.
And the story unfolds. “A good DJ friend of mine came to my house, dropped off his mixing desk and told me from the playlists I had made in the past, I was exactly what he was looking for. 2 weeks later I played at a friends party at Bella Vista club, and it all kind of spiraled from there.”
The decision to leave a 9-5 guaranteed salary job for what seems like a frivolous whim is a tough one to make. It takes a certain kind of person to be able to take that risk. This is why most people are holed up in cubicles soaking in fluorescent lights and watching the clock. If you follow the thing that makes you happy, then all other doors open for you. If you #FollowYourBliss (Hippie) then you are on the right path. It just takes balls of steel and a hippie attitude to life in order to be able to do it.
“Luckily for me, I was also approached by Rise Academy who asked me to head their DJ Teaching course. This made it slightly more clear to me, and so the decision to leave my job was easier”, she adds.
It’s a common misconception human beings make that you need to have one vocation and climb that ladder furiously your whole life. It’s the more fulfilling option to step around your ladder and jump on a few rungs that take you in a new direction.
“We are all so hung up on believing we have one purpose in life, Mel adds. “We have multiple choices. In this day and age of technology etc. There are huge paradigm shifts. You no longer get a gold watch for working for a company for 25 years, you get a kick in the pants.” We laugh.
We tend to laugh a lot around DJ Ultra Mel. It’s a contagious kind of happiness that permeates in the wooden champagne boxes in the kitchen and the outdoor hanging chandelier.
In a world mostly run on fear, stereotypes and pressure, it’s necessary to find reasons why you can do the things you love, and not why you cant. “We put up these unnecessary walls around us, and instead of seeing the wall, look at the cracks of light that are sneaking through the wall, she smiles.
In order to be a good DJ you need to really know music, on a deep and ever learning level. You also need to know how to read a crowd, have a DJ intuition that gets the shy girl on the floor. “My parents definitely gave me my love of music. My dad used to make these 90-minute mixtapes and we would play them on road trips. We also listened to a broad range of music so it gave me a wide taste in music”.
I tell Mel I’m a terrible person at weddings. Most of the time I don’t agree with the DJ’s choice of tunes. “You need to give the DJ’s a break,” Mel says. “Most of the time the DJ’s are given a set list and are told to play it. I sometimes wish I could make myself a T-shirt with glowing text on it that reads “THIS IS NOT MY CHOICE”, she laughs.
The crucial question comes. Where do you get your music from?” “I BUY everything”, she emphasizes. “The people who are making the music are making it possible for me to do what I do. They definitely deserve the credit for that. I buy mainly from Itunes and Beatport.
As the afternoon sun starts to move over the black and white kitchen tiles, we finish our lemon water and hit the living room for some Polaroid pictures. Chatting to DJ Ultra Mel is always a pleasure. It’s always based on positives and not negatives. It’s a “yes, we can” and not a “No, I don’t want to or no I cant.”
The future is not determined by age nor society, but by attitude.
As we leave for the day I realize DJ Ultra Mel is not just a successful DJ, she’s a damn hippie