What I remember about AJ (Art-Jones)
Back in the early 2000’s I became friends with Gerald (Sisco Umlambo). It was through Gerald that I had met AJ. They were a two-man house group aptly called ‘Sis n Jones’ . They were a phenomenal house music duo .Gerald owned a record store/recording studio, where I would hang around quite often, and often I would catch the two of them in the studio working on tracks. I would stick around for hours on end watching them produce tracks, lay down melodies and so on . I used to watch how AJ would play keys and lay down fantastic melodies . I was so jealous of his skills of how he could play piano (The ability to play the piano , properly, was always a dream of mine). AJ was a musical genius . I used to call him ‘Mr.Magic Fingers’ , he could take any drum beat ,lay down a melody and it would change the entire tone of the track and make it sound amazing. But regardless of his musical talent, he was one of the nicest people I had ever met . He was always smiling and made jokes. He made me laugh constantly and had such a positive vibe around him. I had never once heard of him talking bad or ill of anyone. A true testament to his character.
‘Sis n Jones’ came out with their first major hit ‘ Set your mind free’ which went HUGE in South Africa, and rightly so as it was a testament to their combined talent. After this I remember AJ started to produce more and more tracks and soon thereafter he came out with his solo club smash hit ‘Listen (with your soul)’ . I desperately wanted to work with AJ , I had ideas of tracks but knew I didn’t have the musical skills at the time to lay down proper melodies or piano riffs. I asked AJ if he would want to work on a track with me . He obliged and we started working on our song ‘ I need you in my life’ . I laid out the drums , he made all the melodies and piano instrumentation. And together, with J-Luv, we wrote the lyrics for the song . We recorded the vocals and then finished the track. I remember when we were working on this song, on the last day of recording the keys, upon leaving my house AJ turned to me and said ‘ bro, this isn’t a ‘normal’ track , there’s something about this track that’s haunting , real & powerful’. It’s ironic that he would say this , as I later found out that this would be AJs last completed track.
Soon thereafter AJ and I were booked for a gig for the opening party for Co.Fi in Cedar Square , Johannesburg . We had never performed live together before, but it was such an amazing experience working alongside a genius like AJ. He would play so many different melodies off the top of his head on top of tracks that I would ‘lay-down’. He made me laugh so much that night, he would randomly drop melodies of popular songs that had no business being heard in a nightclub . For example he would lay down the ‘The Bold & the Beautiful ‘ theme song and also the ‘The good , the bad and ugly’ whistle tune. I had such a great time. The DJ box was raised high above the main bar, it was situated separately from the main room , like a room on its own with a large open window overlooking the entire venue. At one point in the middle of the evening during our set , the manager of the club ran up to us and told us that the police are coming and that they have to ‘hide’ us and show that there aren’t any DJs and keep the music low . AJ and I looked at each other and we’re like ‘ What does he mean ‘hide’ us ?’ The manager then proceeded to pull down a sheet of material from the window closing off the DJ booth (see picture below). AJ and I burst into laughter. We’re now both performing to a window sheet . The whole evening in its entirety was full of laughs and enjoyment just like this. This was the first and last time AJ and I would perform together.
When I think about AJ all I remember is the laughs we had , the joy and fulfilment of working on a song that haunted us both, the funny , talented, positive and amazing person whose memory will forever live on through his music.
We miss you always .
RIP Arthur-John Bukenya (Art-Jones)