Featured OldRed - Donovan Copley

04 September 2018



In HotWater... and loving it!

“Ya, it’s been a very interesting adventure! I had no idea what I wanted to do… I knew it would be something different, but I didn’t know what…”

We tracked down Old Redhillian Donovan Copley to find out what he’s been up to, and that’s how he started our conversation. His “something different” turned out to be music, which he says he only started playing at age 21. “I started HotWater when I was 27, whereas my brother Sharlto always knew what he wanted to do. He was obsessed with film making from a young age.”

Donovan is a “middle specialist”, he says: “I matriculated in 1994, right in the middle of South Africa’s transition. I’m a middle child, and was born in the middle of the year (21 June) and play cross-over music, so I think I am somewhat qualified to deal with being in the middle,” he laughs.

What he isn’t, though, is middle-of-the-road. His talent was visible as a Redhill student. “One of my favourite memories was the school play ‘Racketeer’ I did in Matric. Mark Stein and I came up with the idea and Sharlto actually wrote the play. We received an enormously powerful response, although it was a very contentious production.” 

Possibly contentious, probably highly creative too. Since then, his life has paid homage to the creative, with HotWater being a collaborative effort with different musicians playing alongside Donovan. “The band is essentially based around vocals, guitar, bass and drums. We have different bass players and drummers and whoever is available to play a certain night will play,” he says, adding that he most enjoys playing with musicians who are extremely passionate about what they do.

Having toured internationally for the past 10 years, Donovan gigs have included appearances in France, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands. “HotWater was also signed up for Europe’s biggest African Music Festival. It’s the Festival’s 30th anniversary on 31 May 2018, and HotWater was voted one of the best acts of the last 30 years which is why we are back as part of this special line-up.”

Based in Cape Town when he’s not touring, Donovan’s other claims to (real) fame include HotWater being one of the only acts to ever perform on top of Table Mountain, and opening for the likes of UB40 and George Ezra. “My song Wamkelekile was featured in the Warner Bros movie BLENDED, and it looks like it’s the biggest song an SA artist has ever had in a film.”

Of course, having Passenger, Ed Sheeran, Joe Satriani, Sasha Baron Cohen and Bono all own one of his trademark HotWater Guitars also delights him. Most importantly, though, is his business sense in an industry where creatives often leave that to others.

“I’ve operated completely independently in the music industry, which means I own all my own rights and control my creative output 100%. But the best part really,” he says proudly, “is my family. I’m married to an amazing Irish lass and have three sons. We have a lot of fun together - family is central for me.”

For those keen to hear HotWater’s “Wamkelekile” (as seen Warner Bros BLENDED), click here: http://bit.ly/2c0flNJ To view their headline live performance at Europe’s biggest African Music Festival (full show): http://bit.ly/2bYvg09.

It was a pleasure communicating with Donovan, and we look forward to catching up with other Old Redhillians. If you know of any who are not on our mailing list – or you are one yourself, get in touch with This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and share your story.