Earphones on, head out to papu. raf’s playlist of amapiano bangers

We speak to emerging amapiano DJ papu. raf about music, exercise, and harnessing the power of both at the same time

DJ papu. raf gives his running playlist
DJ papu. raf gives his running playlist

We speak to emerging amapiano DJ papu. raf about music, exercise, and harnessing the power of both at the same time

By Rhys Thomas07 Apr 2023
5 mins read time
5 mins read time

“I'd rather find a routine now, that I can keep forever, than have to start worrying about my health in the future.”

Ralpheal Chea, also known as papu. raf, is a 23-year-old DJ from Bolton, based in Liverpool. And he’s always dancing in the gym. When on stage, he mainly plays amapiano, but also ventures into afrobeats, afro-house, house and garage. Raf fell in love with DJing when he was at university in 2019 but before that, he was an aspiring footballer, playing in Bolton Wanderers’ Academy team. Exercise has always been important to him.

“I'm a type 1 diabetic. I was told when I was young, and I remember the doctor explaining that there were chances I would gain a lot of weight, have risks of clots and amputations,” he tells woo. At the time, he had shown enough potential to be taken on by Bolton Wanderers Academy, but his diagnosis provided even more motivation to ensure his fitness was as good as possible.

In his words, “I didn’t get a professional football contract, but I still had diabetes.” Raf’s focus shifted to purely exercising for health reasons. “My whole reason for going to the gym and running was to keep the blood flowing: to avoid the amputations and the blood clots. Football taught me a lot in terms of how to exercise, but also in terms of discipline and behaviour.” He says, never sounding anything other than blessed.

Running is still a big part of Raf’s life. It’s a skill he honed through hours of football training – professional footballers run an average of 11km in a 90 minute game, and much of training is dedicated to running laps around the football pitch (roughly 300m, but often more). Like many, Raf took a while to fall in love with exercise, but he soon found that there weren’t just physical benefits to exercising, but also mental benefits.

These days he does a mix of strength work - mainly to get the blood flowing - three days a week, and running – a 5k at least twice a week - immediately after the strength sessions. It’s the running that he finds incredibly useful for maintaining his mental wellbeing. “Sometimes if I'm stressed, I just go and run a 10k. When I feel that way, I want to be in my own head, and I don't want to see anyone else. Running lets me do that, it’s great for my mental health,” he says.

In Liverpool, Raf tends to run around Everton Park, which offers lofty views across the city’s skyline. “There's a hill there which I run to the top of, and then I run back down it and toward the docks. I like to cool down near the water and then I’ll walk back home. Liverpool's big, but it isn't that big that you don’t end up finding spots you like, but I always try to run in different places. It’s important to keep mixing things up. And of course, I’m listening to music when I work out, every time. It’s a huge part of my exercise routine.” He says. Raf dances in the gym because mind, body and music drive him throughout life. And three is a magic number, after all. So now that we know how and why and how he exercises, what’s he working out to? We asked for a playlist.

What came back is a solid two-hour selection of tunes from across the spectrum of music Raf DJs, but also listens to. He’s a big fan of songs with a lot of energy, and that is evident through the selection. At the time of writing, the songs on his playlist have streams ranging from 2,000 to three million. The biggest being KU LO SA, a huge hit from Lagos native Oxlade.

“The selection is mid-tempo, a lot of it is amapiano – in that genre, songs tend to be between 112-120 BPM (beats per minute). But they're energising, they get the heart beating, you know. I'm always listening to these sounds, they give me a vibe. It doesn't matter if I'm benching or running, when this music is on I have the power with me.” He says.

A favourite track in the playlist is Wamuhle by Njelic, Boohle, Da Muziqal Chef and De Mthuda. “It makes me feel at ease with whatever I'm doing, it's almost like a warm hug. You know? It helps me to focus, to think, to be able to get things done. I like the contrast of it with anything intense I'm doing too.” Raf says.

The general vibe of the songs here is to keep Raf in the zone while also energised and confident. In his words, “the workouts are hot, but these offer a cool breeze”. The songs are there to be in the background, to help you listen, relax, and do your best. But if you happen to be running a long run, science says they might well be a great choice. Either way, get the blood flowing, put a smile on your face. Earphones on, head out.

This article has been brought to you in partnership with New Balance, which is working to get people on the move with its 2023 TCS London Marathon range.