MIXING THE MUSIC: You dance to their selections in nightclubs and hangout joints in town. But, few care to know more about the ladies and gents behind the turntables. EDGAR R. BATTE & GLORIA HAGUMA talked to some of Kampala’s top deejays and below are their short bios.
She is first lady of the turntables at Club Amnesia. DJ Pofia learnt how to deejay by watching deejays do their thing. One day a friend, DJ Rago, told her of an opening for a female deejay at Punchline Bar in Kabalagala. Her interview was to prove that she could play music. She stepped into the deejay’s box and played. She was hired.
“They gave me a job, although I wasn’t that good. I started building on what I had learnt. I loved deejaying since I was in school,” she recalls. Her mother was not happy because she would return home late in the night. She had to leave home. With time, her mother came to terms with the fact the deejaying was a rewarding job.
Today she plays at Club Amnesia. However, there are bar and club owners who advertise her as a guest deejay at their hangouts without consulting her, which irks her. She was born Pofia Nankya, and hails from an extended family.
DJ Slick Stuart was born Stuart Kavuma. “I started deejaying four years back in high school at East High School. But I stepped up on the scene two years ago,” he says.
“While at university I joined Silk Events and this was the start of my career,” he explains.
He believes it is high time the public began respecting their craft, as there is lot of effort put in having to keep people entertained all night long.
“People come up to you and request for songs with no knowledge that we have some basic rules like how a song is supposed to run,” he adds.
DJ Slick Stuart has played in Malaysia at a private event, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania.
The IT graduate from Makerere University is an IT technician when he is not deejaying.
Next year DJ Rachael will be celebrating 20 years of deejaying. She is one of East Africa’s pioneer female deejays, yet she says that she is still learning and growing. She cut her teeth when she met DJ Wasswa, who was playing at Club Pulsations.
Wasswa and DJ Berry (Rip) taught her how to deejay. In 1996, when she started, music was not a fancy career and her family was not happy. One day her mother surprised her by turning up at the nightclub.
“I saw her while I was on the decks and the music went silent for a minute. Surprisingly, she didn’t torture me. We talked about it and later she came to terms with it and so for more family members,” she recalls.
After a while, Club Silk offered her a job and she moved there. Later on, she opened her own bar in Dizzy Drop in Bukoto, but it has since changed management. Today, she plays at Big Mikes, on Acacia Avenue.
She is part of the ‘Santuri Safari Deejays’ based in Dar es Salaam. She also pays at corporate events, weddings, parties and foreign sets.
“I was invited to deejay for a personal famous friend in Paris who paid me $3,000 (about Shs9m) minus costs,” the ace female deejay adds.
Deejaying is a career with its challenges. “Some guy in Malaba wanted to throw a bottle at me because I didn’t play his request. The beer spilt all over my new players. There are other challengs like moving with my equipment in the night where I could meet robbers and not being paid my worth, while making millions for your clients,” she recounts.
She hails from the royal family. “The Kabaka and I are first cousins. My late dad was an engineering pilot in the US. My late mum was a Dungu, a family that was famous in the Amin era. She once featured in the Afrigo Band before I was born, and worked with the Uganda Airlines,” she adds. She is inspired by deejays/producers like Hardwell, Calvin Harris, Avicii & Zedd.
“I started playing at house parties in the UK. After that, I upgraded to bars and clubs,”DJ Apeman says. Born Kenneth Kayiwa, he was a household DJ for Club Rouge in 2008; before he went on to open up his own DJ house, Silverback DJs. He produces mix tapes every month, which promote his work.
“My first big gig was the P Square concert in Uganda which was at Resort Beach in Entebbe,” he says.
He says deejaying can be well paying. “For many of us, this pays the bill. The trick is in learning to brand yourself well,” he adds.
DJ Apeman has played in UK, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Holland, and at events in Kampala, including the just concluded Billy Ocean concert where he was the opening act.
“I played when Wyclef Jean came to Uganda, P-Square concerts in 2008 and 2013, Mega fest last year, and at the Weed Beat festival in Holland. In total, I do about 150 gigs a year.”
The DJ who has been spinning for over 10 years points out DJ Aludah as the one person to look out for in 2015. “The name that is yet to blow up as a DJ brand is DJ Aludah, though I feel he does not believe in himself,” he says.
His uncle gave him his first gig at Club Volts as a sound technician. He wanted to work as a deejay though. Soon, he picked ideas from deejays and asked to play at Effendys, Centenary Park. He was also contacted to play at 24/7 in Lira. He took up the opportunity. His dream was to make it big in town and that is why he adopted Urbanstar as his trade name. When Club Venom opened, he asked to play there and doors were opened for him. Urbanstar also plays as a guest deejay at other bars and happening joints around town.
He says he respects people so he keeps time. “I always report to my gigs before the official time to prepare and to socialise. That is how I make new friends and get more gig opportunities.” Urbanstar is a dad, so he spends his time off work babysitting his two-and-half-months old son Liam. And when Liam is asleep, he is either downloading or researching about new music or watching movies. He is the first born in a family of seven children.
He brings creativity to the turntables yet he is simple as a person. He started deejaying when he was about 13 and was in high school.
“We used to use cassette tapes and CDs when we could get our hands on them,” he recounts. He became a deejay to meet interesting people. He plays at Radiocity 97FM on Saturday nights.
He believes in building good relationships. “Deejaying is like any other business: your personal relationships are what help you move forward,” he adds.
Amidst enjoying his job, he remembers an artiste who threatened his life with a gun when the equipment kept freezing.
“And this wasn’t the sort of person that makes empty threats. That was probably my worst time behind the decks. For the rest of the set I was just praying the equipment wouldn’t mess up anymore,’ he recalls.
During his S.6 ‘vac’ in 2007, Hearts Asea started looking for an opportunity to play music. He found one in Dar-es salaam where he played music at a high school. Later on he returned to Kampala. Herman Kasujja of Tomex Disco gave him a job to play with his mobile disco.
While there, someone at Club Silk gave him a better offer and he moved there. Hearts also features on entertainment programmes at WBS television. Occasionally, he plays at different pubs and clubs around town and its suburbs.
“Just like any other deejay, keeping the crowd on their feet dancing and screaming in the presence of your boss is my greatest joy,” the soft-spoken deejay says. He does not like it when power or machines go off when he is at the peak hour of deejaying.
He also manages an artiste called Rhoda K. He is a family man. He was raised in a police barracks which he says explains his discipline because his mother does not take nonsense. He looks up to deejay Ivan of Club Silk as his mentor and Selector Jay for his ingenuity.
DJ Global, born Beni Okwenje, was raised in New York City. He studied finance and international business at New York University. “I moved back to Uganda in 2003 and I was recruited to work at the central bank,” he says. He currently works in a commercial bank in town, and his specialty is in the treasury.
Away from banking, he is into music production and real estate.
“I started deejaying in different clubs back in New York, like SOBs, Plush, and many others,” he says.
On his return to Uganda, his first gig was at the Goat Races. “My selection is different. I will play a song that no one has heard,” DJ Global explains what makes him tick.
He also seems to be in full support of the female spinners. “The visuals of seeing woman behind the decks is so appealing. They simply need to work on their skills, get nice, and then they will blow up.”
Born Rogers Kitaka Nsubuga, the “seven star DJ,” explains that he picked his love for music from an uncle, who used to collect music. “I kind of spent most of my time with him, listening to the likes of Lucky Dube and Maddona,” he says.
His first experience was on his brother’s computer.
“I played at Country Gardens in Kitintale and they liked what I did. I was given a contract for two months while earning Shs50,000 per month,” he explains his humble beginnings.
The youthful Roja, who was once the household Dj at Club Rouge, explains that he has taken on serious branding to uplift his image and also get better at his craft.
“I print T-shirts, capes, posters, and make mix tapes. Mix tapes are now trending. I make sure I play the songs that get people excited and that leave them appreciating DJ Roja,” he explains when asked what makes him special.
He also adds that listening to the crowd plays the trick when it comes to selecting what kind of music the revellers will be interested in when he plays at a party or club.
DJ Roja points out Alex Ndawula as the one deejay he looks up to for inspiration. “I grew up listening to the Dance Force on Capital FM. He is a legend,” he says.
He has also played in Rwanda and South Sudan. In 2012, he was awarded for the best DJ at the Young Achievers awards. He has also been previously nominated in the Buzz Teenies Awards, and HiPipo Awards.
Selector Stevo’s passion for music kicked off at a tender age. His father was a record collector. As a boy, his dream was to become a radio presenter. He recorded himself on cassettes mimicking the big names then, like ‘Mega master mixer’ Alex Ndawula, Rasta Rob and Rhythm Selector (RS) Elvis.
When he joined high school at St Lawrence Citizen’s High School, he befriended deejays whenever there was a dance party. That is how he became friends with deejays Peter Wasswa and Danny’ Yo.
“Deejaying back in the day was not considered a profession. Deejays were seen to be unserious, rogues, name it,” Steve, born Steven Sebandeke Kiyimba, observes.
With time, Steve proved to his parents that he was not abandoning school for deejaying. He stayed in school and graduated with a degree. He plays at Club Ambiance Kampala every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, then Club Orange County in Nateete every Wednesdays as well as Club Mangerez every Thursday. He looks up to Alex Ndawula and Selector Jay in Uganda, and deejay Jazzy Jeff on the international arena.
While in Senior Two, Brian Kiyingi Sserunkuuma started taking baby steps at achieving his dream of becoming a deejay. Whenever the band was setting up at King’s College Budo, he lent a helping hand and in so doing learnt how to wire and put the music set together.
With time, his enthusiasm paid off as he was given chance to start playing music at the school’s functions and parties. Along the way, he met DJ Momo (Rip) who mentored him. Today, he plays at Guvnor, on NTV and at Fenon Events.
Off the decks, Bryan is a handy man who enjoys fixing things, like computers, lights, and speakers. Bryan hails from simple Christian family. Like Steve, he is inspired by Jazzy Jeff.
Rickystar’s face is one you will remember as a winner of the Uganda’s first Pilsner Spinmaster, which won him a reward of Shs3m and a full Deejay Mixing Unit (DMU) by East African Breweries. His real name is Ricky Kayondo.
Rickystar started deejaying in his S.6 ‘vacation’. He was discovered in 2000 by Elvis Senkyanzi, proprietor of Club Silk and Liquid Silk. He was mentored by deejays Rhino Kalemba, Charles Oimuke, Faisal Kimuli and Radio One’s R.S Elvis.
Rickystar was lucky because his family didn’t have any mixed feelings about him deejaying because his school grades were good.
He plays at Kay Club on Mondays, Nirvana Bar and Lounge on Tuesdays, Rock Bar and Speke Hotel on Thursdays, Club Amnesia on Friday and Cloud 10 on Saturdays and Sundays. Away from deejaying, he enjoys the Play Station. He is the second born in a family of four boys and two girls.
James Mugume or Sir Aludah, as he is popularly known ventured into the industry, thanks to his love for music. “I am going to sound cocky but no. It was not my choice of career. Deejaying chose me. It all started in church! I play piano and I slap the bass too,” he adds.
He started out in Nairobi, a place that’s popular for its more developed deejaying industry.
“I had the likes of DJ John and Wesley of Homeboyz to look up to for inspiration” he explains.
Off the decks, the spin master likes to spend a lot of time with his family.
Aludah isn’t too pleased with how easy it has become for anyone to penetrate the industry.
“Anyone with a laptop or a controller is now a DJ and this kills the art. Most of these Laptop DJs don’t want to move on. When I was starting out, I looked up to the likes of DJ Styles in Kenya and Waxxy of Nigeria/SA. Beginner DJs now can’t be bothered. This leaves me wondering where they get their inspiration from,” he says.