Interview: DJ Kumi on coming back and why we should move beyond Afro House
DJ Kumi, in about 4 years had gathered enough buzz to become one of the few EDM stars in the country. Achieving great success from his constant original productions and remixes, DJ Kumi’s career was on the rise – he even featured on a compilation disk – Global Trance Music by U.M.A. Music Awards and Around the Globe.
300,000 Soundcloud plays later and a nomination for Best East African DJ at the African Global DJ Awards 2013, DJ Kumi went on radio silence in 2014. 4 years later, he is back with a 2 track EP which was released back in April.
First things first, in your own words, who is DJ Kumi?
When did you get into music?
You left at a point where you were getting a lot of positive traction. What prompted this and where did you go to?
I left music and deejaying for personal reasons – I didn’t feel it was for me at the time. I know that sounds odd, but I think sometimes in life it’s good to take a step back and evaluate the path you are on. I’m back now and focusing on creating my own unique sound and becoming more of an artist-style DJ.
We are loving your new EP. Can you take us behind the creative process?
For a long time I wanted to mix hip-hop / RnB with EDM, and I think future bass and trap is the best way to do that.
On my hiatus, I took a lot of time refining my music so that I can create my own unique sound. Hopefully that came out in this EP.
You’ve been around for almost 10 years now. What evolution have you seen in the industry? The good and the bad?
It’s been that long! It feels like I started the other day. The industry has changed a lot in the last few years – we have more international DJs coming to play here and there are more clubs and deejays playing EDM. But I feel that the industry is focused on a specific sound of house music – it started with tech-house, progressive house, deep house and now Afro house. For us to have a more robust industry we should focus more on different types of electronic music like trance, DnB, future bass, techno etc, like other countries.
We also haven’t tapped into the mainstream radio industry, that’s why we don’t have a full-time EDM radio station, we need a BBC radio one type of thing here so that more people can discover house music. But over time more EDM producers will start making mainstream sounds and hopefully more radio stations and people will start getting into the movement.
Most deejays fall in more the one category. At the end of the day you need to position yourself well and work hard to develop your image. The bottom line is that most events are done for a profit – if you don’t have the ability to help the event organizer make a profit, it might be hard for you to land constant gigs. It might sound harsh but it’s the truth.
On the contrary,a lot of Kenyan producers create mainstream music. They have been for a while but they never make to play the gigs that are around. How does one crack the code to these events?
- Artist – Fans want to come see you perform your own music. Your unique selling point is that you produce your own music too. Being unique will bring in a different segment of the market that other DJs can’t tap into and when an event organizer puts you on their line-up, they know people will want to come see you perform.
- Popular DJ – This one is self explanatory, you just need to work hard and get a lot of followers and fans, most likely you will play popular trending music. Your strength -bringing in a crowd.
- Rock The Crowd Contender – This is an all round DJ who is a wizard in playing with the emotions of a crowd. They know exactly what to play and when to play – they are very good at giving people a good time – thus they can rock a crowd. When an event organizer puts them on a line-up, they know this DJ might not pull a big crowd but they will definitely give the people who show up a good time. These DJs are usually the backbone of every event. They have a constant resident somewhere. An example of this could be DJ UV, Kenroot5 and DJ Drazen.
Production aside, when and where can people experience your gigs?
To become an artist-style DJ, you have to create a unique sound or have a sound that people can identify you by. Being different from others is key.