This interview was recorded on 29th November 2017 and published on 22nd January 2018.
FLOABS: Where are we?
DJ Mkuzi: Hi, my name is Mkuzi. We are in Mombasa at Moonshine Beach Bar.
When did you know you wanted to be a dj? Like when were you first interested and when did you decide yes, I want this to be my life.
I think I’ve always been interested in music. The more I grew up, the more the burning desire grew inside me. Anything music related was just my thing. I always wanted to be a producer, I always wanted to be a dj and I’m so happy that im pursuing everything that I’m doing right now. Regardless of what I’m doing on the side, this is the one thing that drives me to wake up everyday; it excites me everyday.
How did your family react when you first told them about what you want to do?
I remember I was with my bro and my mum, straight out of high school. They asked “what do you want to be?”
I told them i wanted to be a producer and my bro laughed. He laughed so hard. He couldnt believe it. It got me scared kidogo, but as I kept growing up I kept on growing my confidence. They didn’t take it well. My older bro still doesn’t take it well right now as we speak despite the achievements that I’ve made but hey, one day as it comes. I guess one day they’re gonna realize how great of an achievement it is for me just to do my thing and be happy with it.
Talk about Mkuzi the DJ vs. Mkuzi the producer.
Mkuzi the producer is that sound that I really want to get out there, and it’s really inspired by my culture. I’m Mijikenda- Rabai to be specific and I think we have some really amazing music. I went up there, to the village, and just listened to those guys do their thing and I want to get it out there, make it cooler than it already is. Take it places. It deserves to be out there, enjoyed by everyone else, not just locally.
Mkuzi the dj is a different dynamic. He kills it on stage all the time. He plays what people like- what’s fresh. He’s a cool kid.
DJ Mkuzi at Diani Beach Festival 2017/2018
Real quick: Cdj’s or Controllers?
Cdj’s everyday. Yeah, controllers make things work a little bit easier but I think it’s just how I learnt. I learnt on cdjs and you have so much more control over what you do. There’s no guess work, let me just put it that way. If you see someone killing it on cdj’s, they really are. They dont need any help with anything, it’s just them expressing themselves musically.
And what’s your overall favorite piece of gear?
Favorite piece of gear, my headphones. These are my babies. Pioneer Hdj-C180. I would never appreciate music the way I do without a good pair of headphones.
DJ Mkuzi (left) at Earthdance Nairobi 2017
What do you think about the music scene in Mombasa? What does it mean to be a house dj from Mombasa culturally speaking.
It’s tough. In the beginning, it was quite a challenge. Literally playing for no one. But I’ve put in a lot of work. This year especially, I’ve had the privilege of working with like minded individuals who also DJ. We formed the 808 crew, namely: me, Himmy K, Rathod and AQce.
As a collective, we’ve achieved quite a number of things and we’ve got other people who also want to come aboard and I think 2018 is gonna be bigger and better – watch out for that space.
I think we inspire most people out there to get out of their comfort zone and y’know, not just listen to what their used to listenening or what’s being given to them, but go that extra mile to look for good music and appreciate it. That’s our point. It was hard in the beginning but it’s looking up, it’s looking really good.
What does the art of dj-ing mean to you?
The art of dj-ing means being able to express the music that you want to play to someone and not in the same way that it’s been given, if you can manipulate it or add something extra to it it, even if you don’t do any of those- just playing the right music at the right time, the right jams at the right vibe. That’s it.
If you can make someone just a little bit happier, make someone remember something from the music you’ve played, make someone forget all the problems they might be facing or going through – that for me is the most important thing.
Do you ever play songs you’re not feeling, just because it’s a crowd favorite? How does that make you feel?
I’ve played songs I am not feeling, many times I’d say. You just have to look at who you’re playing it for. Like I said, if it’s gonna make someone a little bit happier or someone is going to get a little bit more content just from hearing something that they enjoy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to enjoy it.
Maybe it’s in a language that I don’t understand. Maybe that’s the reason I don’t enjoy it. As long as it’s making somone happy- that’s the most important thing. Don’t always look at it from your side, look at it from the other person’s point of view. If it’s making it better for them to enjoy their night, making it a little more pleasant for them, then why not?
Who are your influences internationally and in the Kenyan music scene?
Black Coffee. I used to play with the idea of being a dj but I really didn’t do anything about it for quite a long time until I saw Black Coffee doing his thing. There he was dj-ing with one arm and you could see he was going places. Each and every day, I kept looking up to him as he kept on growing bigger and bigger. That was one thing that gave me the extra push to just get out there and do my thing because I literally had no excuse- here’s this guy doing it with one arm. I started off and I took each day as it came. I still look up to him, he’s scaling higher heights than he was back when I decided to do this. One day I hope to grace a stage he’s played in.
Locally, basically just the whole 6am crew. Drazen, Kuzi, Foozak, Suraj. They’re doing great things, they’re the pioneers of electronic music in Kenya. They’re growing bigger. Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to get to where they are. Maybe even surpass it.
What does the future look like for Mkuzi? What are some of the projects you have coming up?
The future is looking good, so bright. Right now, I’m just prepping for the Diani Beach festival. I’m in Diani in December from the 26th to the 1st.
By the end of the first quarter of 2018 I should have an EP out. I think there’s gonna be a lot of production on my side. A lot of gigs as well, but personally I’m just keen on the production. There’s gonna be some really cool stuff in 2018. I’ll keep you posted.
Peter Mkuzi is a fast rising dj/producer in the Kenyan house music scene. He is a member of the DJ/Producer collective, 808, and is based in Mombasa.
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