Jacqueline Damaris Wanjiku Mugo popularly known as DJ Shock perfectly embodies her Star, the Capricon. An earth sign, DJ Shock has a lot of patience and is a hard worker. Her ability to coordinate and structure projects has seen her at the forefront of formalizing the craft of deejaying in Kenya.
Dj Shock’s indomitable spirit is driven by her sense of service. Born and raised within church, she is a believer in offering one’s service for the benefit of the community. However, a decade of building and working for the DJ has been a never-ending climb. Sometimes the pressure comes from within and without the DJ community. When you are a reformer, you are scrambling circuits of the conformers to chaos.
With a DJ school of her own and more bookings in her calender now, things are looking up. DJ Shock notes the intersecting inconsistencies you see in the DJ industry and notes how it can be dangerous. Her story lampoons a series of coincidences and resilience required to survive the current atmosphere. The main story here is that selflessness and positive incremental steps in building your community are vital and needed. That it makes the front loose and accessible (DJ Shock’s DJ association played a key part in getting DJs included in the “Work for Pay” Ksh. 100m Covid-19 Creative Economy Stimulus package, 2020).
Sound Safari caught up with the artist for a Q&A. Our conversation, edited for content and clarity, follows as below.
Editors Note: DJ Shock does not have to change the world. But if she was trying, she has done her part.
Sound Safari: How are you doing?
DJ Shock: I am doing much better compared to when the lockdown was intense. Before that, I
used to rely solely on gigs. I’d say things are fairly better as I am now running my DJ school and performing more. There were moments of self-doubt, whether I was in the right place. This is louder when you are doing everything right as a professional but still not getting the result you need.
The metrics are all over the place.
The metrics in our industry to gauge what criteria takes you to the other level are not always as straightforward. It is not just simply working hard, networking, building a following, putting out content and everything else people tell you to do to gain traction as a brand.
We lack a formal structure. Unfortunately, this atmosphere is mentally stressful, even toxic. It can expose someone to depression. It puts a DJ, or any creative for that matter, in a bad place, where they start doing gigs just for the money without enjoying the process. At the end of the day, there are bills to pay. As a creative, you don’t want to find yourself pushed into a corner. It affects your psyche.
You have been at the forefront of formalizing deejaying in the country. How has the experience been?
I have been doing what I could to help DJs in this industry for a decade now and it has been
eye-opening. I know many DJs spread across different spheres: the electronic music community, the gospel DJs, the vinyl and turntable veterans, to celebrity brands and the rising stars. I may not be a
famous DJ per se, but I have reliable networks within the DJ community.
I opened a Facebook page called “Business DJ” some years back which gained a lot of traction with
DJs. It was a daily thing and I was always online. After 500 members, things escalated and they started adding each other to the group, the group currently has 26,000 members. DJs shared industry info, helped one another, marketed their businesses, got resources, shared their events in the group.
We graduated to having Business DJ Coffee sessions every first Tuesday of the month. We would gather at a lovely café called Jumuia Coffee house, inside All Saint’s Cathedral. The meetings were topical and led by DJs with relevant expertise in the field. I transcribed the meetings live on the Facebook event page for DJs in other counties and the diaspora to follow. The meetings were very insightful and built up deeper networks between DJs.
At times, the cafe management would ask me to pay for using their premises for meetings as the group was big and taking up space. I didn’t have the money, so I would negotiate by saying that the DJs were ordering food. Fortunately, the management was graceful enough to allow us back more than once. The process of formalizing deejaying has been an uphill and daunting task.
When did you start your DJ school?
I started the Business DJ Institute in September 2021 and we are currently based in Muringa
Studios. I graduated from Santuri’s “Train the Trainer” teachers’ course earlier this year qualifying as a certified educator in our creative economy. At the moment, I have 4 full-time students doing the full curriculum, and 2 part-time students doing shorter courses.
My days are long teaching, but I go to work happy and enjoy my day with all my students. My two main principles are versatility with DJ equipment and software, and empathy towards your audience. You need to override your own bias about music selection and learn to understand why your audience cares.
How has the teaching experience been?
I’ll sum up the experience using my first student, Callum, also known as DJ Dixie. I first met him while playing at a 2020 NYE party in Watamu. We connected and I tutored him and also helped with the first booking. DJ Dixie had a great first-time performance at Captain’s Terrace, Mombasa road and he got repeat bookings at the venue. Fresh from the academy! He has also managed to get gigs at Spikizi, Karen. As we speak, DJ Dixie is playing gigs in Brighton, London and continues to get shows when he comes back to Kenya. I am proud of him.
You also passed through a DJ school, how was your experience?
DJ Shock: It’s a fascinating story. The first time I encountered deejaying was when All Saints Cathedral was hosting an annual gospel conference called “Hip-Hop Fest”. The idea was to push the ministry through the 4 hip-hop elements: rap, deejaying, breakdance & graffiti. I was trying my hand at being a rapper/break-dancer but when I got there and saw the options, I became interested in deejaying.
Later, there was a competition at Homeboyz Radio (they were still located at Baricho road) where the winner would get a scholarship. The plan was to enter with a couple of my friends but when the day came I was the only woman who had registered. I gave it my best but the scholarship went to DJ George who is was a friend from church. We met a few weeks later with DJ George after church service and he extended his scholarship to me. He had gotten a job at Family FM and wouldn’t make to report to Homeboyz. That’s how it started for me.
Things work how they are supposed to eventually
They do. So Homeboyz had two courses: Foundational and Advanced courses. The first one was an introduction to the industry, equipment and how to play on turntables.
What was the Advanced course about?
First of all, the scholarship was for the foundational course alone. For the advanced course, I had to apply for another scholarship. I wrote to my church for sponsorship which took some chutzpah! People would apply for funding to go do accounting, medicine and other “serious” courses and here I was applying for sponsorship to DJ school. I thought I was going to meet the board from my church, Valley Road, but when we got there with my Dad, it was the board comprising of leaders from every church branch.
The board listened to us and said they would get back in about five days. Not gonna lie, it didn’t look promising but then they called me in to get the money before the week ended. Hard cash! I signed to receive it, and immediately went across town to the Homeboyz and paid the fees.
The Advanced course went deeper into the industry and how to become a professional DJ. They even allowed us to also practise on the CDJs which were very new in the market and expensive. Only Code Red and Homeboyz had them at the time and they were treated as sacred. After completing the advanced course, I spent every weekend with a different DJ, volunteering for events and trying to learn as much as I could.
You were involved with MadLove Lounge, tell us a bit about that.
Madlove Lounge was a movement that rose to meet a need. Apart from DJ Moz, not enough gospel media was playing hip-hop because kapuka was what was trending at the time. A Malawian friend, Joseph Gibson, brought rapper HolyDave, DJ GG, rapper Jefro and myself together for a coffee meeting at Yaya. He told us about a hip-hop event he had been doing in Malawi called Madlove Lounge and explained the concept to us. We were sold.
Joseph Gibson helped us set up MadLove Lounge Kenya; a monthly hip-hop event for creatives in the Christian rap space. The first event we did was at a fancy restaurant called Barizi, which used to be at the petrol station opposite Yaya Centre, where Family Bank is now. We had 20 people at our first event, half of whom were performing, lol.
It grew to 200 people and we moved to a restaurant in Hurlingham where ArtCaffe is now. Again the attendance got so big, there wasn’t room even for people to stand. People were coming and leaving because we had run out of space. We moved the show to Memorial park in the CBD and we were filling the place as well. We got to a point in our growth where we were bringing in international, Grammy-nominated artists from abroad. They toured parts of Africa through Kenya where we shared them with other countries for a tour circuit. Our biggest event attracted 3,000 people and it was amazing.
You have been involved in various initiatives involving women in deejaying. Give us a glimpse into that.
DJ Shock: When I was doing the Business DJ Coffee meetups, I noticed that month to month, I barely
had any ladies attending. So I organized a meetup just for them which had good attendance. Many of the ladies who came were shy and didn’t know what to expect. The ladies later found common ground and we still enjoy each other’s company. Our WhatsApp group is active to date.
Further, I noted that ladies didn’t get enough chances to practise deejaying. I approached my long-time friend, DJ Vic: CEO of Skratch Group Ltd, and we organized a DJ clinic. The ladies could have free appointments with him and work on building their DJ skillset. Additionally, I also talked with Pawa254 who gave us a room that we could use for practice once a week. Coco-Em was kind enough to lend us to her controller and with my Bluetooth we did what we could.
Some female DJs also don’t have regular access to equipment and that’s what I was trying to facilitate. I also wanted to provide a comfortable space for the women some of whom would come accompanied by really young children. Our sessions were in the evening and it wasn’t easy putting it all together after a long day. However, the ladies appreciated and that made it worthwhile.
At the moment, I have been assisting Coco-EM when she does her music production class for women. I also organized a monthly event called “Binti – Women in House Music”. The DJ line-up is all-female, but anyone can attend.
Apart from community work, you also perform regularly.
Yes of course. I have had the privilege of playing to a diverse audience in so many genres and
occasions. I deejay mostly private parties and weddings but also some club nights and festivals. Deejaying has given me the chance to travel all over the country and as far as Kampala. I have met so many amazing people in my lifetime.
What is the next direction and where can we find you online?
You’ve got to have something to show before you can tell people about it sometimes. So when I am ready to show the world, that is when I can tell all. We have many plans, but God guides our steps when we don’t have wisdom, He does the impossible. It’s also how I got the name Shock, it reminds me to never assume anything about God or put Him in a box because He will shock you!
Some of my performance videos are on Youtube via my channel, Santuri East Africa, Househeads KE and Homeboyz. I also have DJ sets on my Mixcloud including guest mixes I did for other radio stations back home and abroad. Search for me using my hashtag #DjShockAfrica, or just type out Dj Shock Africa online for everything on all social media platforms. Bless.