Knord is an O-G dabbing in Techno, Dub Tech, Soulful, Afro, and Tribal House. He has been playing Nairobi dancefloors since 2009. Starting at Psys Bar, he has deejayed in the city top joints; from The Tree House to the Alchemist Bar; to Muze. A lawyer in the daytime and a DJ when the light goes down, Knord has had his taste of the festival circuit billing in events such as Ubantu Festival, Sondeka Festival, Santuri Safari as well as others.
Sound Safari: How are you bro?
Knord: Oh man, I’m glad to be here. Thank you for hosting me.
You’re the first guest to play over 50 minutes for our show:
Thank you. I’m really humbled that you’ve given me that opportunity to play one and a half hours.
You have been around since 2009 up to now, how has the scene changed in the time you’ve been around?
Access to technology has greatly changed. One of the reasons I was able to become a DJ was because at the time there was software called PCDJ. I don’t know whether you know about it.
I actually do, I learnt how to mix on PCDJ Red, then there was PCDJ Gold etc.
Yes. You didn’t even need a laptop, even a desktop would do. You don’t need a lot of equipment. Technology has also become cheaper, you can access a laptop, a controller, at reasonable prices. Even if it’s not owning but hiring out too. That kind of availability has made it possible for a lot of people who want to express themselves as deejays.
I think Virtual DJ was coming up and it was called Automix.
In fact, I hated Automix because the layout was ugly. I feel today that Virtual DJ is amazing software. However, what PCDJ could do in terms of live experience, I don’t think that even up to now there anything that can do that.
What else was happening in 2009?
I had come back to Kenya from university in Uganda and I wasn’t working for about a year so I decided to DJ. I always wanted to DJ and I had already started out as a student in Uganda. At that time no one was there to teach you this stuff. There were a few established units like Homeboyz and Code Red. To join those units you had to be in the right social circles. I didn’t know those guys and was not in their social circles but I wanted to DJ. I picked my laptop and went out on my own. Throughout the week I was the resident at Cockpit in Lang’ata and then on the weekends, I would be at Psys. I had to be there up to 3 am.
You played Reggae, Hip Hop, Soul, etc when starting out. Currently, deejays have become more specialized. What is the downside and upside to this?
One of the advantages of being able to play all types of music is you understand different ways of mixing different styles. In terms of equipment, you learn to mix differently. You can bring Hip Hop techniques to House music.
In 2009 I would mix Hip Hop, Reggae, Old Skool, Soul and Rhumba. That time you had to mix everything. I always had an interest in House music but I didn’t have access to it. Fortunately, a cousin of mine came from South Africa and his hard drive had all these old school Kwaito, and the Deep House that was coming up in South Africa at the time – the likes of Black Coffee and others. When I played this music, I was the only one who was playing it. So that got me invited into spaces I wouldn’t traditionally be welcomed.
Deejays have shown resilience and adaptation since the pandemic hit. What gems can you share with us about adapting seeing that you’ve been around since 2009?
One of the things that has really helped me, even in my professional life, is that I have had to be on top of what is the latest technology, latest trend and from that, I pick what I like. It’s been easier for me to go through the EDM phase, Deep House phase and so forth. I also spend a lot of time reading. Much as I will play Soulful House, I like to understand what it is according to the owners.
When you get to a deeper understanding of something it’s much better. Everybody is playing Amapiano but there are those who stand out. The kings of Amapiano like MGM, IV, etc because they understand the music. What do you think about Amapiano?
Let me first talk about MGM. One, MGM deserves to be the king of Amapiano. He is the king of Amapiano in Kenya or at least East Africa. Around 2017, he reached out, introduces himself, and asks to mirror me in my events. That’s what he exactly does, comes down to the events, looks through, and asks questions. He is a very curious person and learns very quickly. The interesting thing is he would come over with his sister (Tina Ardor) who is a great musician. In three years they’ve been able to take over the world.
I feel like that is the type of adaptability you were talking about. Where you are curious and ask questions. That’s the same thing with DJ Vidza who is now also a producer.
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In terms of Amapiano, I acknowledge the role it has played in terms of creating awareness of House music to the Kenyan urban youth but it’s not my cup of tea. Not because I don’t like it but because I’m more of a House head type of dude. I feel it has its owners. That is MGM, IV… One of my cohorts, DJ Panik, is an amazing House deejay but he also plays amazing soulful Amapiano.
Which Kenyan DJ or artist are you listening to right now?
I’ve always been a big fan of Saint Evo. I’ve known him since back in the day and I like what he produces. It’s just interesting. The other guy in terms of producing is Imran Mwangi. He is doing these remixes and I just love them cause I’m a guy who loves funky house. Anything that has a Chicago House feels to it, with a deep tech vibe, I’m all for it. I’m also definitely a big fan of the Gondwana producers
Actually, for me, I don’t have a favorite artist if I’m being honest. Everybody does something completely different. The guys from Gondwana; Euggy; Suraj; you do something completely different too. Everyone is playing the field and everyone is playing their own space. There is no competition and people are thriving in their space. I think that’s what House music does. It allows everyone to fit in their own space and push their boundaries.
You’ve been doing your podcast Deep Hollows since 2012. For someone who wants to start, what do they need?
You just need to be focused. You need to appreciate that there will be good days and there will be days you feel like you don’t want to do it. Secondly, you need to be clear on what you want to play. If you want to play Jazz, play Jazz. The third is to know your music. This doesn’t mean that when you start you’ll know exactly what you’re playing but as you go by you do as much research as you can. Additionally, you should also invest in acquiring the music taste that you find interesting. So don’t be too rigid, have a wide ear and listen to many things but be very clear with what is your final product.
Thank you for sharing with us your invaluable time. Where can we get you on social media?
You can get me @sidzoku on Twitter, @sidzoku on Instagram. Also, follow our page ‘House Heads KE’ which I run with a lady called Wambui. You can also get on Telegram and search for Househeads KE which we run with Wambui and DJ B-Town. Just feel free, get on there and if you’re from Kenya share your music. We would love to get to know you and what you’re saying. If you’re on Facebook it’s Knord and you can also join Nairobi Deep & Soulful House.
I hope I’ve exhausted all the social medias!