Conversation with multitalented Kenyan electronic music producer & DJ Suraj
Suraj is a multitalented Kenyan DJ and Producer, whose music is evidence of an individual focused on becoming a beacon in Africa’s expanding electronic music scene. He has performed in various big stages in Kenya and around the world and collaborated with artists from the continent and beyond.
Afroway, sought an interview with the young artist, among the most sought after electronic music names in Kenya, with an ambitions that stretches beyond making music to helping grow other artists.
Afroway: Hey… How you been?
Suraj: I have been great, thank you…
Afroway: First off…who is Suraj?
Suraj: I am a Music Producer, engineer and DJ based in Nairobi, Kenya focusing on electronic music…
Afroway: DJ and Producer, the man behind Dhulka Music… which one came first?
Suraj:I have always been into music…I started playing the ‘tablas’ (Indian percussion drum), DJing followed and naturally progressed into production and engineering of music.
Afroway:How do you, personally, describe your music?
Suraj:I would like to describe my music as a blend of modern day music production methods with an influence of my surroundings.
Afroway: Why choose to use traditional musical and cultural elements in your music?
Suraj: It has been a sub-conscious process using traditional and cultural elements in my music, the environment I am in heavily influences my music so I would have to say being born and living in Kenya has had a massive role in my influence.
Afroway:Tell us about Wawere, what inspired this jam?
Suraj: ‘Wawere’ was my debut single released on Dhulka Music, I was heavily inspired by Olith Ratego’s vocal riff that I made the focus of the song and the rest just flowed.
Afroway:Where would you place electronic music influences in Kenya is it gaining ground?
Suraj:I would say electronic music influence is a leading factor in the production of local music lately, be it a slower trap production or an up-tempo afro-beat song electronic music is the mode of most of the productions we are hearing lately.
Afroway: You have worked with a number of artists both locally and internationally, what do you look for in an artist when you seek that feature?
Suraj:There isn’t anything specific I look for in a collaboration, if we can complement each other musically that is the most important thing…Everything else is a bonus!
Afroway: Is there an artist you haven’t worked with yet, that you’d like to work with?
Suraj: There are several artists I would like to work with, from artists such as Djeff Afrozila and Dennis Ferrer to Mi Casa and DJ Maphorisa…
Afroway:Which is your memorable performance?
Suraj:A few moments come into mind with memorable performances. A few examples are Blankets & Wine (Kenya), Nyege Nyege Festival (Uganda), Pontoon Budapest (Hungary)
Afroway: You performed at this year’s Nyege Nyege Festival in Uganda, share with us your experience…
Suraj: My experience at this year’s Nyege Nyege festival was interesting to say the least. As I was also performing at this year’s Kikoy Culture (Kenya) I had a short window of time to travel up-to Nile Discovery Beach for Friday night’s performance but I was blown away by the location and response of the crowd. Definitely a highlight this season and we will be back, no doubt!
Afroway:Tell us about your latest EP?
Suraj: My latest EP was a collaboration with Max Doblhoff & Alai K titled Bana Bana released on leading afro-house record label, MoBlack Records early August 2017. A worldwide collaboration with vocals and percussions from Kenya, flutes from Austria and remixes from all over the world.
Afroway: Who are some of the artists you worked with on the EP?
Suraj: I have been fortunate enough to work with some amazing artists and musicians such as Alai K, Stoney,Udulele & Remixes from Armonica, C Minor, Moblack and a personal favorite Djeff Afrozila.
Afroway: How is the reception of Mwanangu so far?
Suraj: The reception on ‘Mwanangu’ has been nothing but positive and supportive…Jackie being a good friend it was an organic approach working on the song. I carefully crafted my remix for the dance-floor yet keeping the overall vibe of the original.
Afroway:Tell us about the Midi Minds Kenya project…
Suraj: Midi Minds Kenya is a music production outfit I co-run with Dylan-S, Dread Steppa & Foozak, all experienced artists in the Kenyan music scene, that deliver tailor made audio solutions from recording and post production of music, audio visuals to events and label showcases. We also run music production workshops and seminars to increase the knowledge on music production and increase the quality of music produced locally.
Afroway: That makes you more than just an artist, what inspires you to want to help others in the industry?
Suraj:The scene in general is what inspires me to share my knowledge and experiences. I use these opportunities to contribute and develop our music scene while thriving with individual careers at the same time too.
Afroway:In your opinion as an artist, which one is best independent or signed?
Suraj:There is no right answer for that question; that decision solely depends on the artist’s visions, wants and needs. The internet has made it possible and very simple to independently release music nevertheless there are artist’s careers that have propelled after receiving the right backing from record labels so it totally depends on the individual artist.
Afroway: What’s your view of the Kenyan music industry, is it working? Does Kenya actually have a music industry?
Suraj: Kenya definitely has a music scene and a very promising one too, we are fortunate to not just have one signature Kenyan sound but a wide array of genres and sounds depending on several factors. The fact that Kenya also has a large online population has helped independent artists thrive in the scene using platforms like SoundCloud, YouTube and local sites like Mookh & Mdundo.
Afroway: If you were to play a superhero role in a movie who would you be? Not Spiderman…he’s taken.
Suraj: I would create a role that has teleportation power because, why not?
Afroway:When not doing music, what else does Suraj do?
Suraj: I try and travel as much as possible when I am not working.
Afroway: Well Suraj, thank you for sharing your time with us…
New Album: Apollo Brown & Che’ Noir -As God Intended