Contrary to popular belief, learning to DJ is not an easy route to overnight success. This takes work, and hustle, and time. My journey hasn’t been a smooth one, especially being a DJ in Africa, where there are no equipment or schools to learn this professionally. My journey started in Tema High School (Secondary School), Ghana as the entertainment leader. The love I had for the arts made me change courses from business to visual arts class. I started DJing professionally 1999 - worked in a few clubs, did countless tours and now the official DJ for Sarkodie. I would say a DJ needs a lot of special equipment, such as turntables. And it involves much more than setting up a playlist. While it’s not necessary to have a music degree, some knowledge of music and music theory can help. When you’re learning to DJ, you’re learning to match your own musical expressions with the desires of an audience. It’s about being observant, empathic, and reactive.
What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge was perfecting my acts with no equipment with practice. I listened to a lot of music and mixed all my songs in my head till I got an opportunity to stand behind a console. I continued doing this, until I was able to purchase myself a turntable.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started?
That, I should have left for Europe when I could earlier on. Because European DJs make more.
That I should always use my work as an excuse to connect with other DJs and high end bar owners online and in person. That can help increase your presence, and you can use those connections to help find work.
What advice would you give to an upcoming youth or talents locally and internationally?
Whatever it is you are passionate about, go all out and make it a profession. One of the most important parts of being a DJ is networking. When you go out on different nights, you meet different types of people from different backgrounds and cultures. The more people you meet from a different profession, the more recognition you are getting and the more work you get. There is nothing joyful about seeing people happy or in a better mood and getting paid for it.
To become a DJ, you can’t just have the best DJ equipment. You also need to be able to use that equipment to mix and edit a playlist. Every good DJ needs to love different songs and artists. You don’t have to enjoy every genre, but you should know about a few prominent artists. Then, you can select the right songs for a DJ setlist so that the songs go together.
You also need to learn a little bit about music software and DJ equipment. Keep up with regular updates to your favorite programs, and learn to use a new DJ controller when you can. The more you know about DJ software and hardware, the easier it will be for you to do your job.