Behind the Decks with DJ Mr. Fabz, An Exclusive
“The best thing about being a DJ is making people happy. There is nothing like seeing people get up from a table to dance or the expression on their face when they hear a song they love” ~ Chelsea Leyland. You’ve probably heard your favorite DJ syndicating a radio show, selling branded merch online, securing residency at that go-to joint or even playing a set at an event. However, the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly changed a lot of that in March, bringing the entertainment sector to a standstill.
Popular DJ, Mr. Fabz talks to KenyaBuzz about his life behind the decks, positive mental health, being one of Kenya’s most sought-after Disc Jockeys, the COVID-19 effect and what comes next.
KB: Fabz! Thank you for granting us this interview. First off, when did you start DJing – what is it about music that drew you to it?
I started Djing in late 2012 while in my second year of campus. I have always loved listening to music ever since I was a kid. Music literally gives me goose bumps and since I can neither sing nor play an instrument, DJing was the only way I could express my love for music.
KB: Every creative, at one point, faces a bump or two in their career. What were some of the main challenges you faced when starting out as a DJ, and how have they changed over time?
I would say the biggest challenge I faced in the beginning was getting access to a DJ academy. I was not able to afford one since I was a student. A fellow DJ agreed to teach me at a subsidized fee (shoutout to Dj Bash). Having learned quite a bit, the next challenge was securing gigs but that also got a bit easier. I then had to learn how to balance between school and the gigs. At the time, I also had to deal with resistance from parents and relatives who did not see the value in pursuing DJ-ing as a career.
Now that I am a more seasoned DJ does not mean that I no longer face challenges. However, having been able to build a network of industry connections and improving my pitching skills, I am able to secure more clients. With money earned over the years, I was able to acquire my own equipment, enabling me to practice whenever I wanted, and save costs on renting for gigs. Being on radio for the last three years also allowed me to diversify my skillset as it is quite different from performing at the club or at a concert.
KB: For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you, how would you describe your own development as a DJ?
I had not really decided what kind of music I wanted to specialize in, so I listened to the likes of G Money, Fully Focus, DJs Babu, John, Bash and Adrian, and that helped me understand how to play different genres of music. It was helpful to learn from all of them. I have now been able to create my own style, where I play more urban and progressive sounds. I believe in exploring new sounds as they come up instead of sticking to just one era of music
KB: As a recognized personality, what are some of the perceptions you’ve heard about yourself?
I’ve heard people call me anti-social and others have said I come off as timid. I am naturally an introvert, which is rather ironic for life as a DJ, so I can see why people would draw those conclusions. However, I have been able to make it work for me.
KB: Out of everything you currently possess in your DJ setup, which three pieces of gear are the most important for you?
My laptop, players, and headphones.
KB: With COVID-19 leading to a shutdown of entertainment joints and events alike, a DJ’s main source of income, how have you personally been able to cope with the new normal?
Admittedly, it had been a tough couple of months. Luckily, I managed to secure a virtual gig with a corporate sponsor at the beginning of the lockdown. I have also been able to provide research and tech consulting services as I have a background on the same. I am also very grateful for my friends and family who have been very supportive during this period. I am optimistic that things will open up pretty soon.
[An announcement on the gradual re-opening of clubs was made at the time of publishing this piece]
Available for bookings immediately 🙌🏽. Bei ya jioni 😂.
— Mr Fabz (@deejaymrfabz) September 28, 2020
KB: Could you take us through a day in your new normal, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How does life and creativity feed back into each other – do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I wouldn’t say I have a fixed schedule. I am able to integrate creativity into my everyday life and not necessarily have to carve out a specific time to work on the creative projects. Once I have had my morning coffee, I look up new music and save them to folders which I will revisit for the different mixes I am looking to create. There will be days that will be spent working on proposals to pitch to potential clients, and other days spent working on projects not related to music. I also enjoy touch rugby in the evenings. Afterwards, I’ll cook, listen to some more music and then maybe watch a sermon video online before going to bed.
KB: How does playing music at home for a virtual session and in the club compare and relate? What do you personally draw from both?
Virtual sessions were definitely a new experience for me. I am still navigating the space and continuing to learn. My personal experience is that playing at the club is more fulfilling because you’re able to pick up on the energy of the crowd, allowing you to tweak the playlist based on how they are responding. It’s tougher online. You also face more limitations on the music you can play virtually due to copyright flagging. However, in future, I see a possibility of DJs being able to perform virtually at multiple venues across the globe and this will open up several revenue streams for them.
KB: So far, what has been your worst experience as a DJ, and how did you handle it?
My hard disk once fell two stories down and broke in the middle of a gig. All my music was stored in there and so I had no music pool from which to mix. The resident DJ was graceful enough to lend me his laptop and the party continued, but it felt a lot less ‘me’ as the music he had was not really my style.
KB: Recently, you did an IGTV on bullying and how it may have affected you mentally when growing up. Tell us more about that.
I have started an IG series called ‘Behind the Decks with Mr Fabz’, where I get to share my life experiences both personally and professionally. This was inspired by my growing knowledge on the importance of self-awareness and mental health. My intention is to empower individuals who might have had similar experiences and are having a hard time coping. Childhood bullying is just one of the topics I covered but there is still so much more that I will speak on. I look forward to involving other DJs in future to give an inside look into the struggles they have faced and overcome.
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KB: What next for Mr. Fabz?
I am looking to drop the ‘Deejay’ part of my stage name and just go by Mr Fabz as I am working on a few projects in spaces outside of being a DJ. I am also toying with the idea of finally pursuing my PhD, music production and event concepts. I am no longer on radio at the moment, but I am looking forward to a season where time will allow me to get back on, bigger and better, because I really love being on air.
KB: Your parting shot
Your gifts, talents and generally your brilliance – meant to bring you success and fulfilment that you desire – will only serve that purpose if you put yourself out there for the world to see what you can do. Put on the confidence and put aside any self-doubt. Go out into the world and be great!