DJ Kace, “The African Mzungu,” is having a banging year and between headlining major events and touring the U.S., he shows no signs of slowing down. At a recent festival gig, his energy on stage was contagious and radiated through the crowd. His set had something for everyone and he blended different genres perfectly. After the show, I sat down with Kace for an interview.
Tell me about your U.S. tour.
The Kenyan crowd there is very responsive especially as a mzungu coming and playing them music that they’ve not listened to in five, 10 years. I really enjoyed playing for that demographic.
It was good, I loved it.
Are there any differences between Kenyan and Kenyan Diaspora crowds?
I think the main difference is that most of them over there are a bit older. It’s a more mature audience. For them it’s more about the hits from the early 2000s maybe even the 90s, but they party like crazy anyway.
Especially when I played in Vegas, which is the first time I ever went to the states, I’ve never seen Kenyans party that hard. Because they really have to hold in not being around fellow Kenyans for a long time, whereas here we go out every weekend.
You recently performed at Nairobi’s maximum security prison Kamiti for “Crime Si Poa.” Tell me about that.
Kamiti was all about giving a platform to the inmates to showcase their talent and rehabilitate themselves through the arts.
During their performances I would come through with a scratch here and there and make them feel good. In between I played reggae and traditional mugiithi music and that really got them going…It was a fun day for those guys. I love giving back.
“Crime Si Poa” was an initiative started by an inmate at Kamiti called Pete Manson. It’s a project which they’ve been doing with Sarakasi Trust, which was founded by my parents, so I am involved in a lot of their initiatives.
What are some challenges you face in your industry?
The only challenge would be as I was starting up, before people knew what type of music I played. A lot of people assumed if it’s a mzungu DJ, he’s going to be playing House and EDM. But when they heard me play, it translated to a massive plus, because I play local, dancehall, reggae, hip hop. Music the Kenyan crowds enjoy, and I hardly touch House. It became a unique advantage.
Another challenge faced not only as a DJ but the music scene as a whole, is the Kenya-finding-its-own-sound debate. With MCSK coming in and demanding more local content, there’s a lot more discussion around quality. It’s a good discussion, and it’s something that we need to improve as a nation. DJs need to support local artists, local artists need to ensure that they are coming up with quality content. It’s a two way street but we’ll get there. I’m optimistic.
Which moments do you think back on in your career?
There are three in particular: the first is when I played in Vegas in February. I had made it my new year’s resolution to play abroad. To get the opportunity to play for such a massive crowd in Vegas, all thanks to Fully Focus and Takeover DJs, was unbelievable. I’ve been back twice, so it really helped me break out internationally in my career. Definitely one of my favorite memories. It was fantastic.
This past Earthdance: the crowd was just ridiculous! I think there were well over 4,000 guys who showed up and Kenya has never breached paid audience wise 5,000,-6,000 people so we may have broken a record. I don’t have the [exact] numbers yet but it was ridiculous.
Finally, another time I played in Kamiti for the juvenile delinquents. It’s amazing, these guys have been locked up, no alcohol, no weed, no drugs just going crazy, dancing for two hours nonstop for the pure joy of the music. It really made me feel nice that I can provide that for them.
What gigs do you have coming up?
I’m playing at Juniper on Oct. 23 and on [Oct. 24] I’ll be at Galileos. Those two I’m really looking forward to. The really massive gigs are coming in December. New Year’s I’m playing at Diani Beach Life again with 6:AM so that should be dope.