The word “Diaspora” has a Greek origin and means to scatter. In most contexts, Diaspora describes people who have been ‘scattered’ from country of birth to another country. It is a euphemism, of sort, depicting the population living abroad, a world away from their original domicile.
This movement establishes, in people, a new outlook of life, a different world view and the hushed identity crisis. Above all, this movement also creates new dreams and aspirations; the motivation to throw a gauntlet at life’s challenges, and a spark to explore different frontiers.
Martin Mwangi was born and raised in Kenya. His childhood involved trading jabs with life in forgotten corners of Lang’ata and Kariokor. All he wanted was to be somebody later on in life. His un-paralleled ambition as a young lad, however, did not include the thought that one day he will be a top Disc Jockey (DJ) in California, United States.
I caught up with Martin, popularly known as DJ Slim and this is what he had to say on life as a DJ.
- Why the name “DJ Slim?”
The name originated from a good friend and a video director called Michael Wanguhu. He had invited me to play music at one of his events, and what met him was my very very skinny frame!! All I heard next was being introduced to the fans as “DJ Slim” and the name stuck.
- How did you get into being a DJ?
I got into being a DJ in a unique way. I would spend many hours hanging around many Djs and collect from them cassettes (mix tapes) for free. When I migrated to the USA I was lucky to stay with a legendary San Francisco based DJ called Johnny Blaze. That presented me with an opportunity to learn and make my own cassettes (mix tapes). I have never looked back since then (2001)
- What do fans look for in a good DJ?
I believe fans look out for an element of surprise, where the DJ plays hits the fans don’t expect to hear or haven’t heard in a long while. At the same time fans expect someone well-mannered and humble. Fans go out of their way, spend hard earned money and as such expect a DJ to make their experience one to remember.
- What has been you biggest challenge as a DJ?
It is always a very difficult balancing act. On one hand I am a DJ as a side hustle. On the other hand, I also have my main job that I have to attend to. And still, there is a life to live and family to connect with. But where there is a will there is a way.
Another challenge I see is the place of African music in the world arena. African artistes must realize that the world is no longer limited by political boundaries and must therefore make music that taps into into this transnationalism. Music should speak about people’s feelings, ways of life and culture. I long for that day where a Kenyan artiste putting on a show in America will attract not just the Kenyan audience, but a more diverse crowd.
- Do you have to listen to a lot of music?
Honestly you have to listen to a lot of music, different radio stations across the world, and attending other shows. Being a DJ is an art in itself and any art can be learnt and skills shared.
- Who has inspired your trade?
I look up to many Djs all over the world. Dj Pinye (Kenya) opened different doors for disk jockeys and artists in kenya a long time ago. It is those doors a slim DJ can use to eke out a living! Dj Nijo (Kenya) has depth in terms of music array and skill. He has had the most influence in me since I was always around him. Dj Mind Motion & J Espinosa (San Francisco) introduced me to the world of hip-hop. They are very versatile and can put 2 songs seamlessly and one wouldn’t tell the difference. Walshy Fire (Jamaica / Miami ) is not only a great DJ, but a skilled MC as well. He has a unique style he utilizes to control the crowd. I cannot forget to mention DJ Fully Focus who always has my back and is the main reason I have been so successful. He has taught me music and music business.
- How is the Kenyan Diaspora in America? Do you feel their support?
Kenyan Diapora in America is very supportive and super loyal. They are already doing enough, and amazing things at that. It always gives me great pleasure to see Kenyans dance to Kenyan music. It tells me that even though we are miles away from home, our identity is still tied to the motherland. At the same time, nothing soothes my heart more than seeing other nationalities dance to Kenyan or African music. It makes me realize that music can bridge the gap between cultures. As a DJ, I can say that we help connect Kenyans to their pride and joy through music.
- What has been your greatest moment as a DJ?
I cannot forget being invited to Dj for Stephen Curry surprise birthday. Curry, NBA’s most valuable player and the heartbeat of the Golden State Warriors had just joined the team and there I was sending him to the dance floor without knowing who he was or the fact that he would end one day becoming basketball’s most lethal and elite shooter.
- What else do you do?
I would love work as a DJ to be my main source of daily bread and butter. Currently, I also work in People Operations at one of the most successful companies in California.
- Future plans?
My five-year plan would be to have a family of my own, you know, wife and kids. I am also moving towards doing more festivals and less nightlife.
I would like to thank fans all over the world who have supported me and invited me to grace their parties. I would also not forget to give a shout out to my PXP business partner DJ Fully Focus and Paul.