When one talks of Disc Jockeys (DJ) in Malawi, the names Kenny Klips, Joy Nathu form part of the list. These two plus hordes of other DJs continue to demonstrate and increase the worth of this art.
Little wonder that there are fans who not only idolise these DJs, but also draw motivation from them.
However, the trade is male-dominated, actually more than other entertainment spheres in Malawi such as music, film, among others.
But there are some hidden gems that sooner or later will emerge as top DJs. Three females; RJ the DJ, DJ Bubblegum and DJ Shortie are the females taking turns in rocking merrymakers in Lilongwe.
They are developing a niche for themselves rocking their fans, making wild audiences go cuckoo.
In particular, Rejoice Msindo, trading under the RJ the DJ moniker, is fast becoming a magnet not only for pulling fans to her irresistible sounds, but also attracting big gigs.
Plenty of outgoing fans would attest to the fact that she has all that it takes to impress patrons with incredible sets.
For those that have watched her at gigs or other public events, RJ the DJ’s looks are so deceiving until she sets the place ablaze with unstoppable tunes.
The fact is, inside her petite frame, lies undisputable talent, steadily making a name and earning a place on the list of the best of what Malawi has to offer.
It all started like a pass time activity for the girl and years down the line, it has grown into a career.
She said: “We had a DJ for our birthday party; my sister and I. It caught my eye and I wanted to try it. I have been DeeJaying for a couple of years now.
“But when I got interested I had to concentrate on school first so I couldn’t continue. But I kept up with the music.”
She said it began as a joke.
“Many thought I was just going through a phase. And there really was a time I put it aside. But I love music. And I just had to be a DJ. I like making people happy. Music and food do the trick,” Msindo said in an interview.
In her quest to break the taboo that only men can take to the decks, she revels in the fact that she is taking this seriously as a brand and identity. That makes RJ the DJ unique.
“The fact that I am professional is key. I take advice from great minds on branding, marketing, publicity and presentation to heart. This is not a hobby, it’s a business and deserves the attention any business deserves,” said Msindo.
She said as a DJ, the key uniqueness is her willingness and passion to enjoy what she is doing with her audience.
“I love to dance along with my audience. That interaction is what makes me connect with the people I am playing for,” Msindo said.
She derives satisfaction in seeing throngs of fans at gigs enjoying themselves apart from having what can be termed as big opportunities.
“The highlights are many! I enjoyed Tumaini 2018 a lot. The three gigs I have had outside the country were pretty awesome. Getting to play at Lake of Stars too. As I said earlier, the experience is always different and I enjoy it just as much,” said Msindo.
Earlier this year, RJ the DJ performed in Zambia and South Africa. She is billed to return to Lake of Stars 2019 after a successful debut appearance last year.
“Every time I get to play for an audience, it is an achievement. Each time is different.
“The experience is never the same no matter how many times I do it,” she states.
While some DJs are predominantly known for a specific genre, she spins all types of music to cater for her followers. Perhaps, that counts for her magic on the decks.
“I have had to learn to be flexible with music. That way I cater for everyone in the audience. Or, I at least try to make sure that everyone gets to hear what they like,” stated Msindo.
However, it is not a rosy road for RJ the DJ.
She says the sector is still not appreciated as it should be with most people thinking of a DJ as someone who chooses a playlist and plays music.
Msindo said: “This goes to both party goers and places. It’s very common to find people going to the DJ mid set, requesting a song which was never part of their set to begin with.
“DJs prepare, gauge their audiences and try to play music according to that assessment and preparation so to keep requesting songs is inconvenient to most.
“It’s with this mentality of ‘just someone who has a playlist and hits play’ that we have people not valuing DJs as much—paying them peanuts or not paying at all when this is an art form and a source of livelihood.
“So you will find a DJ set tucked far away at the back of the stage.”
While the truth is she is successfully emerging and penetrating the male-dominated industry, the low numbers of females is not an issues to her.
“About it being a male-dominated field doesn’t matter as long as you are good and professional at what you do.
“DJ Zinhle is doing it big, getting gigs all over the world, having her brand of watches and jewellery. If your product is good, your gender is irrelevant,” says Msindo.
She adds that it is disappointing for people to always assume that a DJ should be male without even finding out and the fact most establishments have male DJs.
Talking about the auditioning, RJ the DJ passionately decries this tendency describing it as utter disrespect.
“Respect the art form – can’t be asking DJs to perform for free or ‘for free trials, auditions’. They live off this, they research, they buy equipment, pay their managers, invest in themselves. Exposure doesn’t get them internet, electricity, food, clothing.
“Pay and value artists and they will keep getting better. You get what you pay for and value. The arts sector should not be an afterthought. It should be part of the conversation. People plan their events then after almost exhausting their budget, think of a DJ or singer,” said Msindo.
For fun seekers such as Boniface Nkhoma, RJ the DJ “represents the missing puzzle in the sector in Malawi. I would want more women to come out and grab this opportunity as they have the expertise too just like the men”.