Spotlight on: Suraj

March 15, 2017

Hailing from Kenya, DJ and producer Suraj combines modern electronic music with African soundscapes, instruments and vocals. We talk to him about his start in music, his connection to traditional sounds and the other projects he has going from social outreach to podcasts.

How did you get your start in music?
I started out playing the classical tablas, the drums because of my dad. My dad plays drums. Then I started listening to the normal r&b and hip hop stuff. I was still playing the drums… Then I found DJing and got into that.Tried that a little bit then went back to school.Then as soon as I wanted to do O levels I knew music is what I wanted to do. Then I just dove in with both feet. I started listening to electronic music at that time. It was more the Defected in the House, a little bit of Two Room, Onsulade’s Yuruba Records - that’s where i got my afro influence from. That’s what triggered the afro influence, was labels like those and I just stuck with it.

Your first original production ‘Wawere’ combines electronic music with lyrics in the luo language. What made you decide to combine these two different aspects?
I’m from Kisumu which is in the West of Kenya, a like side city and the language that is spoken the is dhuluo. I was born there so I kind of speak that language a little bit. As soon as I’d finished my [previous] remixes I got offers from certain artists that make traditional music. And yeah, ‘Wawere’ was the first track we finished and luckily it was a dhuluo track so it just made sense.

Can you tell me about your Midi Minds initiative?
Midi Minds is run with two of my friends, Dylan and Sheel. Dylan and I are the production engineers and Sheel is the graphic designer. What we do is try to promote the importance of knowledge and the importance of music education. So we hold music production workshops and info sessions and really just grow the importance of production. We also record for the less fortunate who can’t afford studio time.

You also run Savannah Sessions, what’s the idea behind that?
Savannah Sessions is a monthly podcast I run. I run it in seasons. I did the first season last year and from there I created a sound I really liked. Eventually I started getting a lot of music just for Savannah so we decided to make it an event series. We’ve done two and I play 9 - 12 hour sessions just by myself.

What have you been working on in studio?
4 tracks. One of them I started here and went back to my place and continued there then came back. But two of the other tracks I started before and finished them here.

Are these separate projects or part of a whole?
It’s two different things. One of the tracks I started with a friend of mine from Austria and it was just back and forth, recording stuff and arranging, so that when I came here I had a whole arrange track basically. So I mixed and mastered it here. And then there are tracks that are solely for Red Bull.

What are you trying to do with your music?
I’m trying to fuse modern electronic productions with the African aesthetic and African sounds. The fusion I take from Africa is the instruments and the vocals and soundscapes.

Find Suraj online: