Working up an African rhapsody in teh UAE - GulfToday

Working up an African rhapsody in the UAE

DJ Mneddy1

DJ Mneddy has brought the best of African music to the UAE.

Manjula Ramakrishnan

Many won’t be familiar with the name Kennedy Thoya from Mombasa, Kenya. But when his alias DJ Mneddy is mentioned, he is bound to get a standing ovation. He is the Afro Beats DJ at KIZA, Dubai, an authentic pan-African restaurant.

As one of Dubai’s sought after DJ, Mneddy found his niche bringing the best of African music to this cosmopolitan city, while performing at this popular African venue.

Over the course of his illustrious career, he has rubbed shoulders with African superstars like Tinie Tempah, Diamond Platnumz, Davido, 2Baba and several other renowned names. His Ubuntu Countdown on YouTube, a weekly round-up of the best in Afro beats mix, is hugely popular among the music lovers in the UAE.

DJ Mneddy speaks about how music of any genre should touch the soul.

How did the DJ journey begin?

My early life revolved around music so it was inevitable that I would consider being a DJ as a serious career option. My love of music and its science got me interested but above all it was me following in my father’s footsteps. By 2006 I started getting gigs for house parties and birthday functions for friends and families. This was a great opportunity to set myself up and build popularity and I simply did.

Tell us about your early influences.

My father was a local DJ and entertainer. He’d go around the neighbourhood in his party bus spinning music from his top deck. I’d always join in, wave to street dancers and help dad with his records. At the time my role was limited to mainly packing or unpacking stuff, yet I enjoyed it thoroughly. As I grew older my fascination with music grew – loved the vibe, the rhythms, the faces and the dances; it became a calling for me. I started playing with dad’s equipment when he wasn’t looking, at first, but then as I grew older I was allowed to experiment. Dad would give me tips and tricks before I began doing my own thing unsupervised.

What is the most rewarding moment in your career?

My most memorable moment was when KIZA signed me as their resident DJ. This platform gave me the opportunity to introduce Afro Beats to the UAE entertainment scene, complementing the city’s nightlife offering. At KIZA we work with a great line up of African entertainers so I’ve had the privilege to meet and work with top musicians. I’ve performed for several African festivals and opened for several events.

What is distinctive about Afrobeats?

African Giant Burna Boy termed it Afrobeats; it’s a fusion of African beats and world sounds. The late Fela Kuti, who pioneered this global movement, originally created Afrobeats. Today so many artists have joined the music revolution to put Afrobeats on world map and the music is gathering huge popularity across different ethnic groups. The groovy sounds of Afrobeat are contagious, no matter where you are from, for it will just get you off your feet.

How good is the response in the UAE?

Over the years, we’ve witnessed a new wave of followers coming to KIZA to experience Afrobeats and African entertainment. This momentum continues as we host more and more African artists at KIZA. Events such as the African music festival are a catalyst to growth of fans in the city. At KIZA I’ve recently launched a new show, KIZA Ubuntu Countdown, on KIZA’s YouTube channel, which presents fresh and upcoming Afrobeats talent that further promote the genre.

What goes into your initial preparation to open a night?

First and foremost, I usually say a prayer before my set. This gives me a sense of gratefulness, which I do not take lightly. As I put on my headphones, I keep an eye out on the crowd, study the vibe and start spinning. My sample music usually is mellow tunes to get everyone going; I pick up pace to mid-tempo before we shout out "ginger" to launch the night entertainment. 

How important is the connection between you, your music and the audience?

It is significantly important. It's a marriage between the entertainer, entertainment and the entertained. It is to do with understanding the artists and the audience, knowing the tempo, the rhythm and offering music that connects with the soul. The audience feeds on your energy; so you have to deliver a good set with outstanding energy for them to have an awesome time.

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