Subtempo Guest Mix 028
Imran's passion for music and the entire creative process drove him to start off as a DJ in Nairobi City in 2010. As a professional DJ, he lived and worked in Paris from 2013 to mid-2014 under a French artist management network ‘Reseau Tigre’. He then moved back to Nairobi in mid-2014 on a quest to establish himself as a brand and to work on music production. Since then, Imran has worked with a number of other music producers and musicians on numerous projects and released several EPs. In 2016 he released his first EP "Good Old Days". A year later, he followed up with his second EP "Dedanites". In May 2020 he released the ‘Happy Music’ EP after signing to the Belgian record label Tanzgemeinschaft.
Hi Imran. First of all, thank you for doing this mix for us.
The pleasure is all mine!
I wanted to start by asking you about the mix. How, where, and when did you record it?
I recorded this set on my old CDJs (850’s) with a Rane 61 mixer plugged into my Serato Scratch Live. This is my preferred DJ setup for when I record sets away from the studio. I actually recorded this set from an AirBnB since I was away from home but still within Kenya.
Is there a theme for this mix?
I put together a playlist of my current favourite sounds starting off with one of my recent releases. The idea was to put together a playlist of tracks I would play in the car on a long drive or even while doing house chores. I would be dancing to this music as well on a Sunday afternoon. Hope everyone enjoys listening to this set as much as I did playing it.Although Imran started off as a DJ, he's already released 3 EPs, and lots more in the pipeline.
You are from Kenya, correct? Are you based in a rural spot or in a city?
Yes, I am Kenyan. I was born in a Nyeri town, central Kenya but I moved to Nairobi in 2007 and I have mostly been based here since.
How’s the electronic music scene there?
The electronic music scene here is still young but has been growing rapidly over the last decade. We have more electronic music themed parties happening now more than ever. There are also many new musicians and music producers releasing music which is very motivating.
We have a few music festivals that spot electronic music stages, Kilifi NYE (Beneath The Baobabs), Tusker Oktoberfest and Earthdance by 6AM. Then we have Kenya Nights which is the largest electronic music brand in Kenya. In addition to all that, we have other long running theme parties like Fusion, DSTRKT, Afro Social & Gondwana just to mention a few.
Would you say Kenya’s scene is one of the stronger ones in Africa or are there other countries that are better known for their dance music culture?
I wouldn’t really say the scene here is one of the biggest in Africa but we are coming up and fast. South Africa would be at the top since their scene is older and they could be credited with putting Afro House on the global platform.
In the Eastern and Central regions of Africa though, I would think Kenya does come at the top when it comes to dance music culture. All that is within the last decade though.Moving the crowds at an event pre-covid in Kenya.
I read that you also run a collective and label there highlighting african talent, 125bpm. Tell me a little about that project.
Indeed I do. I founded 125BPM in early 2018 and started off as a party concept then later thought it would make sense to register it as a label as well. The initial idea was to create platforms that I could use for myself both as a DJ and as a music producer but with time I’ve been collaborating with other artists and event managers like Unplug & Play and Houxid (Which is relatively new).
In 2018 and 2019 I managed to throw several concept parties in Nairobi and even one in Kampala. I’ve also made several international bookings and showcased on local mainstream radio.
At the moment, with the current global crisis, I’m focusing on bringing together electronic music artists who are starting in the scene and hopefully I’ll be able to offer support and connections to networks that would be of use to them.
And do you mostly work with african musicians or do you collaborate with international talent as well?
Generally I will work with any good musician no matter where they’re based or their background. So long as they are as keen to create as I am, I’m game. That said, I have mostly had international collaborations but I have done a number of electronic remixes for Kenyan musicians.
How is it to run things from Kenya? How’s access to the music? Do people have good internet? Or do they still prefer cd’s or cassettes?
I would say there isn’t any noticeable difference in how we work here compared to Europe for instance. Most of the population has access to the internet even if it’s just from their smartphones. A huge portion of the audience will prefer to stream music rather than buy physical CD’s and nobody buys cassettes (Unless they’re collectors maybe). YouTube is the most popular streaming platform as far as I can tell.Kenya Nights is one of the biggest parties in the country.
We met via Claudio Capo who runs the label and blog Tanzgemeinschaft. How did you two meet?
Yes we did but, amazingly I’m yet to meet Claudio in person...haha. We first got acquainted through a mutual friend/talented artist Amare. We were working on some music together and she suggested that we should get in touch with Claudio and send him demos for consideration. That worked out pretty well and he’s become a really good friend. He’s been very helpful in many ways.
And you had a release or two on their label correct?
Yes! I actually released my 3 track EP Happy Music on the Tanzgemeinschaft label this year. Then a track which Amare and I worked on featuring New York based singer songwriter Michelle Uziel was also released on the label as part of a Various Artists Compilation named ‘Hier Kommt die parade #1’
Looking forward to working with Tanzgemeinschaft on more projects.
Have you also released on other imprints?
Before the release of my Happy Music E.P I had been releasing all my work independently under 125BPM. This year though, I have had a few other tracks signed to release on several labels. I have a track releasing in Dec this year (2020) as part of a V.A. Compilation on Batavia Records based in Amsterdam. I have 2 other releases coming up in another V.A. Compilation through a Russian record label called Mole Music. The dates haven’t been set yet but should be over the next few months. There will also be a couple of tracks releasing in Dec as well as part of another compilation called ‘Human Rhythms’, through a London based collective.
Most of the music I have heard from you is in the house and tech-house sphere, and I really liked it. Do you feel traditional african culture influences your sound? Or are those two musical worlds completely separate for you?
I’m glad and honoured to hear that you liked the music you’ve heard from me. It would be very hard to escape influence from traditional African culture having spent nearly all my life here. The influence isn’t very apparent in the way I arrange my music but it plays a big role in how I select the instruments to work with. For instance, percussion instruments are a huge part of East African traditional music and I love them a lot!Using the decks as instruments is part of Imran's creative process when producing his own tunes.
What are some of your go-to tools when creating tunes?
I work almost exclusively on Ableton Live but I also edit audio files on Adobe Audition. My other tools would be my Launchpad S, MPD32 and my Technics 1210’s. I’m yet to put together a solid home music studio but that’s a plan for 2021 if things go well.
What’s inspiring you right now?
I’ve been really into the 90’s house sound and U.K. garage basslines lately. Currently I’m listening to a lot of minimal tech and melodic house/techno. This, I’m playing a lot actually. I might also be going through a LO-FI house phase. :)
Do you have any releases coming soon or do any of your artists? Anything we should be looking out to in the near future?
Yes I do. I have a deep house track called ‘Lush’ releasing as part of a deep house compilation through Batavia Records based in the Netherlands. There are 2 other deep house tracks, ‘Day I Saw You’ and ‘So Good’ also releasing soon through Mole Music, a record label based in Russia.
Well, thank you for taking the time to do this interview and mix for us man!
You’re most welcome and thank you too for having me! It’s been a pleasure.
- Imran Mwangi Ft. Ishmael Johnson - Looking For Love [125BPM]
- Graal Radio & Laurence Guy - Les mur (OriginalMix) [Monologues Records]
- Sweely - Around [Distant Hawaii]
- Black Loops - Sex (Original Mix) [Toy Tonics]
- Madcat - Heard It [Virage Records]
- R.M - Chikyu-u 002 [Chikyu-u Records]
- Archie Hamilton - Elevated [TrommelCARES]
- Session Victim - Million Dollar Feeling [Delusions of Grandeur]
- Never Dull - United, Under One Roof (Original Mix) [Large Music]
- Ross Couch - Everlasting Night (Original Mix) [Body Rhythm Records]
- Unknown Artist - Maboroshi [Chikyu-u Records]
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