The rapid rise of social media in the last decade has allowed many individuals involved in the entertainment and music industries to gain massive exposure and make a name for themselves that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to;however, many individuals still fly under the radar,or aren’t as appreciated for their talents as they should be. In this edition , we focus on one profession in particular-DJs. There is no doubt that it takes a great deal of skill to master the art of being a DJ, and many have taken their fundamental skills and developed their own styles throughout the years. With a plethora of DJs out there in many different settings and venues, we have conducted an extensive interviews to bring you one of the few talented African DJs in the diaspora we believe you should keep tabs on in 2021.MC Michael was born in Nigeria and grew up there before relocating to Bulgaria. He has been working as a DJ for over 20 years and has played sets at many concerts and top musical shows in Bulgaria and beyond. He’s one of the most sought after DJs in the Country. MC Michael has extensive experience of working club nights. The ever busy MC recently sat down with our Bulgaria Bureau Chief, James Sound in Sofia to grant this interview. 

A-CHOICES: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? 

MC MICHEAL:My name is Olugbenga Owa known as MC Michael, I am from Ondo State Nigeria but I was born and raised in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. 

A-CHOICES: When did you start DJing – and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it? 

MC MICHEAL:I started DJing a long time ago now! In 1996 in student city Sofia, to be precise. My good friend then a Bulgarian at the time was a DJ called DJ STANCHO. He influenced me, to say the least. He had turntables at home, and occasionally I’d find myself playing around with his records. Gradually, I began to love the feel of the vinyl and soon after I taught myself how to mix. A while after that came my first gig and soon after I got a job at a club in Sofia. Gradually, I got paid DJ gigs before Djing eventually became a job, albeit a job I love deeply. 

A-CHOICES: What skills do you think DJs need to be successful? 

MC MICHEAL: Well, being a DJ requires a range of skills, including: a good ear for rhythm. A Sense of timing. Good inter-personal skills to assist networking. The stamina and energy to motivate people. Creative talent for mixing music together. To be a successful DJ you need to forget about what you like but to pay more attention to what people want and never allow the dance hall empty. 

A-CHOICES: For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity? 

MC MICHEAL: For sure, I agree. In that essence I’d always be the one watching and studying the DJ, seeing how they mix records, how they blend them and looking at what records fit the right stage of the night. I think identifying your own ‘voice’ comes about through the sheer experience of listening to the music in different situations. In terms of copying, learning and creating, it’s become increasingly difficult to become original today, especially in terms of producing music. Naturally I consider myself a creative person but realistically most of the music that we produce today (regardless of what it’s produced on) is based around music that first came about 20/30 years ago. In my many years of ding, I understand that you have to create your own unique style different and try from other DJs and my African side gives me edge over others to do things different way. I have been playing drums since I was 6 years old in church back in Nigeria.

A-CHOICES: How do you stay up to date with the latest music trends? 

MC MICHEAL: Well, I think a good DJ needs to know what is going on in the chart or top 40, or top billboard artist in any style or genre of music 

A-CHOICES: What techniques do you use to engage listeners? 

MC MICHEAL: Back in the days before the controller came out I used CDs, pioneer 1000s but now I use pioneer DJ ddj-rb easy to carry and all you need now is good computer and a USB. 

A-CHOICES: What would you say is the most rewarding part of being a DJ? 

MC MICHEAL: The reward part is when people write me or thank me for the wonderful night…or when people just give me money without any reason . 

A-CHOICES: What’s it like being a black DJ in Bulgaria? Have ever experienced any form of discrimination or racism? 

MC MICHEAL: -Yeah ,any time I am invited by Bulgarian reggae djs invite me to play, then I would be the main topic of the night it is funny, though. 

A-CHOICES: What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you? 

MC MICHEAL: When you start out, the challenge is to keep proving yourself, so that you can make a living out of DJing, something that very few DJs too. But even when you’ve been DJing professionally for a few years, you have to still have the same work ethic and drive. If you don’t, you’ll be forgotten pretty quickly. As a DJ I don’t like to play the music I produce because that’s the work of other people. DJing is like work that you have to do perfect no mistake, keep the dance fall moving, mixing old school and new school—but the music that I produce are like my babies, I put a lot of work in the creating and to see other people dance or like my song that gives me the greatest JOY 

A-CHOICES: Can you please tell us an unforgettable experience you had while playing at a major concert in Bulgaria? 

MC MICHEAL: I am a genuine believer in the truism: “Experience is the best teacher.” Starting as a club DJ and spending most of the following weekends of my life in a DJ booth, I’ve had time to make plenty of mistakes when starting off as a club DJ. New DJs are sure to experience a variety of hurdles when first starting out. For example, in summer time pool party at Sunny beach a man came from no where and ask me to stop the music or he will pull the cables or break a bottle on my head. I have 150 people having fun and just one is no.

A-CHOICES: What advice would you give to up and coming (younger)DJ’s in this business?

MC MICHEAL: My advice to the younger DJs is to stop making the play list before the gig..

A-CHOICES: What are your plans for the future in this business? 

MC MICHEAL: I am already in my future business I have my own music, video and clothing company and I want to help more up coming artistes with no chance to record or shot a video

Author: James Osondu

Sofia Bureau Chief- Bulgaria