The street smart DJ MO aka SAMMY MURAYA grew up both in the village and in the city. He shares his life story with Shirley Genga
Describe yourself in three words?
Extrovert, funny and humble.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Nakuru and Nairobi. I am the first-born in a family of three; I have two sisters who come after me. I attended Maragua Primary School and later Lanet High School in Nakuru. During my high school years, I stayed with my shosho (grandmother) in Nakuru. So my childhood was a mixture of the village and town life. I appreciate the village life and I am a good farmer.
After high school what happened next?
While in high school, I realised I had an ear for music. Although I loved music, I did not know exactly what I wanted to do. I have never really been book smart — I’m more street smart. After finishing high school in 2004, I told my mother I wanted to pursue music and I am glad she let me. I am very close to my mother.
What happened next?
I stayed home for a year after high school — that was the darkest period of my life. I got involved in heavy drinking and women. And when I drunk, I would become violent and get into many fights. I would constantly sleep in the cells in Rongai because of getting into fights. My mum watched helplessly and didn’t know what to do.
I am glad she prayed for me and did not give up on me. I gave my life to God and I stopped partying. Around that time, God connected me with Daniel Masawi; he was involved in community youth initiatives. He began to mentor and guide me.
How did you get into the DJ industry?
I loved attending Jesus Night, which used to take place at Nairobi Cinema. There, I would watch DJ Nev spin and something in me would come alive. That’s when I realised what I wanted to be. So I approached DJ Nev and told him about my desire to be a DJ.
He told me about his DJ school, Spin Rage. I needed Sh20,000 to go to the school but my mother did not have that money. Daniel Masawi, my mentor, agreed to pay the whole amount.
Was it hard breaking into the DJ industry?
It wasn’t easy. After I finished school, I worked with DJ Nev at Spin Rage for a while before I branched out on my own. From 2006 to 2008, nothing big happened in my career. I was a struggling DJ. I?got to spin at Hope FM and Power FM.
I also played at weddings and church events but sometimes I?would get Sh2,000 for a gig. There are times I would be tempted to cross over to the secular scene, but I remembered where God had saved me from, and I did not want to go back there. In 2009, things began to change a little. I was a finalist in the Pilsner Mfalme DJ competition.
Then on December 31, 2009, I got the chance to spin at the All-Star Party at Sifa Park to a packed crowd. Then 2010 turned out to be my year — everything fell into place.
You have won a number of awards…
I won the Best DJ Award at the Groove Awards in 2010 and last year, I won the International Talanta Award for Best DJ.
What do awards mean to you?
I am making an impact in people’s lives.
How do you keep yourself grounded with so much success under your belt?
The fact that I know where I came from.
What about the Christian rave you have started?
Together with my friend Alemba, we own a company called System Unit. We noticed there was a gap. There were young Christians who liked to dance and have clean fun but they had no platform. So we started Cross Connect.
It happens every first and last Sundays at Timers Restaurant and it is clean fun. The response we have received is great.
What do you have to say to those who say Christian music industry has lost its direction and there is no difference between it and the secular industry?
I do not think Christian music should be boring. It can be fun and cool, but there must be boundaries. Christian music should have quality sound and videos plus catchy beats but at the end of the day, there needs to be a difference between Christian and secular music.
So far what is the highlight of your career?
Winning the Talanta Award and going to America for the first time last year. Never in my life did I ever think that one day I would fly to USA. It was like a dream. Winning the award and travelling to America was a confirmation I was on the correct path.
Any career advice?
If you realise you have a talent, take your time to learn the art. I still spend hours in the studio mastering my art. Patience and willingness to hang on during the tough times is important because success is never instant.
How has your life changed?
People know me now and I have no privacy. There is also pressure to behave in a certain way and sadly, there are things I can no longer do because of image. I love chapo dondo but I cannot go to a kibanda and enjoy it because rumours will start doing rounds. The other day I went for chapo dondo and the people there were so shocked — they kept staring at me.
You must get a lot of attention from ladies...
It is crazy but I have learnt not to be rude — instead, I socialise but not to specialise.
Are you dating?
Yes, I have someone.
I hope that System Unit will be a big international company in the next ten years.