From his childhood days, carrying a palito radio, which helped him eliminate the boredom of vast herding fields, to working in a banking hall, and then deejaying in prominent events, Kelvin Kiranto Lempayiai, aka DJ Ranto, has been in very different worlds in just over three decades.
One thing for sure, the boy born in Empatipat Village in Kajiado County, knew that he loved music, and he wanted to be in the media. The 31-year-old DJ, who says he is an “entrepreneur at large”, speaks about his journey into deejaying.
This sounds like a passion from long ago?
- 1 Turn your side hustle into main occupation
- 2 Future of jobs: Why you may need new skills or just ship out
- 3 Taking leap into consultancy? How to do it right
- 4 Engage youth and rethink job creation model
Yes, ever since I was in primary school, I was a big fan of radio. Herding my father’s cows, and on that palito radio, I used to listen to the likes of John Karani, Charity Karimi, and Jeff Mwangemi on KBC English service.
That was before the boom of FM stations. I remember in Class Four the teacher asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. I happily said I wanted to be a broadcaster.
And did the dream carry on as you grew up?
Not exactly. Fast forward to me joining campus in 2007, Egerton University, to undertake a Bachelor of Commerce Degree. My dad bought me a laptop. I quickly installed Virtual DJ and learnt to make ‘unprofessional’ mixes.
I remember there was a neighbour back in the village who owned a kinyozi (barber shop). So when campus closed for recess, I would wake up every day, go to the Kinyozi to do my Deejaying, just for the fun and love of it.
And you abandoned commerce?
I didn’t. I graduated in December 2010 and started looking for a job. Luckily I got a job at one of the government-owned commercial banks in March 2011. I even forgot about Deejaying for a while.
In December 2013, I saw an ad for System Unit DJ Academy (Owned by Dj Mo). I went and met him together with DJ Ruff and got enrolled there. DJ Ruff introduced me to the DJ Equipment and the journey started.
How did you manage to juggle deejaying and work?
I used to get off work at 5.30pm, go to the DJ academy at Anniversary Towers till 8pm then go home. I learnt the basics but I didn’t have equipment to play.
The bank job was so demanding as well. Once again I forgot about deejaying for about three years.
How did you retrace your steps?
There was this one time in 2015 the bank had the usual end of year party at Hilton Hotel. I realised that the DJ looked familiar. I went and introduced myself as a DJ also. That’s how I got to meet Vinnie Banton, the one of Wasee Tumetoka Githurai hit song.
He gave me his business card and we became friends. He would invite me to his house, where we would practice, and also to his gigs, where I learnt how to set up sound, and basically how to handle the event as a service provider. He encouraged me to get into events.
So I used to hustle for gigs, but since I didn’t have the event gear, I would give throw passes to Vinnie Banton to do the events.
Your ‘real’ turning point?
One day a colleague at the bank learnt that I was a DJ, and he connected me to a gig for some company in Westlands. I called Vinnie and told him there was work to be done.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, he told me he would be engaged that particular day. He offered me his Public Address System and a technical guy to help with the set up.
And you said “No”, I suppose?
No way. I gathered courage and did the gig. The event was successful and from that day, I used to hustle for gigs, hire Vinnie Banton’s equipment, and we would do the job. In 2016, I registered my own Entertainment Company - One Beat Entertainment.
What services does One Beat Entertainment offer?
We provide Public Address and Sound Systems, DJ Services, Event Lighting, Decor, Stage, among others. We do all events - weddings, corporate events, product launches, graduation parties, birthday parties, traditional ceremonies like ruracios and everything related.
DJ and Banker. With all the gigs and your commitment to both careers, how did you fare?
In May 2018, I resigned from the bank to follow my passion in deejaying. With my savings, I bought my own equipment and put together a team of four. We have two deejays, a technical guy (also DJ) and a logistics guy.
We do events all over the country. We have clients from all over the country. We also got into club deejaying. We run entertainment at a lounge in Kitengela called Avarlone Lounge and do a lot of guest deejaying in other clubs.
Do you regret leaving formal employment?
No, to me it was a launching pad. Most of my clients now were my clients while I was at the bank. So it has worked perfectly well. Then again, at the bank I learnt a lot of customer service and management.
What crucial lessons have you learnt as a DJ?
One, to always remember that I left home to feed the family. So I don’t lose focus. Do your work, get paid, go home, feed your family. Two, this is a business, not pleasure. Do your best and you will get more gigs. And perhaps most importantly, referrals are the best form of compliments.
Challenges you have encountered?
Events are seasonal. There are high seasons and low seasons. The low seasons are quite challenging. Also, the working environments (like clubs) can be very hostile. Dealing with intoxicated people is not easy.