The Seventh Day Adventist Church has a reputation for strict observance of rules, and serious adherence to the teachings of the Bible.
So, naturally, when we think of SDA music, we know that it reflects the faith’s sternness and deep reflective nature. So how can such music be mixed and listened to by wide audiences?
Keziah Jerono Rachel, a 24-year-old SDA DJ, is changing the image of the faith as well as the narrative that a career in DJ-ing must be tied to secular music, and even, for gospel DJs, just mainstream gospel music.
Better known as DJ Kezz, she has managed to eke out a living from playing SDA music for faithful, spending her weekends using her work to minister to her listeners through music.
Initially, DJ Kezz focused on secular music DJ-ing. Her move back to SDA gospel, she says, was her biggest career breakthrough, and one that brought her fulfillment and contentment. “I was brought up in a Christian background. In fact, my grandmother was a pioneer of the SDA church in Elgeyo Marakwet, where I was brought up,” she says.
But as the young music lover grew, life would throw her hurdles that at one point shook her faith.
At 17, DJ Kezz got pregnant. She says that she faced rejection and judgment from her family and friends at the time, a hardship she says disconnected her from God and her faith.
“I felt like I was spiraling down. I started going to clubs. I went through a period of several years not going to church. For three years I played music in clubs,” says the mother to a six-year-old girl. DJ Kezz started out in the music business by attending a DJ-ing school recommended by friends who knew about her love for music.
“I got into DJ-ing in 2017 after campus, after I had looked for a job for some time. We had an event in Eldoret, and my friends were talking about DJ-ing. I went to DJ-ing school in May of 2018,” she says.
But the decision to play secular music at the time did not go well with her family, who were alarmed by what they considered turning away from God.
“My family members were not talking to me, the only people who kept calling me and telling me to go back to doing God’s work were my mother and my aunt. I played secular music until 2020,” says DJ Kezz.
And her decision to return fully to her faith, without excuses, was a scary one. The mother of one was concerned that she would be unable to provide for her family, considering the limited audience for the SDA gospel music genre.
DJ Kezz, however, has no regrets and says that working in the secular field had its challenges.
“When I played secular music in clubs, it was tough to juggle my work and motherhood. My child was only four-years-old at the time, but I would have to leave her and go to work on weekend nights,” says the artiste.
She adds: “I had instances where people who had hired me chose to throw me out of the club at night instead of paying me. It was initially difficult to get acceptance by the church. Also, there are not many opportunities when it comes to playing SDA music”
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She describes her move to SDA gospel as liberating and fulfilling.
“I started playing SDA gospel music exclusively in 2020. My work acted as a ministry, comforting people through difficult times, giving many Christians hope,” says DJ Kezz. Now, a year later, the DJ has settled into her niche’, earning between Sh100,000 to Sh200,000 monthly and comfortably providing for her daughter.
DJ Kezz’s mixes are streamed on her social media pages and website. “Most of my followers connect with what I share. I have people who have always resonated with what I do. When I moved to gospel, I thought I would lose followers, but I gained a lot more instead,” she says.
“Sharing my life with them gives me an opportunity to minister. I post consistently, interact with people and talk about life issues with my followers.”The DJ says her faith is often misunderstood, noting that the misconception is that SDA members are forced to adhere to certain rules.
“What people call rules are teachings by the church directly derived from the Bible. Say, for example, not eating meat, or drinking tea and coffee. Our church teaches healthy living. It is all about taking care of both our bodies and minds, and SDA believers are free to choose,” says DJ Kezz.
She hopes her work inspires more youth to pursue what they believe but her plan is to tour the world to minister to her age mates through music. “They say muziki ni dawa (music is medicine). I want to take it to those who need it,” she says.
DJ Kezz says one of her greatest achievements is having contributed to the building of a church in her hometown.