Every Wednesday we have our Man Around Nairobi segment where we feature men who work, live and play in Nairobi. Our Man Around Nairobi today is Imran Mwangi aka DJ IMRAN. Imran Mwangi has been in the entertainment industry since 2010, first as a DJ and second as a music producer. He is the resident DJ at Villa Rosa Kempinski and Tribe Hotel and is also listed as a DJ with Kenya Nights. He has also lived and worked in Paris in 2013 and 2014 as a professional DJ.
1. Did you grow up in Nairobi?
I was born and raised in Nyeri. I moved to Nairobi only after high school. For the earlier part of my childhood we lived in Nyeri town. Most of my after school hours were spent watching TV. The rest of the time I’d join my younger brother and his group of friends which was mostly made up of homeless kids. We’d go skinny dipping in Chania River or go ‘take’ maize from people’s farms and roast it over garbage fires.
When I was about 10 years old we moved to Kiganjo to live with my dad which is also around the time I went to boarding school. After primary school, I joined Nyeri High School and I think these will always be some of the best 4 years of my life. After high school I moved to Nairobi in 2007 to join Graffins College and hopefully follow-up on my interests in music production. When I moved here, my biggest interest was in signing up at the Homeboyz M.T.A. (Music Technology Academy) for a course in music production. This didn’t happen though. I ended up hanging out at several hip-hop music studios in the city where I apprenticed while I studied at Graffins College.
2. What do you love about Nairobi?
Nairobi is where it all happens. Especially considering that I have always been interested in working in the entertainment industry. I love the fact that Nairobi has a mix of a Kenyan and international cultures. This provides a great platform for experimentation and implementation of new ideas.
3. What would you change about Nairobi?
I would definitely have the roads fixed! Plus replace those annoying road bumps that just damage vehicle suspensions and under-carriages with proper ones. I also wish people were more straight forward in their dealings, even though this is probably not unique to Nairobi.
4. As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
It wasn’t easy at all in the beginning. It takes a while to learn the ropes and adjust to how things are done there. As a DJ, it’s impossible to make a living out of it in the early years in the profession. Hardly anyone will take you seriously as a young professional. You will have to take a lot of unpaid gigs in the hope of getting some publicity. It only becomes worth your while once you’ve built a solid portfolio and your skills are on a respectable level. It all takes time but once you establish a good network things get easier and Nairobi being a multi-cultural and very dynamic city a lot of opportunities open up.
As for music production, being a DJ first gave me the advantage of already having a good network within the entertainment industry, other producers, musicians, instrumentalists etc. It’s just a case of bringing all of this together.
I’ve lived and worked abroad but I still think Nairobi offers a platform unlike any other. One thing that would make it much better though, is if artists were to get paid their worth. At the moment most club owners and event organizers still don’t respect artists and will always try to avoid paying if they could.
5. If you had a tourist friend coming in from outside the country what three things would you say to sell them the idea that Nairobi is worth visiting.
The Nairobi nightlife offers a very varied selection of entertainment options. There are entertainment spots like Juniper Social and The Alchemist that cater for more urban musical tastes. Then on the other side we have entertainments spots like Club Samba and Zanze Bar in the CBD whose focus is on African music. In between you’ll find the reggae clubs, salsa nights, Jazz bars and lounges.
The Art scene in Nairobi has seen a lot of interesting art galleries open in the city in the recent past. Most of them are open to the public. I would also talk about the matatu culture which has been an interesting thing about Nairobi for a long time now.
Lastly I’d tell them that Nairobi is a cosmopolitan city and it is a place where you can get to interact with different cultures both African and non-African. This has seen a lot of exotic cuisine restaurants open within the city which I think makes Nairobi even more interesting.