For fourteen years, DJ Bisoso, real names Hassan Sakubu has made a name in Rwanda’s entertainment industry as one of the oldest and finest DJs and lately, VJ.
His journey and passion for disk spinning dates way back as a little boy in primary school.
“When I wasn’t at school, I preferred to be in studio. People at that time used to record using cassettes. It’s during that time that I started to love music. When I joined secondary school, the school hired a DJ who wasn’t a good performer. Our headmaster knew my love for music and asked me to make a playlist.”
“I was young and therefore good at memorizing songs. The school crowd cheered to the songs that I chose and he was impressed,” he recalls.
His big break as a DJ however happened during one of his school’s monthly parties. That was in 1997.
“The DJ trusted me with his instruments and asked me to take over the job. When I started to play, I was mixing all kinds of music and the crowd could feel the music.
The whole school decided that they wanted me as DJ.When one of my teachers moved to another school I was invited to go and play,” he says.
In 2000, Bisoso joined a technical school in Ngonzi town, far from his hometown Bujumbura, which meant finding means to fend for himself.
Finding work became easier for the Burundian born, because he had become a free bird, having left his strict family far away, and also because he followed his passion.
“I got a good job at a club in town, which had good mixer decks. I worked there every weekend while I attended school during weekdays.But because the salary I was earning doubled that of my teachers, I didn’t see the need to continue studying and decided to drop school. I went back a year later after my uncle threatened to imprison me if I dropped out of school,” he narrates of his past.
His deliberate decision to leave school and pursue his dream of becoming a professional DJ became a reality in 2003, after he completed his technical course and his family ordered him to join the army as he awaited university.
“I packed all my clothes and run away from home to join my brother in Rwanda. My brother oblivious of the disagreements at home agreed to take me in and offered to sponsor me in a Rwandan university the following year,” he says.
Due to the limited opportunities in finding DJ gigs, given that there were only two clubs in Kigali; Cadillac Night Club, and Planet Club KBC, he decided to try out his luck outside Kigali.
“I took chance of my brother’s absence and money he had left me with to travel to Butare one Friday. I entered club ‘kola akamodoka’ and I asked for an opportunity at the DJ booth. I was handed two CDs and I mixed them very well, that the crowd went crazy, to the impression of the owner, who granted me the job right away,” he says.
Students at that time were given allowances and were thus famous for partying every weekend which made night clubs fill up. Bisoso was paid Rwf30, 000 on Sunday morning, and asked to report for duty at the club every Friday evening.
“I immediately went to town and burned some CDs and narrated my new experience to my friends in Burundi who sent me 30 CDs with a good selection of 900 tracks.The club went wild, when I reported back for work that my employer advised me to find a job in Kigali.”
“I become popular in Butare within three months. I then requested for a job at Planet Club KBC in Kigali and I did so well that I was given a pay rise. Earning 100,000 monthly at the age of 19 was like a dream,” he says.
Bisoso worked for the club for seven years before finally becoming a freelance DJ.
Becoming a VJ
In a space of five years, when the technology had started improving Bisoso was inspired to mix videos.
“During my freelance I was getting gigs at Bralirwa and Telecom and I decided to transform to a professional VJ with the savings I had kept for seven years and bought state of art music equipment like the mixing deck and others which was worth Rwf1.4 million,” he says.
His fame also continuously rose not only as a DJ working at several bars but also as a radio DJ. People bar and Dance Venue in Kigali that hired him catered for all his expenses worth Rwf200, 000 and paid him a monthly salary of one million.
With a salary that was“bigger than that football players in the country” at the time, he opened his own bar, Zoom Side which later closed down due to the city masterplan to upgrade infrastructure.
“That was when I joined RTV for The Jam show while working with two other bars. I prefer working in a bar to a club because of the bigger audience and different kinds of people that bars have,” he says.
The 37 year old is proud of what he has become and attributes his success to hard work, passion and discipline.
“I have managed to raise a family of three children with the last born being six years. I have a house, businesses and a couple of small gigs that I do. I have been able to keep the discipline because I do not drink alcohol and I am passionate about my job because I enjoy seeing the crowd cheerful, he says.
His most memorable moment as a DJ is during the inauguration of President Paul Kagame in 2007.
I was not only guest DJ but also the only DJ and I performed for three hours. I performed with P Square and other East African artistes because the organizers trusted me to keep the crowd cheerful. I made a very good playlist fit for over 49,000 people in the stadium. That’s one moment I will never forget, he says.
He has since worked at several national events with the latest at the Intsinzi concert where he worked with DJ Ira, who is always in his company.
Grooming DJ Ira
His cousin, the 21 year old DJ Ira, real names, Divine Iradukunda Ira is a fast rising female DJ, trained by the legendary Bisoso.
I ask him why he has not groomed other young talents, to which he retorts;
“It is very hard to manage DJs. The problem with young people is that when you groom them to be professional they pick up dirty habits due to the exposure and available opportunities and a few years down the road they fall.”
“They focus more on being famous then being professional and even when they are famous, they do not manage their fame very well. When you do not maintain the discipline very well you cannot succeed as a DJ.”
For Ira, her success was because I live with her at home and I have known her since she was a little baby which means that I can manage her very well. But I cannot teach other DJs because you need extra time and a sponsor to buy the material for use at home.