DJ Sharif, real name Sharif Amin Kalisa, is a Rwandan DJ and member of the SMA DJs. He is also the founder of Scratch Music Academy, a school for individuals interested in the art of deejaying.
Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa caught up with the 32-year-old DJ, who shared his experience right from the first gig he ever played, through to how the industry has since evolved.
How did your career in deejaying start?
I was in charge of entertainment both at my primary and high schools and used to play music for contemporary dance groups with cassettes and CDs.
From there, I decided to do it professionally by learning deejaying properly from Kenya at Home Boyz. My inspiration, however, came from the show that I used to watch—on Channel O—called ‘The Basement’.
When did you start deejaying professionally, and when was your first gig?
My first gig was at Rafikiz in Nairobi in 2010. When I returned I met DJ Bisoso and DJ Julio and they immediately introduced me to DJ Kadir and DJ Pius. A few weeks later, I started working at Planet Club (former KBC), I was there for two weeks before I quit and joined Le Must Pub in Kiyovu.
How do you compare the industry then and now?
Today’s crowd is beginning to listen to the music and differentiate between good DJs and fake ones. There is still a long way to go though.
What do you love about your job?
Meeting new people and the fact that I earn from my passion.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced in this profession?
Changing the image of deejaying in our society and introducing Rwandans to new music.
What is your take on Kigali’s nightlife today?
It is growing despite the fact that police sometimes close our events, yet we have all documents that authorise us to perform until late.
At Scratch Music Academy, you teach aspiring DJs how to spin the disk professionally. What does this mean to you?
Inspiration comes from the youth who want to learn how to spin and didn’t have where to learn from. I’m glad that I can be of help. I am proud to see where they are today. They are living a good life because of deejaying.
You are also a member of the SMA DJs. What are the benefits of working as a group as opposed to working individually?
I think it creates more competition which will grow a DJ culture in Rwanda that is my point of view.
What do you do beside deejaying?
I rent and supply sound equipment.
Who is your favourite DJ?
A Myanmarese, UK-based Dj Angelo. He is so creative and talented.
What piece of software and hardware can you not live without?
My laptop with Serato software and headphones.
What does it take for one to make it in your profession?
Putting in a lot of effort and being unique in your craft.