Seven years ago, Fahadi Dusabe’s only claim to the local music industry was burning CDs at a street corner in Gikondo, a City of Kigali suburb.
Today, he goes by the name Moosa Ewan, a self-made DJ who is now the proud owner and manager of a production studio in Gikondo, named Eagle Eyes Forever. What’s more, he is just 22 years old.
“I started as a DJ and DB,” he explains, the DB meaning disc burner.” These are the young men you find perched at strategic street corners, or in busy shops and shopping malls, playing music loudly from a computer connected to a sub woofer or speaker.
They sell anything from songs, both in audio and video format, computer software, movies, series; and all you have to do is pay a small fee and they burn your stuff on a CD, hence the tag Disc Burner.
Somewhere along the way, however, he started feeling discontent at the music he was playing as a DJ and selling to people as a disc burner.
“I felt that the music was not up to standard, especially in the department of creativity and production.”
By this time, he had started nursing dreams of becoming a musician, which he believed to be the next logical step after a stint in DJ-ing and CD burning.
“I didn’t want to get into the industry the way it was because I believed it first needed to be cleaned up,” he explains his initial reluctance to start singing. He added: “The music by then didn’t have much creativity. Many of the artistes were not creative enough to build their own musical identity. That’s what I wanted to bring in –the element of creativity.”
From childhood, he had been fascinated by music and musicians, and from an early age, he started linking up with DJs and learnt a few tricks from them.
He credits DJs Bisoso and Didier as his earliest musical influences, although interestingly, he didn’t ever get up close and personal with them. Instead, he’d sneak from home at night, and go to watch the two do their thing in various night clubs. “I also bought some of their non-stop mixes to get more inspiration from them.”
Making of a DJ
After a few years as a street-side CD burner, and after so much experience watching other DJs play, Moosa decided to venture into DJ-ing.
He was lucky that his CD burning business was located near a busy bar, Belle Aire, in Gikondo. One day, the music he played caught the bar owner’s attention, who then asked the young man if he could play in the bar as well.
“That’s how the evolution started,” he explains of his move from CD-burning to a DJ.
Belle Aire was the first venue at which he played, and he credits the bar for setting the platform for what would later become his main source of livelihood.
He went on to play at other bars like Passadena Murugo, Tela Vista, and Esperanza, all in the Gikondo neighbourhood.
Even as his popularity increased, however, there were challenges to deal with, the first being lack of the basic tools of the job –music equipment.
All that he owned was a computer with some software for playing music –no turntables, no public address system, not even a microphone.
This made it hard for him to compete favorably with other DJs who owned their own music equipment. In the event that he got a job, he would have to take off some of the money to hire equipment, which ate into his profit margins.
“Apart from the lack of equipment, there was lack of motivation or role models to encourage me because people were just not into it. Many people thought that I didn’t know what I was doing and they made this known to me.”
Over the course of the years, he would encounter new frustrations to handle.
One of these frustrations was sudden realisation that the music he played, as a DJ, originated from the efforts of a music producer in a studio.
“I felt that the producer was the foundation of the music because he is part of the process of creating it, but a DJ only plays a finished product. This convinced me to become a music producer instead. I felt that a producer is in a better position to influence the music industry than a DJ.”
The need to learn music production soon bore another need –that of acquiring audio production studio.
Still, Moosa’s own experience at other studios was not a particularly good one.
“In the studios where I went, I faced bad treatment whenever I wanted to record a song. I would go at the agreed time for my studio session, but when the big artistes came, they would be given priority and I would be told to wait. Sometimes I would go back to a studio five times without getting studio time.”
Though his earnings from playing music were small, the budding disc spinner did not give up his dream of owning a studio one day.
What he did was to assemble the required equipment, one at a time, as and when he got some money.
“After every three months, I bought something, and kept doing this for one year and half, until I got a whole studio set.”
He had spent his last coin on the studio gear, and once he had acquired it, did not have money to hire a good production hand. Besides, most of the producers he contacted were asking for a fortune for their services.
“I was lucky to meet a guy called Papa Chameleone, who had seen me as I hustled and wanted to help get me a good producer to kick-start the studio. The first producer I contacted wanted Rwf 2m per month, which was too much. The second producer I got asked for Rwf 400,000, which I did not have but took a bank loan to pay him. However we got misunderstandings after a short time and parted ways. That is when I met Pashington, and he is the resident producer at Eagle Eyes Studios.”
He contends that his studio has come this far because of the energy and passion he has invested in it.
He is working more with the upcoming and underground artistes, people he believes can make the next generation of stars if they get the right exposure and encouragement.
“I do All-star tracks where many artistes compete vocally on a single track, and this helps them identify their strengths, and what styles their voices are suited for.”
I ask what his future plans are and he says:
“I look forward to the day when music from my label will sell itself even without being pushed by radio presenters and in the media. I want a product that is self-selling because of the creativity put in it. That is why Congolese music is big here yet their artistes don’t come here to promote their music on radio stations and in the media.”
At a more personal level, he wants to better his skills at music production, which he is already learning with the help of his producer. “I want to get down and understand music from the production point of view.
I want to know what makes a good producer, and what makes one producer different from another. I believe that this is the best way to stamp my influence in the local music industry.”