Music is life to me, says DJ Gil Low

Gil Mwebaze (better known as DJ Gil Low in local entertainment circles) started got into DJ-ing “by chance”, playing music at house parties in his neighborhood (Kimihux) to ward off boredom on weeken
DJ Gil Low. / Moses Opobo.
DJ Gil Low. / Moses Opobo.

Gil Mwebaze (better known as DJ Gil Low in local entertainment circles) started got into DJ-ing “by chance”, playing music at house parties in his neighborhood (Kimihux) to ward off boredom on weekends.

“Since there was not much to do on weekends save for the two clubs (Planet and Cadillac), we would regularly host memorable house parties and as such I became the music selector,” he reminisces.

Sunday Times’ Moses Opobo traced his roots behind the decks...

What was it like growing up?

My early years were not so good times as for most people growing up in Africa in the 80s, we survived a war in Uganda that claimed many lives. One of my memories is of our family of seven spending weeks living in a corridor of our house, the safest place while the government and rebels shelled from both sides. Music was an avenue for you to escape to different places and sounds.

What are some of your musical influences?

I am influenced by African music, Soul and Funk music from the 80s, the forgotten New Jack Swing of the 90s, as well as the birth and rebirth of Hip-hop.

As far as DJ-ing goes, what type of a DJ are you?

I do not like to put myself in a box, I enjoy music and can play anything that I feel is necessary at that particular moment. I would in this regard refer to myself as a musical whore. In my free time however I do listen to a lot of reggae music.

What are some of the most memorable places/events you’ve played at?

In the years I have played for many important events and have had the chance to play for President Kagame twice. I have fond memories of Downtown Bar, Hotel des Mille Collines, One Love, Evolve Nightclub but mostly house parties right from the Kimihux period to the present.

Are there venues at which you play as a guest DJ in Kigali?

I am a regular fixture at Inema Art Center Happy Hour Thursdays, Urban Gorilla Piknics, Impact Hub as well as all events under the Barge Party People & Urban Gorilla Collective. I do not DJ in bars anymore.

Tell us why the Nigerian music invasion in Rwanda/East Africa from a DJ’s perspective. What explains this heedless rush for Nigerian beats?

This is a matter we often discuss within our professional circles. Nigerians have managed to transform the music that is their history (Afrobeat & Highlife) into something that the youth are interested in listening to. I wish the same for all countries however for Rwanda it seems to be taking its time. Music tastes also need to be developed and that is where radio plays a vital role and should take the lead. If all radios play the same music then one cannot blame the listener for lack of variety.

Any upcoming gigs/events currently occupying your hands?

As is every August we have the Barge Party which has become one of the most sought-after events in the country. I am very involved in all aspects of the events organization as the event planner with Barge Party People.

Are there instances when you feel that the public and other stakeholders don’t ‘click’ DJs?

The public should try and listen to what the DJ is doing, a lot of times people are impatient and want to listen to their song ‘now’. The crowd should be able to let the DJ do his job as he is the professional and maybe they will be able to discover some new music which was not previously on their radar.

You could chalk it down to the lowered attention span or the new digital age or lack of variety in radio offerings. Also when did DJs become the official mobile phone chargers and keepers of ladies handbags?

What’s your take on the notion that ‘a PC DJ is not a DJ?’

As long as you can deliver and keep people in the mood, why not? Even the person who changes the station in the car is a DJ. However when it comes to technical skills, one must surely be able to play with whatever is presented to them to use. I started out playing with CDs and despise the SYNC button.

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