Michael Maina: Covid-19 robbed me of a job but this boosted my creativity - Beaking Kenya News

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Saturday, 13 February 2021

Michael Maina: Covid-19 robbed me of a job but this boosted my creativity


Popularly known as MGM Kenya, Michael Gichure Mwaura has cut his niche in the disc jockeying industry by playing Afro-house and the new-wave genre of Amapiano. The 29-year-old won last year’s Alternative DJ of the Year award at Café Ngoma and continues to set his eyes on bigger prizes.

What’s your first memory with music?

I have been a musical person for as long as I can remember. I used to get old, recordable cassettes from my dad’s radio and would record DJ Pinye’s sets on Nation almost every Friday. That small habit, plus my mum buying me toys relating to music, instantly got me interested.

When I got to high school, my late cousin, who used to study Film in South Africa, would bring me Kwaito and South African music CDs. I was already a fan of Electronic Dance Music, EDM, at the time, you know, the likes of David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia and Avicii. I was also the entertainment captain and was part of a dance crew called TNT.

But generally, my love for mixing music came from my cousin who was also a disc jockey. He used to call himself DJ Spice. His passing on at such a young age influenced me to chase after the same dream. I always say a silent prayer to him before each set.

Apart from him, who else is musical in your family?

My parents are very musical. It started through the church choir for them as they were growing up. A few years ago, my father surprised us by recording a studio album. And just recently, they both released an album together. My sister, Christina, also has a beautiful voice. She has been singing since high school. She manifested being one of the leading female vocalists in Africa and true to that, she is already on her way working with producers from around the world. Her stage name is Tina Ardor.

At what point of your career did you decide to mix Afro-house and Amapiano?

At the start, I played everything: riddims, Afro beats, dancehall and EDM. But after my cousin’s passing on, my interest and curiosity in Afro-house grew tremendously. I can still mix the rest, but these two are my top preference and priorities. Amapiano really just came from Afro-house so I could say it already found me interested in the genre. I played Amapiano even before it was a hit genre in Kenya. I’m glad I did because it became easy for me to get gigs when it gained popularity. I appreciate how the culture has grown in Kenya.

Congratulations on winning the Alternative DJ of the Year award at Café Ngoma last year. What did that mean to you and your career?

Being nominated alone came as a shock to me. I had a really strong support system that helped me bring this award home. I was so shocked and happy when I was told I had won. I was at work on the said day. Only my mum and sister were at the event. I keep saying that the award is for all those people who believed in me and chose to vote every single day. It showed me that the sky is not the limit. Anything is possible.

You’re a jack of many trades: interior design, 3D animations, 3D renders and virtual tours. How do you balance it all?

My music career picks up on the weekends — from Thursdays to Sundays. My weekdays are dedicated to designing and furniture time.

I was laid off from my job when the pandemic hit last year in March. That got me to thinking outside the box in order to get means to survive, especially since clubs had been completely closed. That’s how I started furniture design. I appreciate the friends and relatives who supported me while I tried to figure everything out. It was a tough time for me.

I also appreciate how social media has grown since the pandemic started because, believe it or not, it’s where I get most of my clients from.

What are your plans for 2021?

Music production, which I’ve already started. I also want to release my first EP either this month, or early March. I want to collaborate with Kenyan artistes to grow the Afro-house and Amapiano culture and movement in Kenya, make people understand and enjoy it as well as make our own version. I’m a firm believer that that type of music relates and unites Africans as a whole. Music is for everyone.

I want to continue pushing music to whatever heights it will take me. I also want to help empower and grow upcoming DJs and artistes from all over the country.

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