Meet Kenyan decks queen DJ Mochi pushing the envelope in the USA
Tuesday, September 15th, 2020
Anne Mongare aka DJ Mochi Baybee is a Kenyan disc jockey based in Minnesota, US. She talks with Mwangi Alberto about her love for the decks and journey in the craft.
When and where were you born and grew up at?
I was born in Nairobi, Kenya, but I was raised in Ranen (Migori), Nyabola in Kisumu, and Kisii.
I relocated to the US when I was 16 years old after completing high school in 2009. My mother won the American Green Card and we relocated.
How has it been living in the ‘free world’?
It’s somewhat free depending on how you look at it. There are a tonne of opportunities to take advantage of, as well as so much that’s missed.
Some of the downsides include social life. Life gets too busy trying to make ends meet here. Also, I miss the culture.
Just speaking Kiswahili with friends, or just eating ugali and original nyama choma with family, especially during Christmas.
Everyone needs that sanity of being surrounded by family that’s why there are a lot of ‘summer bunnies’ coming into town during the festive season.
Did you have some culture shock?
Yes. We all go through a phase of culture shock. The first thing was the weather.
I live in Minnesota and that’s where I landed first and it was during winter and the temperatures can go to as low as -30 degrees Celsius.
Then there was the communication barrier; the Americans couldn’t understand our English, which is mostly British-influenced mixed in with the Kenya accent.
Then there was food. Everything was quickly made to accommodate the fast-paced lifestyle including the food.
The food didn’t feel authentic enough as what I was used to. The list goes on and on but I had to adapt to the new lifestyle.
How did you grow your love for deejaying?
I never had an interest in deejaying when growing up. In fact, I still don’t listen to music often, but I loved hosting events.
I love to see people forget their worries and enjoy that present moment. When I had my nine-to-five job, I felt that something was amiss, so I started indulging into more side hustles.
I took flying classes, hosted events and was just still digging until one day a DJ noticed that I paid attention to him every time he messed up.
He told me to try deejaying, but I refused. One time in particular, he was showing my boyfriend at that time how to DJ and I happened to pay attention. It looked pretty easy.
I tried it and he recorded and posted that video on Facebook and the comments on Facebook made me do it.
I saw how music made people feel. I would not have changed this path if I had a choice to do so.
Three years later, I am excited to take it to another notch. It didn’t and never has felt like work to me, but I consider this path a calling and I’m looking forward to seeing what God has in store for me.
Did your parents support you when you decided deejaying was the thing?
Are you kidding? No Kenyan parent would ever be happy that their child stopped working as an engineer to become a DJ.
My parents were no different. My dad was more understanding, but my mum prayed for me every day.
And I believe it’s even harder as a female because we have set expectations in our culture.
But being a DJ has not changed my values as a person and I believe that’s what my mum sees and is being okay with it as time goes by.
As a DJ, I have touched so many lives daily. During this quarantine alone, I have raised money for some non-profit organisations and individuals and currently have teamed up with a group of individuals to build a church in Elgeyo Marakwet.
We have raised Sh4.5 million this quarantine period and the building is currently in progress.
So, is deejaying your main hustle or you do it on the side?
Currently, it is my main hustle. I had to do both engineering and deejayng for a while but I decided it was best to put all my energy into one thing so I can be more successful.
Believe it or not, you can make more money as a DJ than as an engineer while enjoying the freedom to travel the world and have a piece of mind of being self-employed.
However, you have to be willing to work for it as there is always competition.
Do you have a music genre that you like playing at gigs?
I pride myse5lf to being versatile and that’s why I put a lot of time in learning all the different types of genres.
I particularly enjoy the rhythms of Afrobeat, dancehall and Latina music.
How has it been like pulling through as a DJ during the Covid-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has had a major impact in the entertainment industry.
Almost all events, parties or gatherings have been halted and that’s where, as a DJ, I make a living from.
I have done a few digital events, but I’m currently leaning towards taking a break to re-evaluate in jump starting my brand.
The past years have been busy, which is great, but at the same time it can be mentally draining. I am hopeful that once the economy reopens, we will be busier than ever.
Therefore, I want to be prepared for the next phase and prevent burn out. Also, this is the best time to learn and grow.
Is the Black Lives Matter movement and is it bearing any fruit?
We still have a long way to go. We are marching and protesting, but it won’t end anytime soon as it is engraved in the ‘racist’ people.
But I am glad it is making national news. I believe it stems from education. Slavery, racism and all the African-American history should be taught in schools.
People have to be educated so they can understand and show compassion. But it will take a lot of years to bridge the gap.
Ever faced case of racism in the US?
Yes I have, but very mildly. Racist people would rather not engage with you and that’s okay.
When they have to speak to you, they would give you an attitude. I’ve had to ask to talk to the supervisor a few times, but lately every company really values customer satisfaction.
I rarely encounter racist people but if I do, I will definitely call them out.
Do you have specific challenges as a female DJ?
I am aware that I have to work twice as hard as the male DJs to remain relevant.
When I go to a club to play music, people often are not used to having female DJs and they become skeptical.
I love the challenge though and I put in the work to create a memorable experience.
Who are your icons as a DJ?
My favorite is DJ Shinski; a GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) yet so humble. I have seen him work on the back end and he doesn’t cut any shortcuts.
The passion in him and work ethic that he provides really speaks for itself. He intentionally and constantly goes out of his way to provide his audience the best and without asking for anything in return.
He has definitely inspired me and I’m lucky to have him as a mentor that I can look up to.
How has the experience been doing virtual shows?
It’s been one of the best moments in my career, per se. The experience helped me grow in different aspects of my career.
Firstly, playing for an audience that I don’t see or interact with in a physical manner means that I have to be as versatile as possible.
Secondly, virtual shows have made me change my playlist every time I play.
I have gone back and dug into my music library and started playing songs that I haven’t touched in years.
Do you think digital is the way to go for creative artists to make money?
Digital has always been the way for creatives. Just make sure to work on the online presence (branding) and people will notice you.
Once they do, they will support you. The key is to work hard, provide the best and be consistent.
Your final word...
I want to truly thank the people who are genuinely rooting for me. This includes everyone who goes above and beyond to support me.
I truly appreciate you. Lastly, I want to encourage those who are not following their dreams to do it.