Chisamba Mujinga Mayondi (Samba Kun) is a 24-year-old house and techno DJ, civil engineer, patriot and outdoor enthusiast.
“Samba is a shortened version of my first name Chisamba. I wanted to add a little something to my DJ name to make it a little more distinct hence the Kun. Kun is an honorific suffix from the Japanese language that can be used by males and females when addressing a male they are emotionally attached to or have known for a long time. Anyone calling my DJ name would be addressing me as if we were old friends, regardless of whether or not we actually know each other.”
Born and bred in Lusaka, he first left Zambia in 2010 to attend Chinese language and civil engineering studies in China. “Like most Zambian kids (well at least in my opinion), music has always been a part of my life. Rhumba, disco and kalindula from my parents and older family members; hiphop, rnb and pop from my friends and cousins.”
His love for music and a good time saw him go to clubs often while he was studying in Chengdu, China. He had a few DJ friends and would often go listen to them play. Enjoying what they were doing he decided, some time in 2013, to learn how to DJ. “A couple of months and some YouTube videos later, I began throwing parties on campus with some friends as a platform to DJ on and never looked back. A few more months later, I broke into the club scene which saw me hold a residency at an exclusive upmarket club as well as gigs at some of the city’s most happening parties and a couple of events too.”
Chengdu has a small but rich underground electronic music scene that greatly influenced his musical taste. He started out playing anything and everything as long as he felt it’d rock the crowd, but repeatedly found himself drawn to the sound of house music and later on techno music. “I almost only played and listened to house and techno music and mostly went to dedicated venues and events whose focus was around house and techno music. I enjoyed these venues so much whether I was up on the decks or just enjoying a night out and it was more than just music, it was a distinct subculture. You could feel the music, everyone danced all night, the club staff was really warm, you’d meet really interesting and friendly people and the social pressure of trying to impress people or popping more bottles than the next guy were non existent.”
Samba described his move back to Zambia after graduation in 2015 as one of the best and worst things to happen to him as a DJ and a party person.
Lusaka nightlife didn’t boast the diversity Chengdu had spoilt him with.
I found it hard to find distinction between the clubs in terms of music being played. I was getting similar music and a similar vibe from different venues and just not enough techno or house, a dissatisfaction that led to my decision to become a proponent of the establishment of a Lusaka underground electronic music scene. Despite DJing back in Zambia not being easy ,not many people listen to what I play nor, is it a sound club owners or event promoters are willing to try.
KAPA187: What challenges have you faced in your career as a techno DJ in Zambia?
Samba Kun: Zambia lacks platforms to showcase techno music. Very few venues would be open to having a techno night, or even just having a techno DJ play a slot. This compels anyone wanting to have a techno party to find alternative spaces that are open to techno. In as much as finding a venue to host techno parties is challenging, the fusion of an alternative venue and techno music creates a very unique experience that can’t quite be replicated in most clubs.
KAPA187: What do you usually start with when preparing for a set?
Samba Kun: I start with deciding a theme for my set. My theme is the energy and vibe I want people to feel when they listen to me play. I also like to consider how my theme can compliment the venue and particular time slot I’ll be playing for an event. A theme could be anything really. I could have a tribal theme if I was playing house music with Afro-Latin influences for a fashion show casing local designers, a dark and industrial theme if I was playing techno just before the sun comes up or an uplifting feel good theme if I was playing very vocal deep house at say an afternoon pool side event. Its basically choosing the kind of emotions and feelings I want my DJ set to communicate to people. After I have decided a theme, I look through my collection and for new tracks that will represent my theme.
KAPA187: That’s really interesting, so do you have any pre-show rituals that you do before a live performance?
Samba Kun: Ha-ha, not really. There’s barely ever enough time before a show for any rituals to be honest. I almost always arrive at the venue just in time, connect my equipment and start playing. I do listen to some of the tracks I may play for a set a couple of days prior to the show though, or listen to them in the car on my way to the gig.
KAPA187: Do you “read the audience” as you play your set, or do you have a fixed play list?
Samba Kun: Good question. You firstly have to understand where I am coming from and my role as niche DJ. You may not hear me play certain kinds of music nor will I have the best compatibility with certain audiences. The art of djing shouldn’t be limited to giving the crowd what they want but must also include educating your listeners and exposing them to new sounds.
To answer your question, I don’t have a playlist in the strictest sense. I go through my collection as well as look for new tracks that are aligned with my theme for a particular set, copy the tracks into new folders and almost exclusively play tracks from these folders for my set. I prepare more music than needed so if I’m playing a two-hour set I’ll prepare three or maybe even four hours of music. With technology, its possible to turn up to a gig with a countless amount of tracks but what’s the point if you wont play them all. I feel that to a certain extent, it only makes choosing the next track more time consuming and head splitting. I appreciate the history of DJing, where it came from – turntables and vinyl records. Vinyl is not easy to carry around so DJs had to carefully choose which records they’d carry to a show and which records would remain at home. Taking ample time to create a smaller pool of tracks to play from beforehand helps me to play a characteristic set that sounds different from my last couple of sets as well as allowing me to enjoy the art of DJing in such a way. Such an approach to DJing shouldn’t be misunderstood as not reading the crowd. Reading the crowd for me is playing my theme in a way that best allows the audience to connect with and embrace the theme. The same theme played differently can communicate different things to the crowd. Of course there have been times when themes don’t move the crowd the way I envisioned and I have to add or take away from my theme on the fly.
KAPA187: Nicely put, you have a true understanding of your craft. Recently you had a show along side El Mukuka, a leading house DJ/producer. How was that experience, and what did you learn from him?
Samba Kun: That night was really lit! It was exciting to share the stage with a heavy weight like him. Though I feel I could have ended on a stronger note, I did enjoy my set and it was nice to have El Mukuka hear me play, as he had never seen me play prior to our Orange Tree gig.
I was in a really frustrating place as a DJ when I returned to Zambia in 2015. Gigs were really hard to come by (they still are) and when I did get them, I was divided between staying true to the sound I love and playing for a crowd of people that weren’t accustomed to what I really wanted to play. Djing was no longer as pleasurable as I had known it to be. I first saw El Mukuka play at Bongwe in October of the same year and it was encouraging to see a DJ play a sound true to himself. My interaction with El later on also helped me understand that as a DJ, I am a brand and I should conduct and sell myself as such.
KAPA187: House/Techno music does not have a huge following in Zambia as compared to other parts of the world. What do you think needs to be done in order to grow the popularity of the genre.
Samba Kun: Quite straight forward my man; people need to be exposed to house, techno and electronic music subculture as a whole for it to enjoy popularity. It’s about getting the sound out there for people to listen to, preferably in an all-inclusive manner. The house and techno scene needs people who don’t have the right shoes to get into the club, it needs collarless shirts and it needs people who have to come in before the show starts because they cant afford the full cover charge. It doesn’t need much of the status quo.
When not DJing, Samba Kun works as a site engineer/translator at the Kenneth Kaunda international airport construction.
KAPA187: You have a full time job as a Civil Engineer, how to you strike a balance with your DJing?
Samba Kun: It’s quite hard to strike a balance to be honest. Sleep usually suffers when I have a DJ gig at night and have to be up for work the next day. My engineering job requires I work Monday to Saturday from 8am to 6pm as well as the occasional night or Sunday. That’s a lot of time right there, so I don’t spend as much time refining my art of Djing, as I’d like to.
KAPA187: It seems like quite the juggling act, in that regard, do you get more personal fulfillment from your day job or from DJing?
Samba Kun: I’d say DJing is more consistent in giving me personal fulfillment whereas satisfaction from my day job can be variable in nature.
KAPA187: What advice would you give to young people who want to venture into “non-traditional” careers?
Samba Kun: At the very least, it is certainly worth a try. You miss every shot you don’t take so why not. It’s also important to actually get the ball rolling. Too often we wait for so many things to be in place before starting and end up never starting at all. It’s also good to be realistic and not blindly follow your passion. I think its good to ease it into one’s life while maintaining a balance with other aspects of life up until the non traditional career has developed into something one can pursue full time without it adversely affecting other aspects of life.
KAPA187: What career ambitions do you hope to achieve in the next 5 years, both in Civil engineering and DJing?
Samba Kun: I’d like to open up my own construction company, perhaps not within 5 years but I’ll be working on setting myself up for that between now and then. So gaining experience, building a network of contacts and getting as much engineering exposure as I can.
As for djing, I’d like to break into the regional and international scenes as both a DJ and producer as well as grow a healthy following here at home. I also want to position myself to play a role in the establishment of a Zambian house and techno scene. A scene with local producers, djs, promoters and dedicated venues that is appealing for like-minded artists both regional and international.
KAPA187: Any last words…
Samba Kun: Thanks so much for the interview and certainly hope to be seeing more of you at the gigs!
Interact with Samba Kun on social media :
Facebook: Samba Kun