Dancing to an exceptional DJ set is life-changing. Those magical moments where everything clicks: flawless music, mind-blowing mixes and seamless transitions all leave a lasting impression that remains long after the lights go on. Memories are created that can evoke a twinge of emotion for months or years down the line. I am forever grateful for DJ’s like Aye who help create these magical moments.
In Lagos’ DJ culture, Aye is a breath of fresh air. He is quietly altering our perception of what DJing can be. As a DJ, Aye holds a truly unique place as he has successfully carved out his own lane in the Lagos scene. He has mastered the art of making our lives that bit better and brighter the moment he gets on those decks. When he performs there is no denying how the mood hits a transcendent peak - even the scent of sweat in the air brings an intoxicating rawness to the formula. Whenever he performs you are transported, head back, eyes closed, singing along to your favourite song being mixed in a way you’ve never heard before. The boy is magic- there is a buzz about him that nobody else can really match. At least not right now. His reception so far is proof of an appetite for something different from the norm in Lagos. What is there not to love about the energy he brings? I am particularly excited to see what the future holds for him because I do not think we have even scratched the surface of Aye’s potential.
I recently sat down with Aye for an interview to talk about his journey so far. What started as a candid interview ended up feeling like a comfortable conversation between two friends. We spoke about everything from the evolution of his sound, plans, music, fashion, creativity and even star signs.
Kewa: You know how these things go, I have a couple of generic questions to ask you so I think I’ll start with the obvious. How did you get into DJing?
Aye: I was overwhelmed with the amount of music I had on my laptop and I felt a very big urge to share it. In terms of an event that made me want to start DJing, in 2014 I went to a club in Durban ( South Africa) and there was this one moment when everyone was in sync. The DJ was playing awesome music and at that moment nothing else mattered but being in sync with him. I came back and off that energy, I made my first mashup which was a mixture of Sho lee, Daft Punk’s One More Time and Never Enough by Luther Vandross. After I created that mix I knew that was the exact feeling I wanted to give. It was basically a combination of all those things.
Kewa: I remember the first time I heard you, DJ. I had the time of my life! Funny story I cemented a pretty amazing friendship just off the vibes you created that night. When you’re out there DJing do you understand the power you have over people to get them to that, let’s call it “happy place?”
Aye: That’s a good question. I understand the idea behind what I do. So I sort of understand the blueprint, “the theory” of how it could make people happy. At that moment, I really don’t have the luxury of feeling the same way as the people I’m playing the music for feel. I always feel like I’m in a completely different place. So yes in theory I know I have the power to make people feel alive for three or four hours that’s why I DJ.
Kewa: I wish you could experience yourself because it’s actually crazy
Aye: I do wish that I could be a part of the audience though. I really do. Thank you
Kewa: In the process of creating an experience did you intentionally go into it trying to create a sound or is that something that happened organically? Are you aware that you have a unique style that gives you a particular sound?
Aye: Even before I started touching the decks there are some things I just loved. I love percussion, I love 'emotion', there is a certain kind of blues I love. Also, before I start DJing I know who I am, I know what I like so I guess that plays subconsciously when I choose a song. I started DJing in 2014 and I had been producing before that and before that, I studied Music engineering in school so I kind of has a feel for the sounds that make me happy.
Kewa: Now that I know you studied Music Engineering in school things are starting to make sense because your ear for music shows. It shows not only through your selection of songs but also in the arrangements that you create to give that overall sound.
Aye: Thank you! Yeah subconsciously I think I know my sound but the beauty about DJing is that you’re using other people’s music which is liberating because that brings so much freedom. There is a core idea behind the stuff that I do but I also play around a lot with what people have done to get that sound.
Kewa: Are we going to see your progress into making Music then?
Aye: The short answer is yes.
Kewa: You’ve actually made my day. How soon can we expect your Music?
Aye: I have over 500 beats on my laptop. Let me put it this way I have worked and I am working with artists that love what I do. Most importantly I have things to say and I feel DJing was a way for me to get comfortable enough to say those things. DJing helped in just understanding how to say those things and I have learnt to communicate to an audience now. I think I have enough knowledge as to how best to deliver the things I want to say when I reintroduce myself as a producer. In short, I have a lot of music but in terms of how soon, maybe (big maybe) this year but definitely next year.
Kewa: I don’t think you understand how excited I am.
Aye: (Laughs) Yeah, I’m anxious. I think because It’s a new level of vulnerability.
Kewa: True, but I really believe you’ve gotten comfortable with your sound now.
Aye: Is anyone ever really truly comfortable with themselves. I guess we are all trying to be right? I don’t know that I’m totally comfortable enough to not be anxious so let's just say next year.
Kewa: Well I’m ready to vibe off anything that you produce so I will definitely be looking out for your music next year. Do you know what I really want to know? If you could be stuck in any music era which one would it be?
Aye: I would have to say the 90s, 96, 95, yeah.
Hold on maybe the Disco era, like Diana Ross kind of Disco so 70s. Man, it’s really hard to say.
Kewa: Diana Ross. What a woman. Not sure I’ll ever get over the drums on 'I’m Coming Out. Forever fire. I’m more of an 80’s kid at heart, so Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Prince.
Aye: hmmm someone needs to put me on to Prince, like properly put me on.
Kewa: Say no more, That’s why I’m here. I’ll put you on. The first step is Spotify you can start your journey with Prince there. So many Prince playlists so definitely a good starting point. I can’t lie when it comes to music Spotify is my go-to. It changed my life in Uni and I haven’t looked back since.
Aye: okay, Spotify. I’ll look into it again. What really changed my life as a DJ was SoundCloud. Man, the number of gems I’ve stumbled across on SoundCloud is crazy. Mind-blowing stuff. The kind of stuff that you can ever find on iTunes. There are several young producers from all over the world doing crazy things on that site. It's amazing.
Kewa: YES! Sorry for shouting but there are way too many gems on SoundCloud. So let’s move away from Music/Djing for a bit. Are you currently working on anything this year outside of Music/DJing?
Aye: I was interviewing on the radio and the presenter said: “Aye is not a DJ he’s an idea” and that stuck with me. There are so many ways I think I can share who I am and how I feel about the world. People don’t know I dance, people don’t know I sing, people don’t know I draw and write. I write a lot!
Right now my main form of communication is my performances when I DJ and my mixes online. Eventually, I would like the music video to be my medium; sort of like Michael Jackson. We all know he had catalogues of music but he was also known for his music videos and that was like his main product. I really think that’s where I'm headed because with that I can put all my talents in one place. In that one medium, I can act, I can sing, I can dance, I can write, I can do everything. Everything I’m doing is geared towards that.
In terms of this year though I’m moving away from the big tickets and big stage sort of shows because I feel like I overdid that in December. I did it on purpose because I wanted to put myself fully out there but now I want to share my other creative side with people. Things like conceptual shows (stage designs etc) where DJing isn’t the main focus but is a part of the show. Between now and June I’m going to focusing on creating and developing content, then from June to December, that’s when I start sharing.
Kewa: I really like the idea of a conceptual show. Side note I love your sense of fashion. The day I saw you in that Denim Kimono at Bruch Out I put you on my one to watch list. How does your unique sense of style play into your identity as a DJ?
Aye: For as long as I can remember I have always tried to alter my clothes and whatnot. I think fashion is definitely a part of me and a thing on its own. It is definitely something that exists outside of me being a DJ. Every human being is multifaceted so if I’m DJing I would want to dress how I feel so to speak. To me simplicity is key, so I try to be expressive but simple at the same time, hence my love for Kimonos. They are expressive but super simple.
Kewa: Have you thought of going into clothing because I think that’s another area you could create your own lane in?
Aye: That is definitely something I would want to go into but it has been hard continuing my fashion journey here in Lagos. It was so much easier to buy clothes before I moved back but it is something I’m still figuring out in Lagos.
Kewa: You must have learnt a lot about yourself and your craft through your journey and I’m sure you’re constantly learning. Have you ever thought of mentoring young DJ’s
Aye: I have. It’s something I feel like I have an obligation to do. Having learnt how to DJ on my own I kind of figured out creative ways to do stuff and those are things I can share. I don’t plan on doing it anytime soon but when I do I want to put as much love and care as I can into it. I'm looking at possibly doing talks and workshops but also spotlighting the academic side to it because I do have a Masters in Music. I really enjoy that side of things. I love the idea of being scientific about artistic things. You can be both artistic and scientific one should not have to cancel out the other. It possible to be both.
Kewa: What is that one song that means a lot to you and we need the story behind it? For example, mine is Sigur Rós - Fjögur píanó one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard to date. The video is stunning too. At the time the song meant a lot to me because I needed something beautiful to distract me. Saved my life.
Aye: Question! Wow. Just one? That’s so hard I’ll need a moment to think about it…It would be College & Electric Youth- A Real Hero. The story behind it; I was watching Drive by Nicolas Winding Refn and I fell in love with the movie and the aesthetics. It was one of the songs in the movie. The song feels like water it’s so textured. I had never heard something so functional yet so subjective and creative at the same time. The song speaks to my creative side and I really appreciate that about the song. You would love it actually it's very 80s.
It actually sucks that I could only pick one song because Sigur Rós is amazing. He saved my life too. His 2011 album meant a lot to me. The music that those Icelandic guys make is out of this world. Maybe there is a correlation between the cold and being indoors that brings out that level of creativity. Kind of like the Toronto sound, it's very moody. Random, but what's your star sign?
Kewa: Virgo. Oh, I should have asked that actually, such a good question. What's yours?
Aye: Aries. Hmm, Virgos. I know nothing about Virgos that is probably why this is such an interesting conversation. You’re like an alien to me right now because all these vibes are so new.
Kewa: Come to think of it, not sure I know much about Aries either. Virgos are all about good conversations and good vibes (at least I am). Speaking of vibes is there any DJ that makes you feel the way you think you make people feel when you perform?
Aye: It is more like a combination of DJ’s it's not just one guy. There is this one guy though called Kidd Marvel and he’s not well known but he’s associated with Goldlink. That is the one DJ that made me want to do more stuff creatively. In terms of DJs I respect, A-trak is one and he's dope. Pretty sure there is a South African DJ I’m forgetting but there are a lot of DJ’s I look up to and respect.
Kewa: A-trak is fire. I’m really trying to get into South African House but it doesn’t always gel with me but I feel it’s music I should like, it’s weird. I do love how rich the music scene is in South Africa though.
Aye: I hear you. Is there a genre that you really like? What’s your favourite genre of music?
Kewa: I would have to say 80 and 90s music that’s the music I grew up on. I grew up on 90s R&B and Hip Hop so naturally, I always find my way back to that genre. To be honest I am all over the place I listen to everything and anything when it comes to music. My love for music is very vast and runs very deep. All an artist has to do is make me feel something and I’m sold.
Aye: A-fucking-men to that! I think that is why my stuff sounds the way it sounds. I never really go for genres I go for the feeling. I try to do it so that the audience feels something.
Kewa: We get all the feels, trust me! Last question, is there that one thing you want people to know?
Aye: Yeah, I just want to say that my name is Aye, not DJ Aye or Ayé or any alteration. It’s just Aye.
Kewa: Aye, like the turn-up Ayeeeeeee?
Aye: I mean it kind of works in that way but not really it’s just like a vowel sound. I have had so many stage names in my life. The first one was Big Dog in JSS2, then we moved to Shaun Dogger in SS1 and then Young Ries which got shortened to Ries. Now I’m Aye!