If you’ve ever been to any of the weekend raves that the city offers, you’d probably have danced to the playlist of one of the best DJs in the city. For years, Eff The DJ has built his reputation as not only a music head but a DJ with impeccable music policy that spans across the genres of hip hop, hiplife, afrobeats, pop and all that is in between.
A few weeks ago, the love extended to him on social media when he celebrated his birthday was enough attestation to his value as a person and a DJ. The Ashesi University graduate who happens to be the resident DJ for Serallio and nKENTEn’s ‘DecafLive’ podcast events describe himself in the following words: The chill, calm, DJ everyone knows’.
Djing wasn’t Eff The DJ’s first love, although he has been a music fan since childhood. He started out as a dancer: ‘I started as a dancer, all through junior and high school. This obviously contributed to my ear for music’. His attraction to the art of DJing happened after witnessing DJ K3V (his now #IFKR collaborator) and Kobby Ankomah-Graham playing at different events respectfully.
Days after celebrating his birthday, I got him answering a few questions about music and the DJ business in Ghana. In this interview, Eff shares his first DJing experience, tips on how to grow, Kendrick Lamar, how reading the crowd is a quality of a good dj and why he’d play a hype man for DJ Keyzuz in a DJ tag team battle.
For those who don’t know you. Tell us a bit about yourself
The chill, calm, DJ everyone knows (haters will disagree). I go by EffTheDJ, but my actual name is Franklin Digber. Love art, love music.
How long have you been DJing and what attracted you to choose this art form?
I’ve been doing this for about 4 years. I’ve been into music since childhood. I remember going over to my cousin’s place when I was young and taking their Michael Jackson CDs home to listen and dance along to the songs. So initially, I started as a dancer, all through junior and high school. This obviously contributed to my ear for music. We had the virtual DJ software on our computer at home but I never really used it. Fast forward to (Ashesi) University, we have a year group party and DJ K3V kills it. So I link up with him later and we started our small classes. My mind was made when we had another event at school and I heard Kobby Graham play for the first time. I said to myself, “this fire, I will play some”. And I never looked back.
The journey has been worthwhile I can see. With four years experience, do you remember the first time you DJ’d and how was your first experience like?
(Long laugh). Very vividly. Yeah, it was another campus party. At this one, they shared “Poki” (you know the old ice cream thing, right?) I was so nervous. I’d say I hadn’t really learnt to read crowds yet so I came with a completely different vibe. You know how these things go, there’s a section of the crowd which usually is a wild minority waiting for a different vibe so I was feeling myself and all, then suddenly someone threw poki at me in protest . I’m still searching for the Person. Stress chale (laughs).
That obviously threw you off
It did. I was ready to pack up but Baylor and K3V encouraged me to stay, because these things happen.
Talking about reading crowd, how important is that awareness to a DJ?
Very, very important. Reading the crowd accurately makes your job up to like 40% easier. The rest is keeping your reading up, challenging yourself, and giving an experience — and depending on the crowd, challenge their ears.
What exactly does a DJ look out for when reading a crowd?
(Hesitates), various things. I don’t think it can be standardly defined. For me, I look out for the ambience of the event, the personae of guests, what a day in their life is like, what they probably listen to, what they want to hear, what you feel they haven’t heard in a while, and what you think will make them go nuts if they hear for the first time.
How would you describe the Ghanaian audience? Are they hard to please or easy to win?
Ever since I started playing, I’ve been exposed to various audiences, so it’s hard to call this. But, I’ll say there are different audiences. Some are easy, some are hard. It really depends on where you find yourself flourishing.
For indoor I try to set a mood. For outdoor, I try get people to vibe. Someone passing by should be able to chill and nod along, even if they don’t care about what’s going on.
The first time I saw you was at The Republic Bar some years back. Your playlist was what gripped me. How do you curate a playlist for the events you DJ? Say an outdoor event and a private or indoor one?
Oh thanks. Truth is I hardly curate playlists for specific events. When I do, I note the kind of music I think will work for them and try it. If it’s working, I continue, if not, I wing it. And whether indoor or outdoor, it depends on the kind of people present. But usually for indoor I try to set a mood. For outdoor, I try get people to vibe. Someone passing by should be able to chill and nod along, even if they don’t care about what’s going on.
What has been the best event you’ve DJ’d thus far?
Best event. I’d say back in 2015. I think, one FXP Takeover night at Republic (probably the session that birthed #IFKR). If you’ve ever been there on a very wild concert night, imagine the same energy for a regular Friday night. We really made the waiters’ job difficult that night, and that was the first time I moved a crowd with hand gestures, and no mic. Never felt more powerful.
Let’s talk about #IFKR. You guys dropped two songs earlier. What’s going on?
Yeah, we hit a couple of bumps on the way but we’re on track now. The EP is on the way. We’re just wrapping up now. It won’t be too long.
How much music do you have (bytes wise)
162 giga bytes
That’s some huge library. It’s understandable
(Laughs) it’s a personal thing. It’s hard to delete music
As a DJ what are some of the challenges you encounter in your trade?
As a DJ in Ghana, you are literally the party, but you can still somehow get taken for granted. You’re not well taken care of or you’re underpaid.
With your experience as a party DJ and having been a radio dj, is there any difference? If yes, in which areas?
Playing for radio is a more controlled environment. There’s so much liberty in being a radio DJ. Also a wider opportunity to introduce the audience to new music, and also an opportunity for the DJ to build a fan base. Depending on the kind of party, you’re either playing what the guests came to hear, or what you feel like. As I said earlier, the audiences vary.
DJs are seen as the guys who can make or unmake an artistes. How valid is this observation?
Yeah, I kind of agree. Traditionally, music comes out, and DJs keep it on rotation for people to get used to, and then that makes the artist. But more recently, due to various channels of information flow, artists have been able to make themselves. There’re various ways but the seemingly more efficient ways are using the internet, and by using the street route. If people like your stuff on the internet, they’ll want it played and it might not have to do with the DJ at all. Same for music that’s hot in the streets.
That’s a very solid point. I also share the same view. How do you prep for an event?
I try to get a practice set in at least a day before, speak to any DJ I know who’s done a similar event for tips. And a lot of thinking
Aside K3V, which other DJs excite or challenge you to be better both in Ghana and outside?
In Ghana, easily Kobby Graham, Keyzuz and DJ Putin. Kobby’s crates are just wild, Keyzuz’ technique is impeccable, and Putin’s crowd control is unreal. Outside, Diplo (and Major Lazer) is/are my guy(s). DJ’ing and productions blend so many sounds and cultures together. It’s just beautiful. Not forgetting DJ Black. I listened to the ‘’Open House Party’’ while growing up and his consistency and keeping up with the times over the years has been amazing.
What does the future hold for you as a DJ?
I dey streets chale (I’m still grinding), I don’t plan on looking back anytime soon
Why should an event organizer choose Eff The DJ over any others?
I try to channel an experience through the music as much as possible. You know, umm, displaying as much complexity in simplicity.
What does music mean to you both as Eff The DJ and Franklin?
A tough question. Music is a form of self-expression. It means so much, ‘cos there’s a million things you pick up. And as a DJ, it’s a million things you express yourself with through the music, which connects with your audience and that influence their self-expression. It’s a million connections of emotions.
What advice would you give your son should he aspire to be a DJ?
Practice every day, Keep an open mind, Experiment more, Embrace Ls (losses), Mind your brand, Focus. Eat before your gigs. Drink water. Most important of all, have fun while you do it.
You’re one of the three stans of Kendrick Lamar I know. Can you share what exactly you like about him?
Ayy, who are the other 2?
(Laughs) there’s @Kobby_Skywalker and @DaniellePrime_ also. But yeah, Kendrick’s writing, storytelling, feature and LP execution is just so great. You’d think it’s a different artist sometimes. Also love how well he stays out of the news. You usually only hear news about how well he’s doing with his craft, and has been able to achieve so much. Close to everything is thought through, through and through.
You listed some of your favorite DJs earlier on. If you should draft one to partner you in a DJ battle, who will it be? Reasons
Easily, my auntie. Keyzuz will play and I’ll be her hype man
Lastly, what don’t you like about GH artistes and the music out there? Last words
Your last question is a bit hard to answer. Apart from some artists making the same songs over and over (which happens everywhere else), there’s not much I don’t like about GH artistes. I like that the new crop are creating their own lanes, and aren’t necessarily playing by the traditional rules. And I love the new wave music out there. Can’t wait to peep the scene in the next like 4 years.