Passion, Determination Keep Me Going

02 Mar 2013

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DJ Jimmy Jatt is obviously Nigeria’s numero uno disk jockey and one of Africa’s finest handlers of the wheel of steel. His business is to churn out music to excite guests at parties and for more than two decades, this hunk has been on top of his game. He talks to LANRE ODUKOYA about his career, childhood and family

For me, I think it is the passion and determination. I love what I do even from when it wasn’t lucrative and respected. The passion was strong enough to drive me when little financial rewards were coming from it. There were lots of negative vibes of Disc Jockeying in the beginning. Once they know you’re a DJ, you’re seen as a low-life. The negatives became my own positive drive because that saddled me with a task to convince people that their perception of the art is very wrong. I knew they would all know they’ve only just misjudged when they start seeing positive results. Another thing I have going for me is that I have a lot of guys I’ve mentored in the business. I’ve constantly encouraged them that they’re taking the right step.

I came into the business more like an aspiring singer. I’ve always wanted to be on the stage. Even till now I can play at ten parties back to back within five days.  But I may not be able to play for two hours behind closed doors. So, I’m always concerned about the people who are enjoying the music I’m churning out. I make bold to say that I’m the first DJ who was put on the stage to play for a large crowd in those early days at Lekki beach. I was also headlining a whole lot of shows around campuses across the country. At the time I’m talking about, DJs were boxed into the corner so that no one knows where the music was coming from. But I fought that trend. If you gave me money to play at a party where I wouldn’t face the audience, I would refund your money. When I got into disc jockeying the government owned all the radio stations. There was no single privately-owned one. Government officials were not the kind of people that would embrace what we saw at that time. There were even some kinds of music they would never allow you play. If I wasn’t a mobile DJ, I probably would have stopped practicing a long time ago. I’m not cut out to be a resident club or radio DJ and I’d never been one.

I started when I was 16 years old. I was aspiring to be a musician then and was going everywhere with my demo. I was barely out of secondary school then, I was a music man of the school and everyone knew me for that.

A lot of what should have discouraged me turned out to be my springboard to more determination. There was a time a lot of parents would warn their children not to come close to me and I dared not go near their gates. They weren’t doing this because I had any bad habit, but because I was doing what they felt was for truants. Even girls who were my friends couldn’t come close to me because they were under stern instruction to steer clear. The story is however different today, as the same people will beg you to play at their parties.

I just sat alone one day and the thought of what I call myself, Cool DJ Jimmy Jatt just crept through me. And I started playing with the words, ‘I’m as cool as ice’. Then I thought I could make a single with the words and I started pondering on who fits in the concept flowing in me. I knew the song can’t have this title and be up tempo; that already defined the kind of music it should be and who to bring on it. ‘Cool’ for Cool DJ Jimmy Jatt and ‘Ice’ for Ice Prince and ‘Ice’ for Iceberg. The song was just working itself out. I later felt Ice Prince and Iceberg will work together knowing that Iceberg and MI have this supposedly industry beef. That was another side I got to it, because if Iceberg is playing with Ice Prince, he is more or less playing with MI. I have to play the elderly role, when artistes are not getting along well, the onus was on me to intervene as an elder to mend fence. That’s a signal that we’re one and that the beef is squashed.

There are things guiding me against creating scandals about myself. At the time I started, the job didn’t come with respect, so you misbehave, people would say, ‘what do you expect from a DJ?’ I have realised what they thought I should be doing, but inside me, I saw a model and had worked hard to remain so. I’m not a saint but I put my life on the positives; this is even good for me in the first place. I came from a home where I also have to worry about what goes back there about me.

I grew up on the Island, Obalende, Ikoyi, Lekki and everywhere here on Lagos Island. Things used to be different. Obalende was like a big compound; it was a jolly environment where we all knew one another. It was now I even started realising that I don’t know what tribe most guys I grew up with are. It never mattered to us. I was on one side with the ‘haves’ and on the other with the ‘have nots’. So, I was neither a rich nor a poor child. At the time I was growing up, there were only three types of jobs in the world - you’re either; a lawyer, doctor or an engineer. At about age 12, I wanted to be a lawyer. People would even tease me then that I should be a lawyer because I like to argue.

There were days when I couldn’t afford the best of equipment and would make do with whatever was within my budget. I was once playing and my amplifier caught fire in the middle of the show. I was not depressed. The audience saw it wasn’t my fault. Again, I was once playing on a stage about ten feet from the ground and it collapsed. I fell with the equipment. I just thanked God it didn’t break my leg. I picked bits and pieces of what was left and put them together on the floor. We simply started churning out music again as if nothing happened.

The connection between me and my wife and kids is indescribable. My kids and I don’t have daughter to father kind of relationship; we’re first of all friends. My wife and I are not even like spouses, we’re like a boyfriend and girlfriend. It hasn’t even changed from what it was when we were still dating. A lot of people think that once you’re married things are no longer the same and it’s a big lie. And there’s this fallacy from a Yoruba proverb that if you marry a woman you meet at a party, she’d end up dancing away from your life. I met my wife at a party and we’ve been together, plus years of courtship for twenty two years and she’s yet to dance away. Some people met in religious places, mosques and churches and their wedding never lasted six months.

Tags: Entertainment, JIMMY JATT

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