Dj Edygrim Taking on the Fight to Make Rock Music Popular Again

Arguably one of the most enduring symbols of heavy music in Nairobi has been 105.5 XFMs weekly serving, Friday4Play. Originally hosted by Justin Rich, the show has been a constant indictment on the decision to water down the content of radio with material that fans have dismissed as a poor imitation of both the spirit and aesthetic of rock music. What was once a purely rock radio station, now rides on the back of a more ‘marketable sound’ consisting of a mix of pop music, alternative and sometimes cheap derivatives of musical cues from sites like Billboard and dated influencers like Rick Dees.
The old belief in a more abrasive sound for the more heavily inclined rock lover is not completely lost however, with the radio station keeping faith in the true and tested Friday4play mix. Showrunners, the management and fellows like Edygrim, now taking helm at the show characterise the resilience of a sound that many mistakenly believed to have reached its demise. And Edygrim and a host of rock fans and metalheads that keep the show trending on Twitter and Facebook every Friday recall those glory days with the hope of bringing them back or altogether eclipsing them.

What drives me is my love for rock n metal; it’s in my core, in my vein, deep. I want the rock scene to expand, to get more mainstream recognition. I remember when I was young in the industry, I’d be told about rock Wednesdays at carnivore, and the turnouts were big! I want rock to go back to those days, even better.

It is a determination that baffles many. Having received no formal training, but instead cut his teeth mixing other genres like hip hop, Edygrim is taking skills learned from years of self-taught experience to keep the standards of the show at a very high level, taking a substantial influence from his predecessor, Justin Rich.

Friday 4play mix on X fm was originally done by Justin Rich before me. He had very good mixes and that challenged me to make high quality mixes of that level. So, when he left in December 2014 I came on board in August 2015. I wanted to keep the show alive and give rockers who stay indoors on Friday night something to look forward to. It’s been a great experience working for Xfm. The staff is awesome and my boss is a great guy.

The show is a high octane rock show that features the whole spectrum of sound, from punk rock to metalcore and healthy doses of melodic death and symphonic metal. On occassion Edygrim also finds time to sample local content on his show dominated by bands he believes constitute a thriving and promising rock scene.

I think local material is awesome. A lot of bands have huge potential and I’ve seen several bands with major talent, both live and recorded. Some bands need to work on vocals though, a lot of rockers judge a band quickly based on the vocals talent. Bands should also increase the amount of effort they invest in their brands, like they shouldn’t postpone meetings or practice sessions. I have seen bands here releasing awesome EPs and brutal singles and I support them by playing their music on my radio show and making mixes with their content. Oh, I also pull up at their concerts whenever I can.

But while he may receive support from his colleagues at the radio station, his other weekly gigs across clubs in town have not received the same support. Troubled by hostility from non-rock audiences that dominate the Nairobi Night Scene, rock fans, bands and stakeholders have generally shied away from defending their turf and there is a risk that if nothing is done the genre may cede so much ground that there is nothing left to stand on let alone expand.

I believe in a growing industry like ours artists; both bands and deejays should help each other by promoting each other’s work and coming to each other’s shows. It creates a sort of binding bond, like a strong unity enhancing the presence of the scene to the fans. Like I personally need equipment because without equipment I can’t play outside clubs. The clubs that allow a rock deejay to mix are limited. Being a rock deejay doesn’t pay highly as most rockers aren’t willing to come to shows like those clubs that do dancehall how they are packed. So it’s somehow limiting as to how much I can invest to advertise my shows. Those that don’t do the genre can be real hostile and they always want you to change to riddims or whatever.

Faced with these challenges however, Edward Nderitu Waruingi’s journey to stake rock’s claim in the local music industry is far from lost as long as the passion and hope for this glorious fufilment still exists.

The scene is going to go far. its evident. the increase in gigs, increase in people showing up at shows willing to support the music. Also the influx of new bands and musicians putting out great material has exploded into the industry, brands like Nelecc, Irony Destroyed, The Seeds of Datura, 20 more days.

With an interest in deejaying that he cultivated from years in high school, Edygrim does his part in keeping rock music alive every week, with shows at Tamasha every Tuesday as well as Tropez Lounge along Moi Avenue every Wednesday. Entry is free for all of them.
His mixes are also available on Vimeo and Mixcloud for download.
Interviewed by:
Martin Waweru Kanja 
Vocalist and pianist for ‘The Seeds of Datura’

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