In The Middle with DJ Sho

DJ Sho, a Lagos born and London bred Student & Afrobeats DJ, discusses with me the rise of the genre in the UK. Arriving in Peckham in the early 2000’s (pre-gentrification; beardy coffee shops, and overpriced avocado), a young Olusola went from the tropics of Nigeria to the concrete jungle of London. High rise blocks, Jamaican food markets and African barbershops became his metropolis. Specializing in Afro, Hip Hop and Soca, DJ Sho talks to me about the importance of inclusivity in the music industry, black excellence; and the problems plaguing mental health in the black community. 

Q: How has your choice to DJ been impacted by your childhood?

A: Well, I grew up in the church as my dad was a Pastor and we used to have massive parties. But, what I remember most is my Dad always playing Fela Kuti at home, stuff like Fuji music, old school stuff, high life music. So, I remember music from when I was really young and it being such a massive part of my culture. When I got to London and obviously grew up, there was a real sense of community which was centered majorly around music. Whether this be at church, or at school, or at youth centers, afro music kind of grew as I did, by the time I was 18/19 and began DJ’ing, London was certainly the epicenter for afro music anywhere other than Africa itself. 

Q: So, you were constantly surrounded by music growing up?

A: Yeahhh, it’s so weird now that I think about it. Growing up, even in London we kinda weren’t aware that Afro-Beats was a niche, or small music genre because at school, everyone listened to it. It wasn’t just the African kids, everyone knew the songs. But we also grew up around the early roots of the UK trap, and when this started merging with Afro and different cultural influences, beats perked up, and that’s when it began to spread even more. 

Q: What kind of differences do you see in Manchester when you are doing sets there than to London?

A: Ahhh, I love Manchester. It’s not London. But there are great clubs there, and there is much more diversity than in other northern cities. Manchester has a growing afro-scene, and it’s great to see. 

Q: You’ve just released a new mix on SoundCloud haven’t you? What do you like about making mixes? 

A: I love making mixes. I like to think of it as like putting my style into it and like more unknown songs that people don’t really know, from smaller artists you know. Everything I put into a mix I fully enjoy. That’s why it might seem like it takes me a long time, because I’m not going to put anything in which isn’t handpicked.  

Q: Yeah, I get you. Do you have a favorite track right now?

A: Ah, there’s too many! I can never pick one, but my go to would Terry Apala’s ‘Jangolova’ would defo be up there. So would Bad Boy Tims’ ‘Don’t go’, who’s a new upcoming artist! 

Q: Who’s your favorite artist right now?

A:  It has to be J Hus! 

Q: Really, out of everyone J Hus is your favorite? 

A: Yes! Have you listened to his new album! He’s an amazing UK talent. 

Q: Yeah, I really liked his collab with Burna Boy on the new album. What collabs would you like to see? 

A: I don’t know really. I loved Burna and J Hus, that was quite refreshing. But what I’d really like to see is more black producers getting good tracks with artists. JAE5 has really been doing well, but there is so much exceptional black talent who produce amazing beats – Fem4 is a really sick up and coming producing. Defo someone to look out for.  

Q: Aww, so – what do you think is next for UK Afro Beats etc?

A: Well, we’re starting to see massive changes. For example, the festival Afro Nation in Portugal, and Ghana. These summer festivals have in the past mainly been Pop, or Indie, you know, it’s so empowering to see young black talent on stage with thousands of people there. More platforms like this are crucial to developments in the UK scene I believe. But it’s interesting where the sound is going to take us. It’s always changing, picking up different influences. It’s unique, I’m excited to see the tracks we’ll here this summer!! Artists need to really find their identity, and kind of be unrestrained, then it will fully flourish. 

Q: What do you think has prompted such a massive rise in the genre? What are the roles of significant figures such as Burna Boy and Wizkid – both have been making music for a long time – why is it now and the last few years that a space has been carved out for them?

A: Well, I think it’s the persistence of the artists to be really honest. Like as you said, they have been making music for a long time, like really long, but it’s taken a long time to transition from underground to mainstream. When you do hear Burna Boy’s ‘Ye’ in just a normal bar in Manchester or Leeds, it does make you happy; like this is a celebration of our culture and it is finally being recognized. It’s kind of like Afro sound doesn’t need to be just for a certain small group of people. Everyone can vibe to it. It’s just getting the message out there.

However, I also feel like what’s on the rise now is Afro-Swing. It’s no longer Afro-Beats, the sound is different. It’s not purely old school anymore; there’s so many different influences going into the sound. It’s a sick fusion of so many cultures/languages. There’s pop, there’s dancehall, there’s soca, there’s grime. It’s all coming together. It’s really nice to see a union of different black cultures coming together; making music for everyone and having such a strong voice in London and growing in the UK.

Q: Yes, it’s definitely empowering. How do you stay empowered, you know being at uni, and djing, keeping everything afloat!?

A: It’s kinda like my love for music. There are times when you’re not getting gigs. Or people like don’t want to pay what you charge as they don’t understand the effort that goes into it. But music is my means of escaping, I think. I think mental health isn’t spoken about openly enough in our society, especially the black community. Uni is defo a place which can become very dark and lonely. Music has kinda been my way out, but also, I have a really supportive family and friendship group. 

Q: What can we expect to see from you? 

A: More gigs! More shows! More cities, I really wanna start djing in Leeds. Manchester is sick, but I’ve heard so much about Leeds.

Check out DJ Sho on Instagram @_deejaysho, Twitter @_deejaysho, Email: