By Mukurima Muriuki
A few hours before making her debut performance at the now famous “254 Diaspora DJs Live in the Mix Facebook Group, Anne Mochi received the news no one would ever hope for. Seeing that it was on April 1st-Fools Day-at first she imagined someone was pulling a crazy and stupid joke on her. Anne also happened to be celebrating her birthday on the same day, so no one in their right mind could dare pull such a stunt. The news that her cousin and two nephews were involved in a fatal accident that killed her cousin, a nephew and left another nephew fighting for his life struck her heart of hearts into pieces.
“What to do?” Anne pondered, with tears rolling down her cheeks. The only solace she knew she could turn to was music. She decided to go ahead and honor the date with fans, seeing that she had already signed up to raise funds for SCLAD patients during that session.
African Warrior Magazine spoke to Anne about her journey as a female DJ as well as her transition from Kenya to America at the tender age of 16.
Q. Where were you born and raised?
A. I was born and raised in Kenya.
Q. How was life growing up in Kenya?
A. Growing in Kenya was fun, and with acuity of hindsight, we were just okay. We did not have much, but we were happy. I was raised in a broken family and my dad was not in our lives for a long time. I however, barely felt his absence because as the saying goes, it took a village to bring us up and this made me feel surrounded by societal love. My mom was a teacher, and didn’t have much but she brought up my sister and I with all the love a child deserves and yearns to the extent that I did not feel our poverty. Look, Ugali instead of bread for breakfast did not sound cool back then, but I still prefer to have it for breakfast to date!
Q. When did you transition to America and what prompted the migration.
A. I left Kenya in 2009. My mom won the American Green Card lottery in her first attempt, and this gave our family the ticket to the land of the free and home of the brave. My mom never really wanted to make the transition; in fact it was my sister and I who egged her to do the application and voila, she was among the lucky ones that year! We were not doing well financially then and my mom had to borrow money to go to a cyber café to submit her application.
When my mother received the immigration forms from the consular office to start the visa process, she did not exhibit any excitement; the forms did not mean much to her and she tossed them somewhere in the house. It was not until my grandfather found the letter and wondered why mom was not following up with the application, that she took further action. My mom’s lack of exuberance was understandable for she did not have monetary strength to buy plane tickets for the three of us. It took my grandfather selling a piece of land for us to find the means to transition to America.
Q. What Struck You the Most About America?
A. The weather! HA!
Look, I had to stay back in Kenya for two months because I was in form four and I had to sit for my KCSE. I therefore made a solo journey to join my mom and my sister who had travelled two months earlier. The idea I had of America was the one concocted from TV-beautiful, clean, a lot of white people, and so on.
The first reality check was at the airport in Minnesota when a lady asked me where I was going and I replied “Minnesota” with such an innocence of a first time traveler. It was during winter and all I had was a light jacket, and perhaps this is what prompted her curiosity. I told her that I was used to the cold where I came from. It dawned on me when I stepped outside the airport that I should have dressed for the occasion.
Q. What did you want to be as a little girl?
A. Growing up, I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer. It is not an exaggeration to say dreams do come true because America gave me a chance to pursue what I had aspired to be. In the spring of 2010, I enrolled at Normandale Community Collage for my prerequisites, and transferred to Iron Range Engineering which is a branch of Minnesota State University, Mankato, where I graduated in 2015. At that time I was already interning for UTC Aerospace Systems in Burnsville, Minnesota and this later converted into a full time position. During my three years with UTC, I was able to complete my graduate studies in Engineering Management at St Thomas University.
Q. What is your state name?
A. DJ Mochi Baybee.
Q. At what age did you develop a love for music? What prompted it?
A. You will be surprised to learn that at some point I really never had a passion for music. After getting my 9-5 full time job, I still felt like there was something amiss so I started searching. The first thing I did was learn how to fly a plane. I enrolled for classes and did this until a plane mishap redirected me to other things.
One day while flying a plane with my friend, John, who is currently a commercial pilot, we got into an accident that could have been critical. The power went off while was up in the skies. With communication lost, we were on our own. We circled around for some time to get some sort of communication with the airstrip. John made a decision to land because there wasn’t much fuel left. We took the risk but when coming down, the landing gear wouldn’t retract and we had to skid land! Investigations later revealed that there had been something wrong with the aircraft. From that moment on, I wasn’t excited about flying planes.
During the same time, I used to host parties and I loved dancing. Anytime the DJ would mess up with the transition , I’d turn around and give them a stare down. My DJ (Shortlegg) started joking that I could make a good DJ because he saw I had a musical ear. It wasn’t until he started teaching my boyfriend at the time, that I tried it out. He recorded the first clip of me ever DJaying and posted on Facebook. It was the worst mix you could listen to, but friends went crazy. I began the process of learning. That is how I became a DJ! I had a new hobby and the more I did it, the more I felt comfortable doing it.
Q. When did you realize you had what it takes to be a DJ?
A. In 2017, my friend asked me to DJ at a party in Dallas. That was my first year as a DJ and they flew me to the event, booked a hotel for me and even paid what I asked for. I earned a good reward for making people dance and have a good time. That gave me a great feeling and I started capitalizing on it as the demand for my services grew. I was too curious and I asked a lot of questions and that’s what made me grow faster as a DJ.
Through that learning process to be a DJ, I learned a lot about myself, just as I became acquainted with different genres of music
Q. What were the challenges you encountered at first in the new land-America?
A. Many of the challenges had to do with cultural differences. There is no available manual on how to transition to the American culture. No one gives you a checklist of the things you need to do and when, how to build your credit and so on. I wasted a lot of my time doing classes that I could have avoided, but there was no one to mentor me through that process-someone who understands the needs of immigrant students relative to the first few semesters in school. I realized that in America people are too busy to give direction to others. You have to go through the obstacles to learn, which does not need to be the case.
Q. Which is your memorable gig in America as a Dj?
A. Most of my most memorable gigs are small events. Don’t get me wrong, I have done big memorable events. However, small events have a different aura and vibe. The mentality of people about a small event is that maybe it’s boring, there is no crowd and so on. That gives me the opportunity as a DJ to flip the switch- turn that small event into one that will be stuck in the minds of the crowd. When I do so, the feeling I get, the most personal reward, is that I have touched a person in the sense of giving them a good time when they thought that would not be the case.
Q. As a DJ, who do you look up?
A. I do not have a specific person that I look up to because everyone brings a particular uniqueness to their sets. DJ Shinski, for example is probably one of my biggest mentors. He is a hard working DJ, who aspires to give his fans nothing but the best. I love his work ethic and his dedication to the craft. He has shown us by example what it means to persevere. People don’t see a lot on the front end and that’s what makes his work stand out and I admire that about him. Terry the Hippie is another of my favorites. She brings her own uniqueness with Fete En Apreme. Her sets are usually refreshing as she introduces new songs in her playlists so effortlessly and her additional use of instruments makes her stand out. There are a ton of underground Djs as well who bring a lot to the table.
Q. What genre of music do you like playing and why?
A. I enjoy all genres of music because each brings out something unique and different in terms of the energy and message; however, if I had to choose one over the others, I would go for the Afrobeat. It sounds so good, and rarely can one be bored listening to the beat-you have to dance, nod the head or twiddle the thumbs. I have so far realized that the more you listen to music, the more you get into it. At some point Reggae was not my cup of tea, but the more I gave it a chance, the more I regretted not having tried the genre earlier
Q. What does music mean to you?
Music denotes life. Music is medicine: a pain reliever for the heartbroken; a tranquilizer for those in need of good sleep, a stimulant for those who need to cut the rug. Music changes mood, takes you to that place you want to be.
Q. How do you deal with haters who think you do not have what it takes?
A. Unfortunately, I do not deal with haters; I do not respond to them, I let it go. At any point in time there are so many people who are supporting me. My focus is on the vast majority of people who are supporting me, not the few who have a different opinion about me.
Q. What is the most hateful thing that you had to endure as a female DJ
A. I haven’t had anything hateful leveled against me but as a female, I am awake to the reality that I have to work twice as hard as the male DJs. When I go to a club to play music, people first see the “woman” and they will not be convinced of my abilities. I love the challenge though. Most people who walk out of my gigs are impressed so it’s a challenge that gives me a push.
I am big on presentation, meaning I have to dress the part. And that at times means that some people might look at me differently. I remember during first few gigs I was getting more men than women attending my shows. Then I realized it was my presentation and I started doing it differently. I would shout out and hang out with fans, women in particular, just to show that I am not their competition, but rather one of them. It worked.
Q. Some people say that you were playing a recorded mix during your first set. What do you say to them?
I would never play a recorded mix. Those who argued that I was playing a recorded mix could not see the mixer. I play a lot with my mixer. My style is mostly selection with an easy flow/transition. I forego scratching, and when I do this people wonder how I did it because they are used to seeing what other DJs do. I say let the music speak for itself.
You cannot believe that this comment came out as a compliment! The set was too good it was taken as recorded mix! I’m glad the next session, that was termed to be better, cleared out the rumor because I truly care about the fans and the feedback is always welcome.
Q. You recently lost a relative. How is your family coping?
A. It is sad. One nephew is in a critical condition, but stable. The dad who was driving, sadly also passed on.
It was a tragic day when it happened. I have come to terms with that reality, I have cried all the tears I had. I know I cannot turn back the hand of time, and I have to cope with this daily.
See, the accident happened on my birthday, April 1st; I received the news just before I went live on the 254 Diaspora DJs Live on the Mix Facebook group page. At first I thought it was a stupid April Fools prank. I couldn’t believe it until days later.
Q. What do you do for a living when not spinning music?
A. I am a full time DJ; however I am also a home buddy. I like being at home with family as I am always gone for work. What I love doing the most is making mixes, and recently I have had obsessions with making video mixes. I like spending time with myself, that is my most favorite thing to do.
Q. Any special person in your life?
A. Yes. I do have a special people in my life: My mother, my sister, and my extended family.
Q. Do you love reading?
A. I love listening to audible literature, the most recent being Think and Grow Rich
Q. How do you say “Thank you very much” in your tribal language?
A. Buyaa muno sana
Q. Any parting shot?
A. I want to thank the people who are genuinely rooting for me; people who go and beyond their call of duty to support me. Know that you are noticed.
I want to encourage those who are not following their dreams to do it. Do not count on haters, focus on yourself. If you feel like no one is supporting you, know that there are so many strangers who are rooting for you. These are people who move the needle. Those who don’t know you\ are your biggest cheerleaders.
You can watch DJ Mochi Baybee perform on Saturday May 2nd from 7PM – 9PM Central time. She will be live on 254 Diaspora DJs Live in the Mix Facebook Group