Don Jazzy Radio

Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, producer, and record label founder Don Jazzy presents a master class in all things Afrobeats with Don Jazzy Radio, a monthly show that offers the best of what’s next. Alongside DJ Big N, Jazzy showcases songs of the month, radio DJ sets, conversations with the scene’s most exciting voices, and hits from the artists propelling culture forward. “We’re going to talk through Afrobeats, the things that we've been through, and where we feel the music is going,” he tells Apple Music. “We’ll cover some of the artists that I'm excited to know at the moment, and people that are making big moves.” Don Jazzy’s musical journey began, as he puts it, as early as possible. Raised in a family of musicians, the young Michael Collins Ajereh got his start by playing percussion in church, later learning how to play the piano, guitar, and drums. (His father was a producer who filled their home with the sounds of reggae, ABBA, the Bee Gees, Miriam Makeba, and Brenda Fassie; his mother was in the church choir.) “I knew I was going to do music. My parents knew I was going to do it,” he says. “In school, even if they reported me for missing classes, my father would ask [my teachers], ‘Where did he go? Where you found him? Where was he?’ They would say, ‘He left the classroom and he went to the music hall.’ So from even then, I think they were not like the typical African parents who wanted their children to be a doctor, lawyer, or something like that—they knew I had a passion for it and they let me go for it.” Soon, his other passion began to emerge: teaching and mentorship. While playing drums in his local church, he began to teach other young people to play various instruments, before he was recruited to work at an outpost of his church in London. From there, a series of introductions led to him playing as a session musician alongside artists like Nigerian Afro-jùjú legend Sir Shina Peters. Later, he and a friend decided to branch out and perform their own gigs, with Don Jazzy learning to program beats on a Yamaha keyboard. They were discovered by Big Brovaz’s JJC Skillz, and it was while working as a producer in JJC’s studio that he met singer and rapper D’Banj. “D’Banj and I clicked because he's a funny guy—very entertaining,” Don Jazzy recounts. “We decided that, ‘Okay, we are in London. We are making what is now called Afrobeats, we are making Nigerian music, but the market is away in Nigeria in Africa. Why don't we go back home and build from there?’” It was around this time that he locked on to the Don Jazzy moniker. “My friends used to refer to people that were very cool, calm, and collected as guys that have a jazzy attitude,” he explains. “‘That guy is just jazzy.’ I suppose I was just cooler than everybody, so I became the Don of all of them.” In 2003, D’Banj and Don Jazzy founded the label Mo’Hits, and their projects would catch the ears of superstars Snoop Dogg and Kanye West. (As a result, Jazzy worked on “Lift Off” from Kanye and JAY-Z’s Watch the Throne.) Jazzy’s desire to grow the music business in Nigeria led him to start Mavin Records, which has been an incubator for some of the biggest names in African music, including Tiwa Savage, Rema, LADIPOE, Magixx, Crayon, and Ayra Starr. From his vantage point, Jazzy’s been able to watch how global audiences have embraced Afrobeats and music from the continent. “The world is bored, because I think they [have] consumed the same type of music for so long. African music is so smooth; it's so melodious. When you are working with some of the Western artists in London or even in the US, sometimes you'll be on the piano and you'll be playing some chords, and they tell you that it sounds too sweet. They want [something] dark and sad. I think they have all the dark music that they want, so maybe now they just want to be happy—and we have all the happy music over here. African music is so dope, from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, South Africa… Each country has their own different sonics and a ‘spice’ that makes them amazing.” Tune in to a new episode of Don Jazzy Radio every month on Apple Music 1.

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