[quote type=”medium” align=”left”] I’m proud to see the rise of distinctive quality music coming from Africa, but there is the lack of both industry support and global exposure. This is why I became a DJ and why I’m committed to playing and supporting the music, artists and culture from diaspora on an international scale [/quote]
Who said girls can’t be Afrobeats DJs? Well, I hereby introduce you to east London’s new superstar – DJ Aries.
DJ Aries, real name Akua Afram, is an Afro fusion and urban music DJ who plays live to bubbling dancefloors as well as on digital and online radio at S.O.U.L UK Radio.
Her career spans continents as she jets between London and Accra to meet obligations, such as playing at last October’s Ghana Fashion Design Week where she was the official music supervisor and DJ.
Her mission is to reach out to creative outlets, globally promoting African music in order to push the enriched African lifestyle. Already she’s getting some national media attention in Ghana, appearing on the BeBold show on eTV over there.
When I spoke to London-born, east London-living DJ Aries for the first time I learnt a lot about the woman behind the brand.
For instance, she is very in touch with her Ashanti roots and embraces the culture closely (speaking the language fluently) while trying to visit Accra at least once year – although she admits sometimes this might slip to two years – but we all know that feeling, don’t we?
She’s close to her mum, whom she cites as the most influential person in her life and she’s happily single. So no boo to accompany her to her favourite Accra club Bella Roma or her bestest London spot, Market Bar in the West End.
The young Akua studied at Skinners Company School for Girls in Hackney where she passed A-Levels in English Lit, Media Studies and Music Technology before going on to graduate with a BA Honours in Media Practices from University of Luton.
Ever growing, she is currently studying at University of Greenwich to qualify as a teacher in a PGCE course and pays the bills by working as a Tutor and work placement manager for a training organisation.
Akua started DJing last year after her love for African music and the fact that there are few women representing inspired her to be the change. But her love for music goes back a generation.. or two.
My first music purchase was 2 Can Play That Game by Bobby Brown. But not on a CD when it was out a few years ago. I bought it on tape. Does that give away my age?
After I Googled “tape” to find out what she meant I collected my thoughts and composed myself. I’m only young! So who are the artists that have influenced DJ Aries, I wondered.
I have so many but they range from Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Brandy, Jill Scott, Q-Tip, Ruff n Smooth and MJ. But wait, those are all American. I do have a lot of major UK influences too. Again so many, too hard to choose from. It ranges from Kano, Chase n Status, Fleetwood Mac and Rhian Benson to Taiwah.
Wow, what an eclectic and diverse group. That’s impressive. I asked if she had met any of her musical heroes and nearly fell off my seat when she told me,
Oh gosh, where can I start? Grace Jones, Kanye West, Q-Tip – he’s my favourite rapper in the whole Universe!
Alright dear, calm down. Breathe and Stop. See what I did there?
Anyway, let’s get back to talking about Afrobeats and African music. Because that’s where the real love affair is, right? When I asked this I got a response I didn’t expect:
Love affair? When I was younger I used to fancy the members of 3T (the boy band formed of Michael Jackson’s nephews). But now, I really find Nigerian artist Iyanah hot! Like pepper soup hot! The way he moves his waist, lol.
Ok, did you really just go there? Lol! Can we get back to the music please!? I know you have a lot of love for music as a whole and especially Afrobeats.
Globally Afrobeats is exploding of course, you only have to look at D’Banj signed to Kanye West, PSquare doing their thing with Akon, DJ Abrantee on Choice FM and you know it’s massive. Where is it all going?
I’m very happy with the way it’s going. African artists deserve success. But the only thing is I think all types of African music should be celebrated not just in one scene. There’s too many cliquey scenes going on. I’m not about that.
I play what I like and whoever is drawn to the music I play I’ve done my job. Plus I think African artists need to learn the business more and get experienced people who know how to work the industry.
Not just to hire their best friend who has no idea. You get a lot of that which can cause problems to their strategy to market themselves.
Whenever I ask DJ Aries something I know I’m going to get a well thought out and sensible response. I can see why she is a tutor. She brings a fresh insight to working as a woman in a very competitive music industry.
So DJ Aries plays all sorts of clubs and events although she is currently on the look out for the right residency. The biggest event she has played was Ghana Fashion Design Week in Accra last October where she is the official DJ and music producer of the organization.
For someone who’s been in the industry so long (eight years) she is quite new to the DJ game which she has only been doing for a year now. Which explains why her worst experience so far, well, isn’t that bad.
To be honest it wasn’t that bad but I’m sure EVERY DJ has experienced this. I left my power plug for my Mac at home and I had to drive back 30 minutes and get it! The crowd were happy! THANK GOD! It was like no one noticed but I was still a little stressed.
Can’t be making too many mistakes though, right?
Yeah, as a woman behind the decks I tend to get ‘that look’ because I’m a female and possibly looked over. It’s still early days. I like it when people underestimate me, then hear what I’m capable of.
I want to be that woman that brings Afrofusion to the masses globally. Not just the US, UK and Africa. Why not Australia, Asia or even the Caribbean?
With all this ambition and stepping into what is predominantly a male arena, I wondered if Akua, the woman, has to man-up a bit to become DJ Aries the entertainer when she plays. Can a girly-girl do this job or do you have to be a tomboy?
I’m in between. I’m very much into fashion, domestics and beauty products. On the other hand I’m such a tomboy geek into music equipment such as DJ mixers, headphones, MIDI controllers, a hip-hop head, and learning about other DJs techniques on deck and on the radio. You can call it obsessed or passionate.
I even just made a pricey purchase the other day for a new DJ deck. Looks amazing and does the job. My own mother even says I should’ve been born a boy. Ha, never! I love being a woman.
I wear make-up for special occasions or appearances. At work I keep it simple, just eye-liner and tiny bit of blusher. But my favourite item of make-up right now is lipstick. My favourite brand is NARS all the way!
And clothes. Casual or glam?
I wear a mixture, from a celebboutique dress to an African designer. AFROEDGE I call it.
Ohema Ohene is my cousin and made me a fab African printed blazer. I also love Mimi Lee, a Nigerian-based designer. I call it AFRIGLAM… Simples.
When I’m DJ’ing I have to be comfortable, but I also keep it sexy so I can wear heels. I love bright colours with cool African prints or edgy punk rock looks. I always have to do heels, people need to see me as I’m quite short.
Oh wow, some interesting stuff you got going on there.
Well, thank you DJ Aries for taking your time to share these wonderful things about yourself with us. It was truly inspiring talking to you, and I wish you all the success in your career as an Afrobeats DJ.