The man, the legend – Saint Evo the Myth – is making great strides to bridge the gap between Kenya’s thriving music scene, and the global market.
Saint Evo the Myth, has been providing listeners with ancestral sounds, dubbed ‘Equatrorial’ house music, since his return to Kenya in 2011. The young DJ and Producer talked with us about his experience in the industry, and recent ventures in founding Celsius Degree Entertainment – a platform he plans on using to sign and distribute music from artists around the globe.
WGN: You’re known as being one of Nairobi’s best DJ and sound engineer. When did you start, and how did you build this growing brand for yourself?
SAINT EVO: I commenced DJ in 2009 in Pietermaritzburg South Africa at one of the university pubs called BIG CHILL. Production followed suit at the same time since it dawned on me that that would set me apart from my fellow DJ counterparts. That’s when I reasoned, why not make my own music!
In regards to building the brand – that was an insidious strategy that commenced in 2011 after I came back home from my South African sojourn. As I have always said, in this game it is a marathon and not a sprint.
WGN: Tell us a little more about your company, Celsius Degree Entertainment.
SAINT EVO: Well, Celsius Degree Entertainment (CDE) is my record label. For me it serves as a vehicle of taking Equatorial (EQ) House global. When I came back home, I realized that there was no structure in this music industry. It was difficult to slot in since there was nowhere to plug into. CDE offered me a platform to showcase my music with no pressure from possible “powers that be”. I am my own boss…so I move at my own pace.
In the future, CDE hopes to sign unique artists from around the world as well as playing the role of a distributor of music from this region – of course, House music!
3.) You have a few new projects out, Vika Vu and On My Way Home, released on the Angolan record label Seres Producoes. Explain your creative process in creating the two songs, and why you think it’s resonating with so many listeners.
Well I had the honour of collaborating with the multi-talented songstress, Inami on the two projects to make it the EP it is, Vika Vu EP. The creative process was more or less organic, where we incubated ourselves in studio and focused on creating two tracks that we believed resonated with our narratives as well as sounded different. Our aim before we embarked on the projects was to make music that would resonate with an African audience (if not global) rather than just the local Kenyan market.
We believe its resonating with many listeners because of the tribal, ancestral approach we took in the making of the two tracks from the drums we used, the synths, wind instruments to the rhythms and patterns we employed to express the melodies we had in mind.
Once we were done with the tracks, we packaged it and submitted it across various music circles in Africa in order to get critical feedback of it (before we considered releasing it). In the process, one of Angola’s musical gems Seres Producers
discovered and heard the EP through its co-founder, DJ Satelite, an Angolan DJ/Producer whose considered to be one of the fathers & pioneers of Kuduro and the rest is history. The main release of the EP is on the 17th of June on most digital platforms such as, Traxsource, iTunes, Spotify, Amazon & Juno.
Having my own record label provides me with creative autonomy.Saint Evo
4.) How do you feel having an independent record label. Has it changed your career? Do you feel it gives yourself and other artists more creative freedom?
As I indicated earlier, having my own record label provides me with creative autonomy. I can work on a project for 3 months and by the 4th month if I don’t like the direction, I trash it! Being under my own label allows me to explore a myriad of musical nooks and crannies with no fear of a Damocles Sword hanging above me.
5.) How have you navigated through the Kenyan music industry when it seems like everyone it trying to capitalize on becoming a DJ?
Simple, think global. When you think global, you are forced to up your game. The quality of your sound, the mastering of the craft inter alia, has to be beyond average. It has to be superb and impeccably produced since you are presenting it to the global consumer. I have said time and again that my aim is to take EQ House to the global stage. Consequently, my standards are international…maybe that is where I derive my edge! Who knows?
WGN: What do you wish you had known before getting into this business?
Lesson 1: Not to trust every Tom, Dick & Jill. Some people have ulterior motives as to why they would like to work with you or even hang around. In the meanwhile, they are akin to vampires sapping your creative life force.
Lesson 2: Cultivate copious amounts of patience. In this game, patience is the currency that keeps one sane.
Lesson 3: Radio airplay is over-rated. When I got into this game, I thought that once I produced decent music, the radio producers would play it. It has been a revelation that, in a world with an array of potent digital platforms, one does not need radio airplay to get noticed. That is, if you are thinking global!
Lesson 4: Know your worth. Just because a reputable promoter or club has invited you to DJ, does not mean you have to accept peanuts simply because they have promised you exposure. I would rather stay at home and work on my productions rather than grace such a space. This has been a hard lesson to learn. I have played at several high profile gigs where I was not paid or given liqueur in lieu of payment!
Lesson 5: Legal due diligence. I assumed that since a certain person was a friend, then he or she would keep their word regarding their role and rights on a joint project. I have had the painful opportunity of burning my fingers severally, and severely, as I had not done my legal due diligence. Those experiences made me smarter.