Kikazaru describes music as his voice: it’s a passion that dictates his entire life. But, unlike the majority of us aspiring DJs, the London-based Bristolian’s journey to making it a vocation hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park. Diagnosed as deaf when he was a toddler, Kikazaru grew up on a diet of bass-heavy vibrations; from rinsing his sister’s Rage Against the Machine tape, to being introduced to the powerful melodies of The Who’s ‘Tommy The Musical’ and, eventually getting a bunch of DnB tapes from HMV that were full of music from the likes of LTJ Bukem, DJ Zinc and Roni Size.
As his love for music grew he wanted his own outlet to play these sounds, but initially he hit some roadblocks when trying to find an avenue to learn. That was until he contacted London Sound Academy, who gave him tutoring, helped him find gigs and have continued to support him to this day. Advances in technology have also made the logistics of DJing much easier. Rekordbox’s 3 band waves gives him the ability to read the music and use his imagination as to the story its telling, while his SUBPAC – a vibrating tool worn on the front of the body – allows him to experience low-frequency, high-fidelity sound through its vibrations.
The weighty breaks and techno that characterise his DJ sets and Voices radio shows make up the sounds on his Stamp Mix. This sits alongside an interview where Kikazaru talks us through his journey to get to where he is now, the communities who’ve helped him along the way and his message to other deaf people who are thinking about taking the leap into DJing.
First, our usual ice-breaker – what’s your first ever musical memory?
The very first one, ever? Easy: “Postman Pat! Postman Pat! Postman Pat and the Black and White Cat!”. Yeah, this may sound a bit daft. However, my family had only found out about my deafness when I was approaching three years of age. Technology today wasn’t available back then (yes, I am old).
I remember stealing my sister’s Rage Against the Machine tape and playing it on loop. I pulled the speaker out of the cabinet and caved around it on the floor so I could feel every single vibration. Then, I was presented with ‘Tommy The Musical’ by The Who which had taught me so much about melody. Their melody tends to be on the heavy side (bass-wise) and I was able to understand how singing fit in. It was powerful, explosive and rad.
My mother had gotten so sick of that music going on loop and so she decided to take me to a HMV shop. Six tapes full of Drum and Bass. LTJ Bukem, DJ Zinc, Roni Size… God, I lived! And yeah, Mother regretted that too.
I do remember going to St Paul’s Carnival in Bristol as well as the Ashton Court Festival every year, and since, from a very young age. The explosive sound system on every street, good vibes and the smell of jerk chicken. Bliss.
How was lockdown for you? What were the challenges of being an artist in isolation?
Lockdown was an interesting journey. Before the lockdown, my progress in becoming a DJ was slow because I couldn’t go into it, full-time. Then, it happened and suddenly, I had plenty of time to spare. With the help of two amazing DJs, Barnjem and VIVI (through messaging) I was able to develop further. Though, it had been a head-fuck at times because feeling the music all day and every day can drive you around the bend…
At the end of the day, the lockdowns did help me develop into the DJ I am today. Even though it was a blessing, it was also a curse: I’m not sure if it was worth the tens of thousands of deaths. So, I do feel some guilt.
When did you realise that music was something you wanted to pursue as more than just a hobby?
Music is the number one thing I came to in life. When exposed to it, I realised it’s a tool that is valuable to me. It is my rock, my friend and my counselor. My father often played the drums and he was my role model. My mother also played the piano back in the day, or likes to think she did haha. Music is my voice and it dictates my life. I am truly luck to have come from such a wonderful, musical and supportive family.
Also, I was pushed to learn ballet, tap, jazz and acting from the age of three. All of those are packed with rhythm, emotion and vibrations. I was able to bind everything together and learnt so much about life that way.
The heart beat is still going and there is no avoiding it. I can feel it. I can feel the blood circulating, too. I am a walking radio and the music is my escape from it.
Can you talk us through your process as a deaf DJ?
Sure! So, over the years I have collected music and now my library is looking peachy with just under 5,000 tracks. I go with the flow and fit the tracks together like lego. Though, it was a very difficult start as I was not able to read the thick and colourful waves. Then, Pioneer Rekordbox released the very cool 3form Waves and I was able to follow EVERYTHING! I mean, HOLY SHIT, that thing is actually Deaf accessible!? Holy… And there was I, back on the computer and every single day. Not going to lie, it is affecting our marriage… haha.
I’d go with what feels right and go over the set planned until I know the vibrations by heart.
How does the type of music you play dictate the process?
I play Underground Techno and Breaks. I find it much easier to mix Breaks and I absolutely love it! I found it difficult to detect the commercial kind of techno but I think I have finally found a way to weed it out of the library. Again, 3form waves from Rekordbox has been a god-sent as I am able to translate music through there.
Also, the vibrations are quite important. I don’t really agree with mixing random tracks unless it actually gels together well. It should be a story, rather than a play-about. I am quite snobby over this.
What specific technology is there available for deaf DJs?
Well, there is the most magnificent vibrating tool that has a huge part in enabling me to DJ: SUBPAC. No, it isn’t a vibrating dildo, but an actual vibrating pack. It is the mecca for anyone deaf. Vibrations are the only thing that invades our silent lives and it’s brilliant. I have been extremely lucky to have been given amazing support by them, and still do. They are my fam.
Also, as mentioned above the 3Form waves provided by Rekordbox is like reading the music sheets. This helps us understand what is hiding inside the music so we can use our imaginations and mix them together in the air. I know we feel the music differently to what it is telling you and I guess this makes it more of an adventure.
What is your message to other deaf people who would like to get into DJing?
Do it! There should be no hesitation. My only regret is the barriers have been in front of us forever. I had spent just under twenty years asking (which turned into begging), DJs, tutors and anyone to teach this deaf lad to DJ alas to no avail. I was spiraling into depression and hard. Finally, I had found one last academy to ask and they replied with a date, time and location instantly. I owe London Sound Academy my life for all the valuable tutoring and forever lasting support. They got me the first gigs, keep my chin up high and involved me in their community.
If you, a deaf fella or mella want to DJ, then contact LSA. They got everything you need.
Could you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us?
I was going through some worrying times. A few friends have been in some struggles and I was thinking of them. I wanted to build a set through different layers of emotions and with hopes it’ll help them out a little. If you are reading this: I love you and I’m here for you.
Are there any standout tracks that hold a special significance?
Hard to say, really! My spectrum of techno is absolutely wide and I am not afraid to dabble in them.
What’s on the horizon for the rest of the year?
Well, I am booked in to close a stage at the legendary festival, Body Movement. I am extremely excited to play within the community that I belong to and I am eager to rock their knickers off with my mega mega bass. I hope to play near and far especially for a city soon where I was born and raised: Bristol. And, there is still a burning dream and that is to have my own little nightclub where everything is completely the opposite. Fingers crossed!