Music

Finance graduate behind Burna Boy, Wiz Kid music

DJJuls

DJ Juls British Ghanaian African Afrobeats producer. PHOTO | POOL

Summary

  • DJ Juls was on his first trip to Kenya last weekend to play a set with Kenyan DJ and Producer Blinky Bill.
  • DJ Juls has been experimenting with amapiano and even released an EP “Happy Place” with lots of influence of the genre.

A decade ago, Julian Nicco Annan was studying for his Master’s degree in Finance at the University of Surrey in the UK and he would spend any spare time in a nearby studio meeting artistes and creating beats.

“When you go home and tell your parents that you want to be a DJ and they are looking at you like ‘what the hell is wrong with you,” says the self-described lover of mathematics, now known as DJ Juls.

The release of his first EP “Leap of Faith” in 2017 changed the tide for the Ghanaian DJ, producer, artiste who was born and raised in London. His career path took him from an investment banker in London’s financial district to one of the hottest Afrobeats producers in the world creating hit songs for the likes of Wizkid, Burna Boy, and Mr Eazi.

DJ Juls who was on his first trip to Kenya last weekend to play a set with Kenyan DJ and Producer Blinky Bill was also keen to discover the contemporary sounds that are popular in the country at the moment.

“Kenyan music is very eclectic because the artistes that I have listened to like Sauti Sol and Victoria Kimani mix different genres so I am looking forward to bridging the gap between your sound and what I already have,” he said. He hopes that he can add as much Kenyan music to his DJ sets and the playlists of his radio show on one of London’s leading radio stations Kiss FM. Among the highlights of his career as an artiste, DJ, a producer was the work with Nigerian star Mr. Eazi in 2015- 2016 on hits like “Bankulize” that changed Afrobeats style by slowing down the tempo and everyone jumped on the sound.

The doors opened after the work with Mr. Eazi, and he was soon meeting his idols like Drake, and Lauryn Hill, producing for American rappers Goldlink and Tyler the Creator. DJ Juls has been exploring music from around Africa. He went on a trip to South Africa last year just before the pandemic struck and fell in love with the phenomenon of the country's new house music sound known as amapiano.

Lately, DJ Juls has been experimenting with amapiano and even released an EP “Happy Place” with lots of influence of the genre. “The sound starts with soft mellow drums and at 110-115 beats per minute, it is much slower than the typical house music tempo but the mood gradually builds up,” he says.

The effect of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown means that he has been stuck in his London studio playing music that reminds him of the “homeland” and performing live sessions on Instagram and YouTube.

DJ Juls says that although the world has branded all music by African artistes as Afrobeats, a better term would be Afropop because that encompasses all forms of popular music from whatever corner of the continent.

“The way a Congolese plays guitar is different from the style of a Ghanaian so if you are merging the Congolese guitar with a fuji (Nigerian) drum pattern, complemented with a piano played in the South African style, then people from different nationalities will hear something they can relate to.”

While Nigeria acts have been at the forefront of Afropop with the success of Wizkid, Burna Boy and Davido, DJ Juls feels that time is ripe for other African artistes to shine.

“A lot of African artistes are now aware of the business aspect of royalties, splits, streaming. Now they know that you can make multiple income streams like merchandise, brand activations so people are getting a lot more clued up and educating themselves about these things and many of them have good management connecting them to such opportunities,” he says.