DJ Juls is a big star on the African music scene producing numerous hits in Nigeria with his unique, minimalist style of Afrobeat music.
Born in London to Ghanaian immigrants, the DJ producer sees a big future for the music genre – described as a hybrid of dance, soul, reggae and African music – that would include headlining US music festival Coachella and Grammy awards.
He believes this mix of genres is the reason why it has been accepted by so many different people and why it “can only get bigger”.
As the genre rises in popularity, DJ Juls hopes this will empower young African immigrants to be more confident in their skin.
And empowering aspiring young Australian music stars – many of whom are children of refugees – is what DJ Juls was invited to do during a visit to The Street University in the south-west Sydney suburb of Liverpool.
The school uses the creative arts and life skills to help turn around the lives of the students, some of whom have been in juvenile detention or struggled with anxiety and depression.
“What I like about music, it helps me get through my dark times, I was going through a lot, I suffer from depression and anxiety so music was my way of finding my way out of it, now I write music to help people through that,” one of the students told SBS News.
DJ Juls says he was more than impressed with the talent shown during his visit.
“There’s a lot of talent at the organisation, a lot of stars that can be born from that place, you know a lot of them are learning, I feel they’re all in the right direction… their music was dope,” DJ Juls told SBS News while in Australia for a short promotional tour.
“It was good to connect with them,” he said.
He also didn’t rule out potential collaborations with some of the students in the future.
“I am always open to collaborating, but it just has to make sense and it has to be really dope music as well so we can push it to the world,” he said.
Taking on racism
Much of the music DJ Juls has produced has focused on the themes of romantic love and “party vibes” but he has a much bigger focus now.
“The new projects that I am trying to work on now are more of positive messages with regards to being very confident in your own skin, specifically for black people, there are a lot of people, especially black people who are not confident in their own skin and start to bleach, we are trying to not let that happen.”
Like Fela Coutie, the pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre and Nigerian human rights activist, DJ Juls also wants to tackle racism through his art.
“His (Coutie) music was real and he was an activist and spoke the truth through his music; a lot of the things he spoke about were truth in regards to politics and the government and how the colonists came to our land (and) tried to take what was ours.. he got into trouble a lot whilst he did those things but he was still very vocal,” he said.
“But I am not trying to make it too serious, because if it is too serious people tend not to take the message in quite well so there are ways to go around the music and making it a feel-good song,” he added.