Born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother, Farouk Kofi Mensah Omar Amoako Brown had a dream of becoming a pharmacist just like others in his family. Unfortunately, he missed out on that dream by just one mark in his final examinations after three years of studying the sciences at the St. Thomas Aquinas Senior High School.
He gain admission to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) but was offered a different course other than pharmacy. Not one to sulk and cry over spilt milk, he applied to and was admitted into the University of Ghana Business School (UGBS) where he successfully completed undergraduate and graduate programmes in Insurance and Risk Management, respectively.
But today, despite missing out on pharmacy and having certificates and expertise in insurance and risk management, he is now Ghana’s most sought-after Disc Jockey (DJ).
Allow us to introduce the man many know as DJ Vyrusky, or Kofi Amoako, as he sometimes prefers, judging by his social media handles. For him, becoming a DJ was never in the mix, it was a ‘sweet mistake’, as he puts it. One he accepted and honed into an exceptionally successful career.
Hello Mr. DJ
At the age of seven, Kofi Amoako had already begun playing church instruments. He began with playing the drums and by age nine, he was playing the keyboard and bass guitar at the Full Gospel Assemblies of God Church at Achimota Chantan. That was his introduction to music.
By his time in High School, he had mastered playing the keyboard and continued playing it at the University of Ghana where he was a member of the biggest gospel choir at the time, the Chosen Vessels Choir (CVC). It was there that a friend named Rex introduced him to the Virtual DJ – a software used is mixing music – primarily to help him mix gospel music for the choir’s activities.
But that passion to mix gospel music led him to opt to become a stand-in DJ at an event on his floor at the university. As we say, ‘one thing led to another’ and he found himself playing at a number of campus events which helped not only to sharpen his skills but made him give all his attention to the craft which has made him who he is.
“I never took DJing serious, it was a hobby. After school, I was a Teaching Assistance and that helped me to get my Masters’ degree. From there I got a job at Lynx Entertainment as an administrator. I was in charge of putting all their documents together and filling them in a proper manner amongst other duties.
There was drink-up one day at Lynx and a DJ was needed; I opted to DJ and they asked if I was serious about it, I said yes and explained that back on campus, I used to play shows for one of the biggest youth-oriented marketing organisations, Echo House. They believed in me and gave me that opportunity and that was it. I dazzled them and they began to push me as their main DJ for shows,” he said in an interview with the B&FT.
After his time at UGBS, he landed a job at marketing firm, Echo House and was very pleased with what his was doing and was, as a result, not overly enthused about chasing a career in insurance. One of the developments that got him glued to Echo House was not only his remuneration but the vast opportunity it offered him to showcase his craft for a fee.
“At Echo House I was well paid and I also got the opportunity to play many shows. The craft was putting food on the table and I realized that that was a path I wanted to take. So, I gave it my all, I began to look at all the ways I can apply all that I have learnt in school to better the craft and make it something that people can look up to,” he said.
Academic DJ Studies
Amoako disclosed that he has never undertaken any professional or academic programme in DJing. Virtually all he has learnt about the art is from experience and personal studies. His passion was ignited by the likes DJ Black and Calvin Harris; who had shown that the craft was worth the hassle.
“Calvin Harris is making US$72 million a year and that is no joke. I see DJ Black and he is living a comfortable life from afar, so I told myself that this craft is something that holds a lot of promise. I began to study how to brand myself, market myself and also invest in myself.
With the little I was making and the support from my parents I began to invest in equipment, things that would make me a better DJ. I took this as a business and became my own Business Development Manager (BDM). I didn’t treat it as just one of the things I was doing to survive,” he said.
He points out that, amongst the many things that have pushed his brand globally is music production. He says apart from people coming across his mixtapes and getting the opportunity to have shows outside the country, with a recording artist, the greatest way to stamp one’s authority as a DJ globally is to produce music. That is why he has begun his studio and is producing songs.
He indicated that some songs that he has produced with other musicians have really pushed his brand globally: “I had ‘Adwen Fie’ with Kuami Eugene and Shatta Wale; ‘Never De Carry Last’ with Kuami Eugene, Mayorkun and a few other songs. They have really helped to push my brand outside Ghana. The videos are watched in the millions and many of these people are foreigners; the more it goes viral the more attention you get globally.
Playing music is something many people can do but you have to add a lot more to your craft to distinguish yourself. Whether you are a sound engineer, of which I am, and having songs of my own, of which I have, there must be some differentiating factor and every day I think of how to further be different and attract global attention. This is what would attract people to search for you and listen to your mixtapes.”
He added that working with artists is also another big contributor: “Brands like Kidi, MzVee, Shatta Wale, Kuami Eugine have all helped to push my brand locally and globally because if you are their DJ, before they come on stage anywhere in the world you would be given some 10-15 minutes to cheer the crowd and that is when I play ‘You are welcomed to the world of Vyrusky’, big shouts Anita Erskine; and you go on to show off your skills.”
Time on radio
He recalled many of his fond memories working on radio, saying some of his best times was when he worked at Starr Fm. He revealed that his radio job was by chance as well, one that was never planned.
“I was with Echo House when Starr Fm began and we had to come to pitch for a job; when Jeff Sowa, the then Head of Marketing and Events saw me, he said, ‘Yes, Vyrusky is here, make we go see Bola and we went to another floor into Bola Ray’s office’ and boom, he said start playing Club Arena on Saturdays. That was it. I got a job I never planned for.”
Until his departure, Kofi Amoako was the biggest DJ for the EIB Network, the parent group of Starr Fm. He started off with a Saturday Night show called Club Arena and moved on to play the Starr Drive, first with Bola Ray as host and later Giovani Elolo Caleb and Anita Erskine and others before he exited. He eulogised Bola Ray, saying he would be forever grateful for the opportunity that highly contributed to projecting his brand across the country and globally.
Talking and DJing
Throughout his journey on Starr Fm, Kofi Amoako was not known as a talking DJ. All the shows he was on had a presenter and many wondered why he was not talking and DJing, as that trend is gradually catching up.
“I know many people were wondering why I was not talking on radio, some said for the calibre of DJ I was, I should be talking. Yes, I could talk, I am very well educated and talking is something I love to do but I said when I was going into this craft there was a plan to the brand and that was what I followed.
As we speak, I have a show on MX24 where I talk and DJ. It’s something I do when I play in the clubs but I was not doing on radio because it was a plan I was following, now those who are so desperate to hear my sweet voice can watch me on MX24 every Friday evening it is called ‘Early Jam’ and I have another one with Jason and MzDru that is also called MX Beatz.”
When asked if he would do radio again, he said: “Never say never, I have not shelved it entirely, but when I come back it would definitely be my own show, I’m working on other projects now but you never know what the future holds.”
Awards and Recognition
He explained that awards add some reputation to brands but hard work is what must be the pivot. For him, working hard as a DJ and finding avenues to push your brand is what should be the focus and the awards would be complimentary. Already, he has about 28 awards to his name.
“This industry would be forever grateful to Merqury Quaye for the Ghana DJ Awards, if not today, in the near future. It has helped to project a lot of DJs especially in the hinterlands and has given them an opportunity to better their craft and gain more attention.
I am a beneficiary of it and some organisations have come to me because I was named the Overall Best DJ in consecutive years but what I want to say emphatically is that your hard work is what pays. I never begin a year with the aim of getting an award. I just push myself harder than the year before and that is what I hope everyone would do in his or her career.”
He further intimated that the level of recognition for DJs is getting better but can be more enhanced with good branding. “Just to give an example, don’t appear at a wedding ceremony as if you are a waiter, appear like the groom, appear well and master your craft and do well to market yourself, you would be recognized.”
He said he has one ambition, to win a Grammy Award; this is what pushed him to go into music engineering and production.
He believes there is a new wave in the nation’s entertainment industry which calls for a much more academic focus from top institutions. “We are seeing some sort of wave in the entertainment industry today. Hitherto, only adults were recognized in this business, today there are many musicians under 25 years and even some under 20 years.
We have talented kids producing entertainment gems. This should be a wake-up call to our tertiary institutions to create a space to train all these brains, the contribution of the sector to the GDP is more than the GH¢5 billion I hear the Minister of Tourism, Art and Culture talk about but we need to invest in the human resource to get it or else it would remain a talk.
I aim to set up an entertainment college; I love to see people educated. If people begin learning about their passion early, they become bigger faster. If I had started learning about this early, I would have been bigger than what I am today.”
He has set up the Believe Project, which seeks to give back to society and ensure that his community and world become a better place. The name ‘BELIEVE’ was arrived at after he assessed his life and realized that he is a product of belief.
He said all the organisations he has worked with have shown a high level of belief in him; helping him to come this far. As a result, he set up the Believe Project as a reflection of his belief in the talents of others and to make dreams come true.
Already they have invested in some recording artists, with Lennon of ‘Mona Mo Bl3’ fame being the first. Also, under the Believe Project some philanthropic gestures have been made to some people including the man in Oda whose expression ‘Mona Mo Bl3’ was popular on social media. “We visited him and he told us he wants to be a carpenter; we are working to make that dream come true,” he said.
Amoako believes many artists who are, in a way, out of touch today can attribute a bit of their predicament to not duly acknowledging their fan base. For him, some of them cannot be blamed entirely because at their peak, social media was not what it is today to help sustain fan base.
For him, it is important that in today’s world, an entertainer constantly touches base with your fans and followers. He noted that it is important that you interact with them regularly and remind them of who you are, the talent for which they love you and how your carrier is progressing.
“It would be an abomination to sit a week without tweeting or posting something on social media. If for nothing, just share your schedule or say something about a trending issue, give and opinion, post a picture of something, because, the more your page is dull, the more your fans become dull. I say let’s learn from Shatta Wale,” he said.
He acknowledged many people who played key roles in developing his craft: “I want to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who has helped me one way another to develop this craft. I want to make a special mention of Marian, my godmother of Letshego, and Gizo of BTL, an advertising and marketing company.
Also, Lynx Entertainment with special mention of Richie, Albert, Angie, James, Michael and others; Echo House specifically Hulion, Beryl, Bright, Kofi Agyekum and others. Starr Fm: Jeff Sowa, Bola Ray; Shatta Wale also believed in me. I am a product of belief and I continue to believe in others.”
Credit: B&FT Online