DTroy John is a renowned keyboardist, a real virtuoso whose live and impromptu sets are highly sought after by musicians to spice up their performances. With a keen sense of timing during improvs, DTroy has played with a variety of artists across genres such as Hip Hop, Jazz, Folk, Pop, Gospel and R&B. He is the go-to musician to play for international acts such as Sfiso Ncwane, MXO and Tuks Senganga when they are in the country. He has collaborated with home-grown acts such as Skizo, Team Distant, Raul Bryan, Chrispin and Fondo Fire to name a few.
The keyboardist is a session musician as well, assisting musicians to lay foundations of what is to be their individual creative expressions to the world. At the moment he honours dates countrywide performing with arguably the most talented and booked artist in Botswana right now, ATI. In 2017 DTroy decided to step in front of the mic and create music in his own capacity as a recording artist. Since then two well-received singles have been released to pre-date a full-length album. Session musicians and instrumentalists struggle for fair wages, appreciation by both the public and the industry, and non-exploitative treatment therefore we had a word with a man who is working in that space.
- Where did you journey in music begin?
I started learning how to play keyboard at the age of 10 years in church. Soul in general including RnB, Hip Hop, Smooth Jazz and House music in all its sub-categories influenced my taste in music these days. In short every music that has that Soul feel in it.
- When did you realize that you are good at what you do?
[Laughs] I don’t even think I’m good at all I’d just say I’ve been in the background for a long time and now that I’m trying to break outta ma box, I’m trying to fuse all I know and experienced to reach a higher level.
- You’ve played with a range of artists from different genres as part of their bands. Which is the most memorable trip?
I have been to Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa and Japan.
Tokyo, Japan where I bought my baby, my first personal keyboard was the most memorable. It was one hell of an experience!
- Apart from live shows, you have also done some in-studio work. You were part of several big hits in the past 3 years. SIDENOTE: DTroy John played keys along with bassist Gomotsegang Rapoo on Sedi Laaka, a song that was a joint effort by Afro-House band Team Distant and Crispin the Drummer with Han-C on vocals.
I’ve worked on a lotta artist’s music in the region but I can’t really point out which was a hit unless you had that one in mind and it’s an honour to work with such great producers and artists.
- That song was controversial because of the way it was rolled out and the fight for it by the artists involved. How much industry politics is involved behind the scenes and how do you deal with it?
You know I been through a lot in the industry, let’s just say I don’t involve myself with controversy, it’s not in the books I read or I’m writing. My advice or what I could say about industry politics is forget about it, your focus should be to make great music and be great. Be bigger than all the politics, sabotage, you name it! Me personally, I don’t have time for such honestly.
- Overall, would you say instrumentalists in Botswana are respected in terms of valuation, payment for sessions and shows, royalties etc?
No Sir! They are not respected, not even paid what they’re worth! I’ll know about royalties through production done fully by SoulFactory which is my stable, and maybe my [recorded] music. Studio sessions are always negotiated as well. Gigs are stressful! Sometimes I feel like we’re the ones being too open for everyone to exploit because you find yourself sometimes having challenges where you end up settling for small pay and sometimes it’s, “no, when the money comes in I’ll pay you nicely,” and then that’s the end of the conversation.
- In your view, what makes a good artist?
I think that’s an artist that’s true to themselves, someone who expresses their true self through music in all professions of music. It’s someone who connects to people’s souls you know, since I’m so much of a soul person.
- Tell us about your latest project?
I’m excited and shaking in ma boots at the same time. This project I’m working on is an album titled African Chant that contains how I feel, which expresses more of my resemblance, what I believe in, and what I hope to see more of. The artists I worked with on this album are Bonnie Fisher, Pesalema, Sharon Sibonge, Eugene Jackson, Zeus, J Tyriq and more. I believe in and respect them and their craft. I worked with most of them, if not all, for a quite a long time you know, and I specifically chose which song to feature who on looking at how I actually feel about them and their craft. I use feeling most of the time, especially when it comes to music.
- How do you feel about the current state of the Botswana entertainment industry?
I wouldn’t go much into details about the industry and what needs to change. I mean first thing you gotta do if you want a situation to change is to change yourself first. I’m just glad that were starting to have the new generation coming out ke utwa ke tshoga tota. I’m happy that this happens while I’m active [laughs]. I’ve been waiting for these youngsters man, they give me hope that someday you can just tell your children to do music in our country if they feel like it. For now let’s just say I’m fighting for a change in the title I hold.
- What can we expect from you in the couple of years to come?
I’d like to see a Motswana artist prosper internationally for what they’re really worth. God willing I’ll be able to work and collaborate with artists from all over Africa. It’s practically the reason I named my project African Chant. But time is all we got right?
Dtroy John’s new single “Tosakana” featuring Sharon Sibongile is out on streaming platforms.