Spin. Set. Record: Global DJ Obi
On the 21st of June, 2016, Obinna Levi Ajuonuma a.k.a DJ Obi announced he was going to break the Guinness World Record for Longest Marathon Club DJing. The previous record of 200 hours was set by Polish DJ Norbert Selmaj a.k.a Norberto Loco, at the Underground temple bar in Dublin, Ireland. To set the record, DJ Norbert Selmaj played from 19th to the 27th of November 2014. When DJ Obi announced he would be attempting to break this record, all hell broke loose. The country was spilt into three sets of people; the ones who believed he could do it, the ones who said he would back out and the ones who claimed to be indifferent. They would eat their words and flood the Sao Café on the 29th and 30th of June as he broke the previous record and set a new record by playing for 229 hours and 58 minutes, beginning at 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 22nd and ending at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 2nd, 2016. Due to medical advisement he didn’t set the 240-hour record he aimed for.
According to the rules, DJ Obi was allowed a five-minute break every hour, had to have someone dancing at all times, and could not repeat a song within four hours of playing it. He was also allowed daily medical checks and massages, and vitamin doses.
Finding strength in his late father, the late Dr. Levi Chibuike Ajuonuma, former host and executive producer of the ‘The Sunday Show’, among others, on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Obi lived true to his social media mantra #GLOBALDJOBI. Of course, resilience and a supportive crowd played a major role in this incredible achievement as well.
What inspired you to attempt to break the record?
I was tired of introducing myself to people (laughs) and I needed the perfect PR plan that would enable me not need to introduce myself(laughing). Honestly, it was one of the things that sparked it. Aside from that I use this global DJ hashtag on social media and I needed to embody this thing. In praying, thinking and talking about it, the idea came up to go for the Guinness World Record. I found out that there was a World Record for longest DJ set, so I thought I would give it a shot. I initially thought it was 4 days until I did my research and found out the previous record was 8 days. I decided to do 10 days since I celebrated 10 years as a DJ December last year.
What was the reaction when you told people you were going to do this?
They didn’t believe me. They listened to me, but they didn’t take it seriously until it started happening. The extent to which they didn’t believe me was that some people actually forgot that I mentioned it until they saw it happening. Except for my family who believed in me and always supported me.
While attempting to break the old record and set a new one, we know you had some physical challenges like exhaustion and having hallucinations, none of which could have been easy. What mental challenges did you face?
I am not a morning person. In the mornings I like to sit down and reflect, even when I am awake. I like to sit down at home, relaxing and reflecting on what I did and what I can do better. During the marathon I kept thinking that I was crazy, like ‘What was I thinking about?’, “Why did I sign up for this”, “This is difficult” “Who am I trying to impress?’. I was going through the emotions of ‘Why am I doing this’ because I was exhausted. I almost gave up a couple of times but thank God for the energy and support that people were showing. I didn’t cry but I felt like it at some point. I got really tired at some point because I was awake but my body and mind were doing two different things. At certain times, I didn’t even know where I was, those were the kinds of mental challenges I faced.
What was your drive during the 10-day marathon?
The motivation to continue came from people that came to support. A lot of people were using my dad, who has passed, as a reference point, saying, “He would be proud, don’t stop”. That was really strong motivation for me. If you see pictures from where I was playing, there was a wall with different legends, most of them are dead, but just sometimes looking at those pictures kept me going because it felt like I was in the presence of greatness. Seeing family and friends kept me going, and making new friends and seeing a lot of people happy as well. Also discovering my music library, as a DJ you may never get to go through your music library but in those 10 days I got to know every song, that kept me going as well.
How did it make you feel to see many people come out to support you?
I didn’t expect it. That was the one thing I didn’t expect from this whole thing. Like I said, people weren’t taking me seriously. I thought I would have to beg a lot of people to come. But after I posted the video of the first day, it went viral. The first night Don Jazzy came with my cousin DJ Big N and that made me know that people were paying attention. There was a crowd of people the first day and it just kept on getting bigger. The love and support was amazing, I felt very appreciated and I haven’t felt like that in a minute so it was good.
According to the rules, you weren’t allowed to repeat any song in a four-hour timeframe. What was your thought process during song selection?
What I was doing beforehand was downloading folders of music. Instead of downloading track by track, I was downloading specific genres like deep house, South African house or vocal house and instead of downloading tracks I would look for a folder of 200 or 1000 songs. When I added those to what I already had, I didn’t even have to repeat songs.
What impact do you hope this would have in Nigeria’s music industry internationally?
I just hope that people will be able to now sit down and think outside the box; dream big, take on those dreams, and live them. A lot of people in the music and entertainment industry like to be people that have already been there. They want to be the Wizkids and the Davidos. In the movie industry, they want to be like the Genevieves or RMD. Come out and do you. If you come up with a crazy plan, a lot of people will think you are crazy, like they thought I was but some people would support you. You are going to get those reactions, so just dream big and achieve it. Don’t wait around for people because one of the things I realized living in Nigeria, especially in the entertainment industry, is that certain people want you to go through them for you to make it. That shouldn’t be your story. You should be able to do what you want to do and those people should come and meet you for them to feel like they made it.
What can we expect from you now?
Global greatness. Yesterday, I think the news just hit the international scene – especially the non-English parts – and I began to get mentions on Twitter and Instagram from different magazines and blogs speaking about it in different languages. It is doing what we wanted; giving us the global recognition and it is working so expect DJ Obi around the world. That global DJ hashtag, I can comfortably use it now.
What projects can we expect from you after this?
I am working on a lot of projects. I was actually working on the Guinness thing since August last year. I like to work in secrecy. l like to keep things I’m working on quiet until I am sure it’s going to work and then talk about it when I know I’ve got it. I am working on a lot of projects but I’m going to wait until I am sure about them before I can discuss and put them out there.
Advice to young people who look up to you?
If you are reading this right now be inspired, be great, put God first. I know it sounds like a cliché but it actually works. When you hear a lot of successful people talking about ‘put God first and be great’ it does work. So if you follow that formula you would be great. Wait for your time and don’t rush anything, be very patient. Timing makes a lot of things work in your favor. If you rush it then you might mess it up, if it comes too early, you might not be able to handle it. So wait for your time and keep praying. Dream big and achieve your dreams and (laughs) definitely follow DJ Obi on Instagram and Twitter @DJOBIENT
Photography: Kola Oshalusi
Styling: Henry Uduku
Outfits from DJ Obi’s wardrobe.