At the University of Nicosia, Cyprus, Dr. Michael Hajimichael is an Associate Professor and Head of Department of Communications. However, outside the lecture halls, DJ Haji Mike, as he is known in the entertainment circles, is an accomplished Deejay, poet and singer-song writer with 40 years in the trade. As a deejay, he is passionate about reggae music but dabbles in other genres as well. I caught up with him on academia, entertainment, the global COVI-D 19 pandemic and why he can’t ‘stop’ reggae.
Tell us about yourself
I am a DJ/Poet/singer-songwriter. I teach at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus, in the Communications Department.
You have been a deejay for 40 years now. How did you venture into this field?
I started deejaying when I was at the University of Essex, UK, from about 1980. Deejaying had two tracks; the live work, gigs, clubs, events, concerts and radio based work. It’s been a good innings 40 years on the decks and I still get that buzz every time I play.
Deejaying and academics. How did you find yourself in the corridors of academia?
That came about after I finished my PhD in 1997. I started teaching part time at a local college. While it was not planned, I always wanted to get into teaching, and journalism from back in school. I have done both and settled more for teaching. I enjoy journalism, particularly when it’s been about music. I never really worked in frontline/fulltime journalism, instead preferring combining freelancing with deejaying.
How long have you been in academia?
I have been at the University of Nicosia (formerly Intercollege) from about 1997/98 till now. I came into the department of Communications as the youngest member – now I am the oldest! I like teaching about Media, theoretically and creatively, particularly radio.
How do you juggle academia and your radio passion?
With some difficulty. Radio is my passion, just like music, so it tends to take up a lot of my free time outside of work and the home/family environment. Academia is obviously a lot more demanding during term time. I find time for both because I enjoy being an academic and creative practitioner. It’s always important for academics to be grounded in the real world and that’s crucial when you teach media subjects.
Deejaying is a very dynamic field. What are the trends you have observed in over the past four decades?
Well, it has changed a lot with the shift from vinyl/analogue to digital Mp3’s controllers. I am all for technology and change. It’s needed. However, one drawback is too may DJ’s with a laptop and a minijack connection just plug into iTunes, Spotify and Media Player and hit playlist. That’s not deejaying. I see it a bit like saying you are a photographer and you have never touched a camera physically.
Tell us more about your Outernational Radio Show. What was the inspiration behind it?
Reggae inspired me from day 1 in 1980. I always liked the idea of Reggae from all over the world, with Jamaica as the source. I remember hearing Alpha Blondy in the 1980s and feeling stunned. The show has been going from the 90s on different stations, too many too list, as I have been on a lot and in different countries.
At one point about 6 stations around the world picked it up. From about 5 years ago, through my mate Gibsy Rhodes, I got more into Internet radio, which is totally different. Recently we started our own station in Cyprus called Blind Dog Media Radio. We play all kinds of music. I manage the station. Its currently in Beta Mode you can tune in here http://whooshserver.net:8227/live
What music genres do you specialize in?
Mainly Roost Reggae, Dub, Lovers Rock and Dancehall.
You seem to have a soft spot for reggae music. Why is this the case?
I grew up in London in the 1970s and 80’s totally immersed in Reggae. It’s music that speaks to me about the world, people’s struggles for survival and liberation form oppression.
You are broadcasting to a global audience. How do you anticipate their tastes and preferences and serve them what they want?
On radio I never have a ‘serve them what they want’ approach because that’s what everyone else is doing, being tied to the mixing desk, phones and messages online. I like to think innovatively, finding things that people don’t find or don’t play and respecting the foundations to the core by playing vintage and new roots music from Jamaica.
What does it take to be successful deejay?
Just be original and creative. Use the tools don’t let the tools use you and more than anything, enjoy doing it. If it ever gets boring, jack it in and stick to cooking and gardening.
Your students must be quite fascinated by their DJ lecturer. What sentiments do you often get from them?
I am not sure really. It certainly brings a different vibe to classes when deejaying is taught as part of say a Radio Curriculum. A lot of my students come to the gigs as well; particularly when I am live streaming from a venue or event. They like to see how it works in practice.
The COVID-19 has seriously impacted all sectors globally, including entertainment. As a deejay, how are you navigating the prevailing situation?
Well as a DJ I did no gigs form late February, my first one is next week. I recorded my radio shows from home on a laptop with a mic and soundcard, as the studio was closed for two months. I stayed away from the FB live, which a lot of people were doing.
I see it as pointless sitting in front of a camera and calling it radio, when most people on it stay in for 3-5 minutes and then Facebook takes you down for copyright issues, which is the biggest joke. Am not a big fan of webcams on radio, been there, seen it, done it, for me it’s just vanity.
How is the situation in Cyprus?
Relatively speaking we are one of the top 10 safest places in the world. Being a small place, with less than 1 million population, things are much more manageable. It’s been hard, with the lockdown. We did a song about it. ‘Dounia Felek’ I’d say that speaks for itself on how things were check it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1jBC4_82GM
As an academic, do you think the global community has done enough in response to the pandemic?
Too many experts not enough solutions. There are too many people contradicting each other. Academics, and more so politicians need to get their facts right.
Is there anything else you think should be done to accelerate the fight against the pandemic?
More unity less nationalism. The world needs to come together on this as one.
Are their specific lessons you have learnt during this COVID-19 crisis, be it in the academia or the deejaying field?
Academically, I learned to teach online. Hard at first but in the end, it worked out. For deejaying, you just have to be patient until things open up again, and try your best to maintain a presence with sharing mixes and shows online.
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