At an event held at Nairobi’s Sarit Centre to celebrate Homeboyz Entertainment’s late 2020 listing on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), attendees were pleasantly surprised when co-founder and CEO Myke Rabar took to the decks and began scratching away.
Nowadays, the long serving CEO is largely seen as a corporate figure thanks to his record helping grow the sports and entertainment industries in Kenya, as well as various state appointments and national honors. That wasn’t always the case, however. Before Homeboyz had multiple divisions for events, animation, eSports, media and more, it was simply a Deejay unit led by Rabar.
They played house parties, weddings and other small gigs, and distributed tapes of their mixes to matatus across Nairobi. Mixing at Sarit Centre to celebrate the firm’s listing on the bourse, it was clear that Rabar hadn’t lost his touch as he attracted dignitaries including Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed to the dance-floor.
His younger brother John Rabar, who is also heavily involved with the business, is regarded as one of the country’s top Deejays.
So how exactly did the deejay brothers go on to build an entertainment empire? An interview with one of their earliest employees, events and marketing guru Fakii Liwali, offered interesting insights on the behind-the-scenes work that went into growing the operation to what it is today.
Liwali spoke to Richard Njau of Cleaning The Airwaves (CTA), touching on his time working with the brothers and the lessons he picked up from them. Liwali described Myke Rabar as a visionary who was constantly focused on taking Homeboyz to the next level by exploring new opportunities.
The concept of a deejay unit in itself was in the 90’s considered a novelty in Kenya, but it allowed Homeboyz to generate income from as many as 10 gigs per weekend. By having multiple DJs on their roster, they could assign DJs to different events. The concept was eventually replicated by several other Deejay units that ventured into the market.
At the turn of the millennium, in 2000, things had started to look up for Homeboyz as it had established itself as one of the most culturally relevant youth brands – complete with much sought-after merchandise and DJs playing at many of the hottest events.
As Liwali revealed, as the Homeboyz brand grew the firm began pursuing lucrative corporate partnerships and sponsorships driven by new ideas and concepts by Myke.
For instance, Myke Rabar came up with the idea of a national DJ competition several years before establishing the Homeboyz Deejaying and Music Production Academy. He even came up with the name Stylus DJ Championships.
They approached Coca Cola, who through their Sprite brand became title sponsors for the first ever Sprite Stylus DJ Championships. The competition visited all regions across Kenya, picking 8 regional champions who then came to battle it out at a final event in Nairobi starring top international DJ’s.
Fakii noted that while he did not realize it at the time, the DJ championships were something of a feasibility study for Myke Rabar, who a few years later went searching for a space along Industrial Area to set up a Deejay academy complete with classes and an in-house club.
Emphasizing the strength of strong relationships, the academy was initially supported and branded by Sprite who had sponsored the DJ championships. Rabar developed the course with Kevin Mulei, who went on to become the mogul behind Mo Sound Events, NRG Radio and Groove Awards.
Other big names who passed through Homeboyz include DJ Stylez, who began performing at Homeboyz events before setting up his own stable known as Code Red.
They set up a recording studio where one of the earliest producers was Musyoka – currently the boss at Decimal Records and arguably one of Kenya’s greatest ever music producers.
With the recording studio, the company began pursuing corporate advertising deals after realizing there was money to be made.
Liwali disclosed how after pitching to Coca Cola to create four jingles, they were unsure of what to charge due to inexperience and were angling for Ksh50,000 – only for the ad agency to pay them over Ksh400,000 in line with their budget for the campaign.
Homeboyz grew from strength to strength by constantly expanding and venturing into new spaces.
The music technology academy, once opened, became the go-to academy for young Kenyans looking to get into music production and Deejaying.
Homeboyz Radio was established and went on to become a leading station for the urban youth demographic. Radio Africa Group (RAG) acquired a controlling stake in the station in 2018.
Homeboyz currently includes six audio recording studios, two TV production facilities, an events management division, a rugby club, a full audio-visual rental and maintenance department and the Music Technology academy. Some of its major clients include State House and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).
Watch Liwali speak on his time at Homeboyz below: