The DIOP Circle V.32

February 16th, 2020


Kamau Grantham

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, it's Kamau Grantham. Our 442nd customer, he swears by our Bebop bandana. And he's going to share how music empowers us to take better care of ourselves.

I work as a clinical psychologist however my real passion is music and I’ve been deejaying since 1988.

Music has the power of both making people feel good and bringing people together. When I was growing up, records were the primary way of listening to music. My Dad had an extensive record collection and played music all the time: Patti LaBelle, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Stephanie Mills, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Donny Hathaway. Soul music was the real foundation of my musical exposure.

I was always fascinated by DJs growing up. I’d go to dances when I was a teenager and just stand by the DJ both and watch all night. And then in the 1980s, we had movies like Beat Street and Krush Groove that portrayed how fundamental DJs were to culture. In the early 80’s MTV was really blowing up.

You’d see many types of music and be properly introduced to acts like The Police, Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, The Thompson Twins, Adam Ant, and Thomas Dolby to name a few,. It made all music hot- it didn’t matter where it was from. If it’s good, it’s good. And if it speaks to me, I like it.

When I got to college, one of my friends had an extra DJ mixer, so he gave it to me. Of course, from there it seemed logical to get another turntable. Once I had one, another one of my friends, DJ Reese, really mentored me on how to DJ. Becoming a DJ professionally was not really a consideration twenty or thirty years ago. It was hard to make a living doing so. Mixing was just something I did on the side for fun- my way of taking care of myself and relaxing. I never thought of it as a path to somewhere; just something I enjoy doing.

I lived in New York City for 19 years. Club nights were an integral part of my life; too many places to name from Body & Soul, The Shelter, The Afterlife, Dance Ritual, Sound Factory Bar, the Tea Party to parties in Fort Greene Park and the Boardwalk on Coney Island. I have always listened to all types of music but house music is my genre of choice because it speaks to my soul.

When I moved to Illinois with my family, I wanted to recreate things I loved in the city, particularly dance parties in the park. I brainstormed with some folks here in town and they helped me locate some spaces and collaborations. Along the way I met Terrence Tevenson, and he then brought Mikki Johnson on board and we started a party called Dance Music Therapy.

The idea was to create a space for the community to come to listen to soulful music, and enjoy each other’s company, and build community. We have partnered with the Urbana Park district, who are our co-sponsors, and we are going on our fourth year. Our events are monthly, from May through October. Our events are free and open to everyone.

Anytime you do something creative with other people, you learn from them. With Terrence and Mikki, I always learn something new when they play- either a song I have never heard or a DJ skill they have. Sometimes they do something and I think I have to step up my game. It keeps me on my toes. At the same time, we’re each other’s biggest fans. And that makes me feel good as a musician. Having two other partners who share a similar vision is validating and helps you feel good as a musician.

It feels gratifying to have people come to the event and share how much they appreciate it. We do it in our free time. My favorite part is that I get to play music that I like and share it with others. I play music that moves me. When other people move to it is an incomparable feeling. And to build community through it is even better.

Luckily, the only real hard part of deejaying sometimes is setting up. When we play in the park there is some effort that goes into getting the party ready: From the tents and tables to speakers and wires, putting everything together isn’t very sexy. But it’s crucial to doing the things we enjoy. With music, you can relax and release the stress. Songs make us feel good and bad but you still lose yourself in the music, which is powerful. As a DJ, I’m able to take people on a journey, even if only for a little bit.

It’s important to take care of yourself emotionally. Don’t apologize for it. Sometimes we have to set limits with other people and create space to rest or do what we like to do. Often we feel guilty when we make time for self-care. I encourage you to take a step back and reflect on what allows you to find peace.


The DIOP Circle V.32

February 16th, 2020


Kamau Grantham

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, it's Kamau Grantham. Our 442nd customer, he swears by our Bebop bandana. And he's going to share how music empowers us to take better care of ourselves.

I work as a clinical psychologist however my real passion is music and I’ve been deejaying since 1988.

Music has the power of both making people feel good and bringing people together. When I was growing up, records were the primary way of listening to music. My Dad had an extensive record collection and played music all the time: Patti LaBelle, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Stephanie Mills, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Donny Hathaway. Soul music was the real foundation of my musical exposure.

I was always fascinated by DJs growing up. I’d go to dances when I was a teenager and just stand by the DJ both and watch all night. And then in the 1980s, we had movies like Beat Street and Krush Groove that portrayed how fundamental DJs were to culture. In the early 80’s MTV was really blowing up. You’d see many types of music and be properly introduced to acts like The Police, Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, The Thompson Twins, Adam Ant, and Thomas Dolby to name a few,. It made all music hot- it didn’t matter where it was from. If it’s good, it’s good. And if it speaks to me, I like it.

When I got to college, one of my friends had an extra DJ mixer, so he gave it to me. Of course, from there it seemed logical to get another turntable. Once I had one, another one of my friends, DJ Reese, really mentored me on how to DJ. Becoming a DJ professionally was not really a consideration twenty or thirty years ago. It was hard to make a living doing so. Mixing was just something I did on the side for fun- my way of taking care of myself and relaxing. I never thought of it as a path to somewhere; just something I enjoy doing.

I lived in New York City for 19 years. Club nights were an integral part of my life; too many places to name from Body & Soul, The Shelter, The Afterlife, Dance Ritual, Sound Factory Bar, the Tea Party to parties in Fort Greene Park and the Boardwalk on Coney Island. I have always listened to all types of music but house music is my genre of choice because it speaks to my soul.

When I moved to Illinois with my family, I wanted to recreate things I loved in the city, particularly dance parties in the park. I brainstormed with some folks here in town and they helped me locate some spaces and collaborations. Along the way I met Terrence Tevenson, and he then brought Mikki Johnson on board and we started a party called Dance Music Therapy.

The idea was to create a space for the community to come to listen to soulful music, and enjoy each other’s company, and build community. We have partnered with the Urbana Park district, who are our co-sponsors, and we are going on our fourth year. Our events are monthly, from May through October. Our events are free and open to everyone.

Anytime you do something creative with other people, you learn from them. With Terrence and Mikki, I always learn something new when they play- either a song I have never heard or a DJ skill they have. Sometimes they do something and I think I have to step up my game. It keeps me on my toes. At the same time, we’re each other’s biggest fans. And that makes me feel good as a musician. Having two other partners who share a similar vision is validating and helps you feel good as a musician.

It feels gratifying to have people come to the event and share how much they appreciate it. We do it in our free time. My favorite part is that I get to play music that I like and share it with others. I play music that moves me. When other people move to it is an incomparable feeling. And to build community through it is even better.

Luckily, the only real hard part of deejaying sometimes is setting up. When we play in the park there is some effort that goes into getting the party ready: From the tents and tables to speakers and wires, putting everything together isn’t very sexy. But it’s crucial to doing the things we enjoy. With music, you can relax and release the stress. Songs make us feel good and bad but you still lose yourself in the music, which is powerful. As a DJ, I’m able to take people on a journey, even if only for a little bit.

It’s important to take care of yourself emotionally. Don’t apologize for it. Sometimes we have to set limits with other people and create space to rest or do what we like to do. Often we feel guilty when we make time for self-care. I encourage you to take a step back and reflect on what allows you to find peace.


Kamau Grantham

Follow Kamau Grantham on Instagram @kamaumau and check out his Mixcloud here (link)

Follow Dance Music Therapy on Instagram @dancemusictherapy2 and on Facebook here (link)

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.


- Kamau Grantham


Follow Kamau Grantham on Instagram @kamaumau and check out his Mixcloud here (link)

Follow Dance Music Therapy on Instagram @dancemusictherapy2 and on Facebook here (link)

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.