Mohamed Moretta started DJing before it was cool, back in the 70’s, but no matter when you were born – the 60’s, 70’s or 90’s, even the naughties, you will know his music for sure. He worked with legendary Grammy winners Kool & The Gang by creating their very first 12 inch record of the massive hit ‘Get Down on It’ in the 80’s and he also claimed to have written the latest dance hit “Gotta Let You Go” currently climbing the charts. Mohamed recently played in Phuket and RL were lucky enough to have a chance to talk to the legendary musician.
Could you please introduce yourself to those who are not familiar with your music?
You definitely know my music. I was an international DJ before the internet era. And therefore when I came out of retirement to do music again, my manager, who became my wife, decided that I was not going to compete on that level – to try and get a bunch of facebook likes. It’s important but what’s most important is the content of what you do, the quality of music and what you bring.
How did you start your career in DJing?
I’ve been a professional DJ on the radio for 42 years. I started in the nightclubs in 1977 and I made my first record in 1982. It was a remix of a famous song by Kool & The Gang called ‘Get down on it’, which the whole world knows. When I came back into the music business with Olfa (my manager- wife) we decided to go back to my roots. So this time around I reproduced the record and I’m the lead vocalist. I am the one that’s singing ‘Get down on it’. It’s a version where we take the classic that you know and love and mix it with the sound of today. We made it relatable to the younger generation without alienating the original fans. I also perform my own version of “Celebration” The only song ever recorded that is actually more popular than ‘Happy birthday’. It was just inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Jay-Z, Beyonce, Beatles, Rolling Stones – none of them have a song that is more popular than ‘Happy Birthday’. So Olfa, I and Robert ‘Kool’ Bell, who is the original founder and creator of the group Kool & The Gang and his wife Sakinah , created a partnership in the concept called ’Just Kool’ We do the Official K&TG After Parties around the world. The word Cool is something that everybody knows.. But Kool spelled with K belongs to Bell, he is the only person on Earth that has that name. So our business together ‘Just Kool’ is based on leveraging his popularity and the brand Kool & The Gang while creating ancillary products such as Le Kool Champagne and Ladies Night Perfume. The ‘ Just Kool’ Parties are just a calling card!
But you reproduce all these well-known hits, right?
I produce new originals as well as Classics For example, I have my own version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Rock with you’ that you’ve never heard as well as Classics from many other well known Artists so during my set I take people on a musical journey, five generations of music – 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s and today. But it’s not a mash up, I dislike that word. Mash up is the worst word ever! What I do is play the music you know and love but like you’ve never heard before. So every time I get behind my turntables, every time I take a microphone and every time I get on stage it’s like the very first time. I never know what I’m going to do next. So I go on a journey with my audience and it’s never like “Oh, no. I gotta do this again”.
Have you been working closely with Kool & The Gang recently?
Olfa and I travel with and without Kool & The Gang, we do after-parties for their shows but I also do shows by myself, Mohamed Moretta, whereby I do a 2-hour DJ-set and I sing ‘Fresh’, ‘Get down on it’ and ‘Celebrate’ and play many other songs as a DJ.
We not only take you on a musical journey but we also have no musical boundaries. Our company is called One World Media and our platform is One world – One love which we’re taking as an extension of what Bob Marley was trying to bring to the world. He was a musical diplomat. We’re doing the same thing… Unity through Music. So in my concerts you can hear songs in English, Spanish, Russian, and many other languages as well.
Do you follow musical trends, or maybe have any favorite modern DJs?
Although a lot of people know my work from the past and they know I currently work with Kool & The Gang I also write and produce for other artists. For me, the most exciting part of making music is discovering new artists and making new music. I wrote a song 22 years ago called ‘Gotta Let You Go’. It took me 15 minutes to write it. I produced an unknown artist named Dominica. It became a huge hit all over Europe – from Estonia to Germany and Holland, where it began. 22 years later, on their end of the year countdown 2015, BBC Radio 1 played a new edit of my song done by a couple of guys called BICEP. It became the number 2 record in the world. And again, it shows that classics never die. It’s all about a great song . You’ll see people dancing to this song in the clubs all over the world, even tough guys. And they’re singing this song with their shirts off, going crazy like it was a brand new record.
What’s your favorite destination to perform?
Jamaiсa. Absolutely. You are not cool until you play in Jamaica. As far as I’m concerned, The Jamaicans are the toughest audience on Earth. If they don’t like you, they stone you. They pick up rocks and throw them on stage. If they like you they take out guns and and shoot up in the air. I have been fortunate to have performed in Jamaica several times and I must say it’s a humbling experience. It’s extreme but sometimes you need to be humbled. As for me I was very lucky and didn’t get stoned.
How did this audience act? Did they like you?
I’ll tell you one story. Right before I went onstage inbfront of 7000 people in Ocho Rios, DJ Kool G told me : “By the way Mohamed, I tried to play house music earlier and nobody danced. If I were you I’d be very careful.”. And I was like, Oh my God, I gotta get on after Waggy Tee and play house music right after he played “Boom Bye Bye” by Buju Barton ( the #1 record in Jamaica at the time) 4 times in a row. I’m gonna get shot! Luckily I had White Label Test Pressings four records that I will never forget and that were not house records. It was Kris Cross ‘Jump’ Ft Super Cat, House of Pain ‘Jump Around’, and a couple of other remixes they never heard. So I played these songs for 30 minutes, same four songs. And the crowd went nuts! I’m telling this to let you know, sometimes DJs get upset if the owner is unhappy because they’re not playing the right music for the crowd. To me that’s not a problem. If you play somewhere, you have to play for the audience. So when you show up with a pre-recorded set with every song in the same order you did your last 20 shows, I have no respect for that. In Jamaica… You may get shot
Do you often play for a high-ranking audience?
We do shows for such people as Prince Albert, Chopard. But for me it’s all music and all the same. If we can get them to dance, we can get anybody to dance.
Did you like Phuket?
I love Phuket. No one’s getting shot. What I enjoyed the most about playing in Dream yesterday, there was a 1 year old girl by the pool, she was dancing and she slipped and almost broke her neck but she got right back up and started dancing again. So if I can make a 1 year old dance and a 90 year old dance, then there’s nothing to worry about in between.
I don’t want to tell you all my secrets but there are two things I’m focused on while performing. I focus on the ladies, make sure that they are happy and then I look at the toughest guy in the room, he guy who is too cool to dance. And then when I make him smile and dance, the party’s started.