• DJ Akio Kawahito, with roots in Japan, has become a significant figure in the global hip hop and R&B DJing scene.
  • He flies the flags for Japan, South Africa, and the USA and is known for his commitment to playing music that he personally enjoys.
  • Having lived in South Africa for nearly as long as he has in the USA, DJ Akio considers Johannesburg his home, where he has deeply integrated into the community. 

In the exciting heart of the global hip hop and R&B DJing scene, DJ Akio Kawahito stands out as a prominent figure with ambitions that stretch far beyond his initial dreams. He has managed to carve a significant niche for himself, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the music world.

Originally hailing from Japan, the music maestro not only represents his birth nation but also flies the flags for South Africa and the USA. 

In an exclusive interview with DJ Akio, the disk jockey shared insights into his journey, inspirations, and the milestones that have shaped his successful career.

“I am just a person that’s passionate about culture. That’s the best way that I can put it,” he told News24. “I love uplifting the things that I’m genuine at and the things that I love doing. Whether it’s hip hop, R&B or basketball, I love being involved. What you do for work should be fun.”

Born of Japanese descent and raised in Tennessee, DJ Akio’s musical journey began as a means of carving out his identity in a world where he sought belonging. 

DJ Akio

Akio Kawahito playing at the Maybelline x In The City concert in Braamfontein. (Supplied)

“You needed things to create identity because I didn’t have a community of Asian people, so I had basketball and hip hop,” he said, highlighting the role of music in shaping his sense of self.

From those formative years emerged great talent driven by a huge commitment to authenticity. 

“I don’t play anything that I don’t like unless it’s corporate or a wedding or something like that. 

“But outside of that, the way that I try and define my sense is that I only play what I actually listen to. I don’t care how big the song is. If I don’t like the song, I won’t play it,” he said.

This commitment led him to new heights, resulting in the creation of Strictly Soul, an R&B-focused event that has become popular in the African music scene. 

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The genesis of Strictly Soul happened against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I had this idea because I was an R&B thug always and from the beginning,” he said. “And I was like, yo, there are no lit R&B parties anywhere in Africa. Let me shift away from hip hop because, at that point, Amapiano had just kind of wiped out hip hop.”

Over the years, the event grew into one of the biggest R&B parties in Johannesburg, South Africa, and now, Africa.

“Becoming South African” 

On a quest to live out his passion, DJ Akio moved to South Africa, allowing the universe to lead him where his success lies. 

“Moonchild once told me the universe will take you to where you’re supposed to be if you allow it. That’s the key if you allow it,” he said. 

He planted the seeds of his success in Cape Town, nurturing a growing hip hop community that would soon blossom into a movement.

“I identify as Japanese, but at this point, I’ve been in South Africa pretty much as long as I’ve been in America. I’ve spent four years in Cape Town and 13 years in Joburg.

“So I think I kind of wave the flag for Japan, South Africa, and the US to a certain extent,” he said. 

Amid his global travels, Johannesburg remains his home, thanks to the bonds he’s created over seventeen years of living in the city.

“It would be so hard to leave, to be honest. After 17 years, I’ve seen my friends graduate from school, I’ve seen my friends get married. I’ve been there for the birth of children. I know people’s grandparents.

“It would be really hard. I wouldn’t say that I wouldn’t leave, but it would take a lot to get me to leave, and I would be really sad if I left,” he said. 

With many unforgettable moments in his career, DJ Akio recalls opening for one of the biggest rappers in the industry. His career led him to places he’d never dreamed of after that.

“Opening for Nas at the Castle Light Show was a memorable moment,” he said. “There are things that you do that you dream of, and then you get to a point in your life where you’re starting to do things that you couldn’t have even dreamed of.”

DJ Akio

DJ Akio also has a passion for basketball. (Akio Kawahito/Instagram)

One moment he could have never dreamed of includes DJing alongside former NBA star Cedric Ceballos. 

“When I was in middle school, I was a huge basketball person. I watched Cedric at All Star weekend win the [blindfolded] slam dunk competition as a kid. 

“He won the slam dunk competition when I was a kid, and now I’m DJing with him. That’s something that I couldn’t have even dreamed of,” he said. 

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