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DrippDaDon blends multiple music influences with his African roots and Columbus upbringing to craft his own sound

Ehynocence Smith & Ivory Turman

A young musician, born in Africa and raised in Columbus, has big plans for his music and wants to inspire others.

Ju Ju plays...

"You're going to feel worldly elements in the beat and rhythms, but it still almost feels familiar but it's different. I grew up in America, but I have roots in Africa. So that's what you're going to get."

That's how Donatien Barack Mugisha, who performs as DrippDaDon, describes his song Ju Ju. The journey to a life in Columbus and becoming an emerging musician has been anything but easy. His parents and older siblings fled the genocide in Rwanda.

"We came to the states when I was 4," DrippDaDon said. "I just remember playing on the tribal drums. We lived in a refugee camp in Zambia. Being there, we were low income and almost bottom of the barrel. So when we moved here, it was a big culture shock. The first thing I did was turn off the lights. I just played with the lights because back home we didn't have any lights."

The culture shift presented other challenges too.

"It wasn't only the fact that I was African," DrippDaDon reflected. "It was that I didn't have the clothes and shoes the other kids had even if they were lower income. My mom actually would hand-make our clothes. I would wear them to school, and of course I got bullied. I knew my mom made it, so I was proud of it. But it made me kind of quiet. In elementary school, it was kind of rough. I found some friends, and we stuck together. Nowadays, people just love the African vibe. But growing up, it wasn't like that. The biggest thing was the way people act. My culture is very passive, and we don't want any problems. Even as a little kid, I knew that if I didn't stand up for myself, it would only get worse. So, that was the hardest part. I had to step out of the shell of how I was raised because what works back home doesn't work here. So I had to adapt to the environment and the people I was around."

Music became an outlet and a source of comfort.

"When I hit around 15, I started producing," DrippDaDon said. "I took my older sister's computer and watched these tutorials on YouTube by Busy Works Beats. I took that and stayed up the whole night making my first beat. It was totally garbage, but that's where it all started for me. With my music, it's almost like I'm watching a movie. I'm watching from both perspectives. That's how I think of stuff. I have my African community, and then I have the community of people I'm around. I get to see everything and how everyone interacts with each other, and then I experience things myself. So with my music, I just put that in there."

Decisions plays...

When it comes to his sound, he doesn't like to be boxed in.

"I have songs that range across a lot of things because that's how I was raised, listening to everything," DrippDaDon said. "I get an idea first. Whatever pops into my head first, that's where we're going. I get a melody or a lick and then start the instrumentation with a piano or a guitar. We have a beat. I say the first line and then just take off."

My Love plays...

"I do music for the love of it," DrippDaDon said. "I feel like music brightens the world. It drives people. It drives me. I create music because I want to be a part of a light to the world that's needed. I just want to be there for people like my favorite artists were there for me. I want to be higher than I was the day before or the year before. I want to be better. I want to do it so that others know that they can do it too. That's the impact I want to have. I want everyone to know that you can do it too, no matter where you're from."

DrippDaDon's energy and vibe during performances have created a buzz, initially in Columbus but also around the state and beyond. As for the direction he wants to take his sound in the future, the 18-year-old responded - there's no limit.

DrippDaDon performs at the Juneteenth Festival this Sunday at 7:30 pm.

Mike Foley joined WCBE in February 2000, coming from WUFT in Gainesville, Florida. Foley has worked in various roles, from producing news and feature stories to engineering Live From Studio A sessions. A series of music features Foley started in 2018 called Music Journeys has grown into a podcast and radio show. He also assists in developing other programs in WCBE's Podcast Experience.