Dance Music Therapy is a local DJ based in Champaign-Urbana. The three men who make up the group, Terrance Stevenson, Kamau Grantham and Mikki Johnson, are on a mission to share all types of sounds and experiences with audiences throughout Illinois.
“The whole reason any of this started was that I wanted to be able to drive down the highway listening to one of my own mixes—like something I made,” Johnson said. “That turned into several thousand dollars of equipment later and here we are spinning at all these cool venues and events. It’s been a fun, really dope process.”
The members had a bit of a rocky process at the group’s outset.
“It’s kind of a hodgepodge of guys,” Johnson said.
Grantham moved to the Champaign-Urbana area several years ago and wanted to find a music scene similar to where he had lived in New York. At the time, there was not much going on. Working with a few groups on campus and other people he knew, he was able to find a lot of support from the community as he embarked on his musical endeavors.
“Through that he met Terrance and they started spinning together at local bars and events. Terrance has been spinning in the community for a long time,” Johnson said. “At the time that I came into the group, I had actually left the Champaign area and was coming back all the time for different events. I was the third member to come into the group.”
But once the group came together, Johnson said coming up with the name for the group was easy and reflects their collective intention of promoting dance and good vibes.
“Music has a variety of healing powers and brings along with it all these endorphins. Essentially, music is therapeutic,” he said. “When you get to come to one of our events, you get to meet new people, you get to dance like your hair is on fire and nobody cares if you’re good or not. It’s just about coming and listening to something you’ve maybe never heard before.”
From there, the only piece left in is the music. Johnson said all the members of the group are interested in performing house music but each of them offer their own unique contributions and styles.
“Kamau is very Afro (house) oriented. He’ll play a lot of stuff, but that’s his bread and butter. Terrance and I are kind of similar. I (Johnson) would probably be the only one to play more mainstream music,” he said. “I’ve always had more interest in watching the DJ and seeing the things he was doing. I’ve always in my brain been a DJ even before I actually knew how to spin.”
Johnson said when it comes to the group’s inspirations from within the larger music world, he looks up to big-time DJs such as Marshall Jefferson, Louie Vega and Terry Hunter.
Throughout their time playing shows as a group, Johnson remembers one experience as being particularly humbling.
“I had a young lady once come up to me after a show and she was crying,” Johnson said. “She told us, you know, that she had had plans this week to hurt herself and just being able to come to our gig to dance, cry and laugh, you know, it saved her. Well, that just really shows you the power of music.”
Essentially, the goals of this group are simple.
“As a DJ, you don’t give people music they want to hear, you give them music they don’t know they want to hear,” he said. “It’s not just the music; it’s the environment. It’s when you play a particular record and all these emotions from the crowd go with it.”
There are plenty of opportunities for students and community members to see the group live. Between May and October, on every second Saturday of the month, they offer a free block party at Crystal Lake Park, from 2-10 p.m.
“People will bring lawn chairs and sit all day. We just have a great time,” Johnson said.
Otherwise, they play at tons of events and bars around town. All three members are active on social media and have mix clouds where they post their most recent works. Dance Music Therapy will also be spinning on Feb. 7 at Blackbird from 9 p.m.-2 a.m.