DJ Francis Mercier's Music Takes Him Worldwide

DJ Francis Mercier on the decks.
DJ Francis Mercier on the decks. Courtesy of Francis Mercier
Whether you're a DJ/producer, accountant or doctor, motivation is a reason that some people are more successful than others. And successful people come in many flavors — some are selfish, others family-oriented, and there are some who want to leverage personal triumphs to make the world a better place.

DJ Francis Mercier was born and raised in Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, where some are able to build good lives and others experience Western civilization’s depths of hell. Homes in impoverished areas are built with barn tin and plastic sheets, there are no designated areas for trash, and the average salary is around $3.50 a day. The city faces deep-seated problems that include corruption and kidnapping.

“I was in Haiti from birth through high school. My fondest memories from there are riding horses, and the worst moments were days without electricity and other essentials,” Mercier says from his current home in New York. “I am extremely thankful to have moved to the U.S., because in Haiti, there is not much opportunity for the youth. I have plans in motion to help with this problem."

Mercier is a label owner and touring DJ who is on two Colorado bills this weekend with his proprietary style of Afro house. He's playing the Snow Lodge in Aspen on Friday, February 3, before headlining Club Vinyl on Saturday, February 4. And while the house-music umbrella is vast and always relevant, and Berlin-style techno is more popular than ever now, the music coming from Mercier’s label, Deep Root Records, and his DJ sets is different. Afro-house tracks are often produced at around 125 beats per minute and are awash in tribal and soulful elements. After all, Mercier feels it’s important to visit the motherland.

“You can’t be an Afro-house DJ and producer if you don’t go to Africa,” Mercier laughs. “I love to spend time in Ethiopia, Senegal, Nigeria and Ivory Coast. Dance music is growing there; when I leave from there, I always take something with me.”

Mercier’s most celebrated tracks were born in Africa by West African bands. “Premier Gaou” was initially released in 2000 by the Ivory Coast zouglou band Magic System, and Mercier's remix sparked his career when it dropped in 2021. Then in March 2022, he collaborated with Canadian producer Blondish on "Sete," an updated version of "Se Te Djon Ye" by the Mali duo Amadou & Mariam.

Mercier's upcoming single, “Kamili,” will be released on famed DJ Diplo’s Higher Ground label. On brand, the track is filled with production by Nitefreak, as well as Swahilan vocals from Kenyan percussionist, performer and teacher Idd Aziz. The track isn’t available until February 10, but audiences at Mercier's upcoming shows will get a sneak peek.

Travel is the best method, but listening to international music is a nice way to learn about other parts of the world. Mercier attended an international school in Haiti and credits his diverse group of childhood friends for his global-music palate. His taste in music is more diverse than a United Nations conference; he has particular love for the Haitian band King Posse, Bob Marley, the American indie band Postal Service, 50 Cent and 2 Pac. He made even more international friends after he left Haiti to attend Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he discovered electronic music.

“It was 2006 when I first attended Made Event parties in New York City with Tiesto and Armin van Buuren," he recalls. "I was fascinated; I was hooked. I bought a little controller and learned to mix music. That’s how all this started.”

Mercier has more than thirty gigs in six different continents on his schedule in the first half of 2023 alone, but it wasn’t always so glamorous. The first shows were empty bars, where he was booked on a promise of quality speakers and patrons.

“I wasn’t a very good DJ when I started, but I was ambitious. I’d show up to some of the better clubs in [New York City], like Cielo, and ask to play. They would look at me like I was crazy and tell me to keep it moving,” he laughs.

Perseverance is a must for anyone chasing a dream, and Mercier developed an immunity to rejection. His story is a quintessential display of determination and it offers hope to all the upcoming DJs out there with nothing but a laptop, controller, speakers and moxie. 

Francis Mercier plays at 6:30 p.m. Friday, February 3, at the Snow Lodge, 315 East Dean Street in Aspen (make a reservation here), and at 9 p.m. Saturday, February 4, at Club Vinyl, 1082 Broadway (tickets are $10).
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