Tony Okungbowa knows all about getting crowds on their feet – just ask Ellen DeGeneres.
After moving from London to New York over a decade ago, the DJ/actor landed a handful of small roles on shows like “The X-Files,” “Arli$$” and “NYPD Blue.” Shortly after, he relocated to Los Angeles and began DJ’ing in the active club scene as well as photo shoots for various publications, including In Style, People and TV Guide.
It was during one of these shoots that Okungbowa met DeGeneres – a self-expressed music lover — and was recruited by the comedian/host to be the in-house DJ for her day time talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
The publicity has apparently worked in his favor, as Okungbowa’s sophomore album, “Total Dance 2009,” released on March 9th via Thrive, debuted at No. 3 on Billboard’s Top Electronic Album chart two weeks later. Being on the show has “helped for sure. In the best ways it has made me, for some people, a household name,” says Okungbowa. “It has given me exposure that some film and TV actors don’t even have.”
Okungbowa, who grew up in London, credits his array of taste in music to growing up in London and being exposed to different musical genres there. “In London, you didn’t just play one type of music. You went across the board… One of the things that sort of appealed to me about the package was it covers a lot of genres,” says Okungbowa. “It goes from a really sort of hard hitting Ibiza-type club house music, there’s some hip-hop and then it goes to what I like to call ‘soulful’ house, deep house.”
A stand-out track on “Total Dance 2009” is the Johnny Vicious Muzik Mix of Jennifer Hudson’s “Spotlight,” which highlights Hudson’s striking vocals coupled with a rhythm that’ll get any crowd moving.
Prior to “Total Dance 2009,” Okungbowa released his first compilation album called “Hollywood Sessions Volume 1” in 2005. “A lot of fans would always ask, ‘What do YOU listen to?’ so I put together an album which was along the lines of what I was listening to at the time,” he says.
At the moment, Okungbowa is busy with his gig on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” as well as maintaining a Wednesday nights residency at Bar Lubitsch in West Hollywood. “Anything I want, I play. I get off the turntables sometimes and dance, and the records will finish playing because I’m dancing and having such a fun time,” says Okungbowa. “It’s a really cool night that I love.”
For the future, Okungbowa plans to put out another compilation album soon and will be working on a film project in New York this summer. In the meantime, he’ll continue to rock the house via his various outlets. “I always say the next best thing to being a musician is being a DJ,” he says.