Pulsating lights, loud music and carefree dancing — ingredients of pretty much every party or music concert that takes place these days. From this carefully concocted mix of fun and frolic, a subtraction of the music and the DJ responsible for playing it would be considered a major offense.
Disc Jockeys (or DJs as they are more popularly known) have now become part of the framework of the music industry, with Bollywood in particular now following the trend of remixing (and sometimes re-remixing) popular tracks from new movies.
Kochi is no stranger to parties or DJs, boasting a number of popular names who are regulars at clubs and family events. Some of the more established DJs have now taken to holding classes and passing on the craft to a new group of aspiring artistes. According to Rohit Varghese (known by his stage name DJ Arvee), there is no dearth of youngsters who are interested in learning how to mix tracks and ‘scratch’ on a turntable. Rohit runs The Loop, which is what he calls a ‘tuition centre for DJs’, along with his friends James Peter and Ribin Richard. “James, Ribin and I call ourselves ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’, and between us, we have a versatile skill set. This is useful when we play together on stage and when we take classes. James handles turntablism, Ribin teaches electronic music production, and I train students in basic DJing. Between the three, we have about 30 students and that number has been pretty constant,” he says.
It is a similar story with Arun T. Antony (DJ ArEz), who has been a regular at parties and clubs in the city for five years. “Initially we DJs tend to focus on our own careers, as the worth of a DJ is completely dependent on reputation. But as I went along, I started getting a lot of requests about teaching others, and eventually it dawned that only when we have more DJs will the best rise to the top. Besides, it’s all about sharing the music,” says Arun, who runs Beatz DJ School. “It is not a professional school as such,” Arun clarifies, “I accept a few students and teach from my home, usually in batches. At present, I have two batches running,” he explains.
DJ Bryan, who has been in the scene for over a decade, has also recently ventured into teaching with his Cochin DJ Academy. “The number of enthusiastic youngsters who want to try something new like this is amazing. So after getting a staggering number of requests over the years, about three months ago, I finally caved and started teaching the basics of being a DJ,” he says.
Arun explains that the main thing a DJ has to be most aware of is judging the pulse of the crowd. “When we are on stage, keeping energy levels high is what we need to do. So we see how the crowd responds. If we get requests, we play similar music to what they have asked for. Ignoring this aspect is the biggest error a DJ can make.”
Rohit goes on to explain the evolution of electronic music and international trends. “We have a lot of inspirations, from Daft Punk to the latest dubstep sensation, Skrillex. There’s a lot happening at any given time, and it’s up to us to keep up,” he says.
With Kochi catching up rapidly to metropolitan cities in the trends department, DJs are enjoying a windfall these days. Both Rohit and Arun are of the opinion that savvy youngsters who keep up with trends and have a passion for electronic music can make a name for themselves as DJs. Even associated acts such as ‘The Good, that Bad and the Ugly’ are finding large scale popularity. Which begs a question, among the three, who is who? “Well, I’m pretty sure I’m ‘Ugly!’” says Rohit with a nonchalant grin.
DJ Arvee can be contacted at 99950-60768, DJ ArEz at 9567239429 and DJ Bryan can be reached at 98474-23696.
For those not in the know, DJs work with a versatile piece of equipment casually called a DJ console, which Rohit says is locally available but quite expensive. This allows them to mix tracks together and create the kind of tune that the crowd wants. Turntablism is the more ‘old fashioned’ form of the craft, where DJs use vinyl records and manipulate their rotation to create the ‘scratching effect’, converting the scratching noise itself into a tune.