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Disc jock paying it forward - DJ Denvo teaching the craft to a new generation

Published:Thursday | February 21, 2019 | 12:05 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
From left: DJ Tzi and Sebastian of the Kidz Mix DJ Club share what they have learnt from DJ Denvo with ‘Smile Jamaica’ host Simone Clarke-Cooper.
From left: DJ Tzi and Sebastian of the Kidz Mix DJ Club share what they have learnt from DJ Denvo with ‘Smile Jamaica’ host Simone Clarke-Cooper.

Senior FAME FM presenter DJ Denvo Thombs has made training persons in the art and craft of mixing a part of his daily schedule. A decade ago, he launched the Play It Loud Professional DJ Training Course, Dub Jamaica DJ Academy, and the Kidz Mix DJ Club, which has been implemented in some primary schools. He is also credited for creating the syllabus for the Music Technology DJ Programme at the Alpha Institute.

Thombs told The Gleaner that it became important to establish the various programmes after realising that music was taking a back page in the agendas of local disc jockeys. “Nowadays, the disc jockey is not the one who introduces the music to the people, he is now the artiste or superstar, and that must change, and attention turned to the craft and presentation of the music. I have also observed where a lot of practices need correction or intervention.”

This week, the DJ embarks on a new project called the Open Format DJ Workshop, part of a larger establishment – the Open Format DJ Training Academy which has one-on-one training sessions every Saturday. Using the workshop as a reminder, Thombs says he has recognised that with the help of other proficient disc jockeys, value can be added to the industry by creating a neutral space (outside of a party) to mentor individuals with an interest in playing, as well as producing music, and even working closely with the artistes themselves. DJ Collin Hines; Renaissance Disco’s DJ Delano; DJ Smurf from Irie FM, and DJ Spinn, a former mentee of DJ Denvo, have committed to the upcoming workshop.

“These persons have a wealth of knowledge and information. Collin has the experience, being in the industry for many years; DJ Smurf has experience in radio and on the party scene; Delano has also been doing it for a couple decades, and has also been training persons in the field; and DJ Spinn is a good example of how someone has taken what they have learnt about the craft and has grown over the years,” he said.

The workshop takes place this Saturday at the J. Wray & Nephew club facilities and targets seasoned disc jockeys as well as aspirants, including high-school students who want to know more about the career.

Performance mixing

He told The Gleaner that there is much more to what DJs do than meets the eye. “There is another side of DJ-ing that we have not paid attention to. Performance mixing, for example, redirects the focus to the actual mixing and pushes the man behind the turntables to think creatively to develop routines and transitions that distinguishes him from the next person.” He explains that with social media, only one side of the equation is visible, and it should not be confused with the act that has become the norm at parties, where the selector and disc jockey play around with the tracks and sound effects.

“There is a time and place for everything. There are music selectors that cannot play for certain events because they are unable to separate a simple TV performance versus a street dance,” he said. “Learning basic mixing techniques and making full use of the controller or turntables instead of a couple buttons or settings, actually changes the level of performance, but the interest has been to capture a few images and videos to post on social media with a caption that says, I am a DJ.”

He says that to become a disc jockey, one has to be committed to make the investment, from the tools to the time it takes to learn about the tools, the music and the fundamentals of professionalism needed to treat it as a business. He says that, unfortunately, there are some individuals who are of the opinion that being a disc jockey is a hobby. “If it is painted as more than just a hobby and as a career path someone can genuinely follow by investing in the way the images and attitude are marketed, it will make an impactful difference as well.”

This is part of his larger plan. Currently, there is no structure to the industry, and no formal certification courses available locally, but he believes he can contribute to creating a formal structure through the programmes. The academy is in the process of getting accredited by the National Council of Technical and Vocational Education and Training as an institute that provides opportunity to earn certification in that area of music.