10 April 2013

From the other side of the DJ table

Friend: "Why does DJing have to be such a hair-splitting undertaking? I wish he would just put on some music and cut the crap."


This week, I had my first DJ job ever; at Tangomood's Monday practica in Oslo. This is an unguided practica with a distinct milonga feel, where quite a few beginners mix with some more advanced dancers.

As I sat down in front of my computer to prepare, I felt a bit split. Who was I actually going to play for? The beginners? The advanced dancers? The people who know a lot about tango music? The people who don't know much about tango music yet (and would much rather dance to nuevo / alternative anyway)?

I decided from own dancing experience that it was over-ambitious to create an evening where everyone was happy. So I settled on one specific goal for the evening: making dancing to traditional tango music easier for the beginners. Criteria: everything I played should have a consistent beat throughout and a nice melody to connect to. With a bit of luck, the advanced dancers would like it, too.

So far, so good.

Sitting down at the computer again. Wanting to play everything in my iTunes library. Wanting to play reliable Canaros from the thirties every third tanda. Wanting to play only instrumental pieces to avoid confusing the beginners with extravagant vocalists. Wanting to play only vocal pieces because the instrumental pieces might become boring. Wanting to build super uniform tandas. Wanting to build super varied tandas.


Meanwhile, an imaginary crowd of advanced dancers were still floating about in the outskirts of my mind, asking for more subtlety, more novelty, more variation, more whatever. And I was in this crowd myself.

In Norway, we have this expression: "meeting oneself in the doorway". Hello, dancer-who-criticises-the-DJ-then-wants-to-become-a-DJ.

Ok girl, stick to the criterias. Consistent beat, nice melodies. Look for what you love yourself. Listen with other people's ears.

After some more grinding of teeth and ripping hair from head, I finished my playlist (yes, a playlist! I know!) with what I thought would be beautiful, fun and unpretentious stuff for this particular evening.

How did it turn out? Apart from some nice feedback, I don't really know. Reading the floor is not easy for a beginner DJ. And there will always be people who dance without actually enjoying the music. There will always be people who sit at a milonga, and you won't be able to tell why.

But there were both beginners and advanced dancers on the dance floor, and they were smiling as they danced.


If you have been DJing, do you remember how you felt the first time?