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DJ competition turns the tables
By Mark Lewandowski
The art of turntabling is spreading from the confines of DJ culture to a larger audience and CHRW 94.7 FM's first annual turntablist competition is causing quite a stir amongst the troops.
"It's a different format which they're using and that rarely happens. For the last round [contestants are given records] so you come up with something on the spot," says John Santiago, one of the DJs in the competition. Also known as Dopey, Santiago and his crew have been battling from their Toronto homes for about two years now. So how will his experienced crew fare in this innovative and pressure-packed atmosphere?
"It depends on what style a DJ is. Beat jugglers would suffer, but we have an advantage because we are into scratching. A beat juggler would need more time to prepare," Santiago explains. Although most turntablists or DJs lean toward juggling or scratching, the two are not black and white. Santiago goes on to suggest the best new cuts are originating from New York where DJ's like Craze and Develop are mixing various forms of mixing and scratching to create distinctive new material.
So where has this form of turntable activity been gestating until its present form? "Now it's hitting mainstream, but before it was just people in the hip-hop industry who did it. A lot of mainstream are getting into it it's pretty big here in Toronto," Santiago says. For all the good vibes Dopey and his crew will bring to the competition, his appearance will be giving other contestants some pretty bad ones.
"When people heard some guys from Toronto were coming they were like, 'Oh shit,'" explains Perry Monaco, promotions director at CHRW, not confirming who those guys may be. Monaco is the creative spark-plug behind this innovative competition and agrees the format is compelling.
"There's a lot of interest because it's head to head. There will be an opening round and a semifinal. For the final we will give the competitors two records they can work with not like Celine Dion. There will also be a final act, Circle Research, who will spin after the competition," Monaco explains. "It's gonna be sweeter than anything you've ever tasted."
This sweet ride should benefit veteran and rookie turntablists alike. DJ Grip will be participating in his first competition but has been involved in spinning since 1994. "I'm still learning what it takes by putting in a certain amount of hours everyday making sure everything is tidy," he explains.
DJ Grip agrees the format is unusual. "It's definitely different, it adds some interest because it's all improv. It's not like a routine which you can just keep working on, you definitely have to be creative."
And it's creativity which will determine who brings home the grand prize. Monaco suggests the prize will be worth close to $1,000 in DJ-friendly electronics, but no one will leave empty-handed. "The grand prize is so good I'm gonna pee my pants. But everyone gets a small gift, like a nice firm slap in the ass or something." Proceeds from the competition will go to CHRW.
The competition takes place tonight at the Wave and will be broadcast on CHRW from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.. Tickets are $4 at the door and the show is all ages.
Graphic by Brahm Wiseman