The Art of DJing, According to Dance Pioneers

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Roger Sanchez
Roger Sanchez (photo source: Facebook)

A new documentary from UK label Toolroom Records has put a spotlight on the art and evolution of DJing from the perspective of dance music pioneers.

The video features commentary from legends Andy C, Roger Sanchez, Danny Tenaglia, and Toolroom founder, Mark Knight. It also includes DJ Mag’s editor, Carl Loben.

The documentary opens with Roger Sanchez discussing what it means to be a DJ.

“DJing isn’t just about, you know, ‘I wanna see hands up in the air all night.’ It’s about creating a journey; it’s about telling a story, it’s about musically moving people from one vibe to another.”

Mark Knight adds, “Some of the guys that really influenced me back in the day were guys like CJ Mackintosh, Masters at Work, Tony Humphries. They really had the ability to go into a room, evaluate the mood and the vibe of the room, engage with people, and really manipulate the energy and the steer of the night and that really resonated and stuck with me.”

The DJs also discuss how the art has changed over the years.

“A lot of the new DJs are producers,” Andy C says. “They make tunes and so they have to go out and play them [sic] tunes. I come from an era where I went out to buy records and would camp out in the record store every day.”

Sanchez points out that the dance scene, like hip-hop, had an open-format beginning.

“There was so many different types of music that would just fall under what you’d play in a club. It’d be everything from soul, funk, disco, jazz, as long as it worked on the floor, we used to put it in the mix.”

The transition from “marathon sets” to shorter headline performances was another significant change in the scene, according to the DJs. It’s a recurring topic throughout the documentary.

“…you’re obligated when you’re booked as a headline act [nowadays] to go in and give people what they want,” Knight says. “But I really feel that the art of DJing, in its purest form, is much more than that, is much more than being a jukebox. It’s an expression of what you’re about musically, especially if you make music and you’re a producer. It’s the opportunity to go into a room and say to people, ‘This is what I’m about, from here to here.’ And that is very hard to do in within two hours…”

Watch the full documentary below.

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