Dance music is in a powerful position. Not only does it communicate very directly through physicality, but it is capable of reaching people on a global level and in great numbers. This allows much larger opportunity for change and understanding. Dance culture has facilitated the circumstances for music which is challenging enough to stimulate and change people, but which is accessible enough to take stimulating art out into the real world.
If music is to serve as a "guidebook of life" as I believe it is meant to, then it must at least attempt to reach people on a level they can understand if they so desire. In ideal situations dance music does this and allows for real interaction between people. Most of us have experienced this before so we know that it is possible. Dance culture involves music that is both accessible yet powerful.
To understand how this interaction works you have to get inside the ways in which the music is presented and performed. There have been plenty of interpretations put forward regarding the culture itself, but few have really addressed the art of DJing. That it requires talent, study, thought and self-examination to reach beyond simple entertainment and provide something worthwhile and longlasting is often overlooked in favor of the personalities. This ignorance is not helped by the growing amount of DJs who are mere entertainers and see nothing beyond that. It is entirely possible both to entertain and elevate people at the same time, but there needs to be some discussion of the more complex aspects of the art. It is these things that will make it evolve, changing the boundaries of musical communication in the 21st century.
DJs must take care in their role, for it is not the glamorous position it is made out to be. In fact it is very difficult.
DJing is a responsibility.
I view DJing as a discipline, one that is about grasping some understanding of life, glimpsing reality for a while. Focusing and centering myself through the mix, I am able to be more aware of what is going on within myself and around me. Hopefully when this is properly communicated to others through the music and they can identify with it, then I will have provided a view of reality for others too. Even though it is only my interpretation, it is at least a viewpoint. Some never even attempt to understand or explore anything, and it is this shallow view of things which challenges all of us as human beings at the close of our century. We seem to be scared of complexity and of understanding ourselves. If we are to move forward, if we are to glimpse reality for even a moment, then we need to go deeper.
It is this type of communication through music and dance that some writers have tapped into as being "Shamanic." A while back, as dance culture was just becoming prevalent, commentators often referred to DJs as "digital shamen." The DJ assumed the role of someone who has gained insight, knowledge, enlightenment and must relay this to others.
Unfortunately, there seem to be very few DJs who take this responsibility seriously. This leads me to believe that there are few who realize the importance of their role. If they have failed to glimpse reality themselves, what kind of view are they going to provide for people who hear them?
So if our responsibility as DJs is to help others navigate reality then we must seriously use all our energy and skill to make sure we are reliable guides. We must make sense of all the complex elements that contribute to the dance experience. For me these are all elements that exist universally and have direct musical analogies. Contrast. Fusion. Dynamic. Balance. Awareness. These ideas are all available to be explored within the DJ discipline, but only if we as DJs are prepared to learn what these concepts mean, and how we can apply them to our art. We are all capable of exploring these fundamental elements and they can all be applied to our music. By focussing and working hard this can be achieved. We need to be critical of our own performance, actions and behavior. We need to be able to connect with ourselves first and then with others. Being true to oneself is essential, for through that we may be true to the wholeness that is life.
This is the art of DJing, no less, no more. It is yet another branch in the growing tree of the art of music. Not only is music intimately connected with our psyche, but with that "wholeness" which is reality. Inward and outward we can communicate through the music we play a view of that reality. We can serve our calling.
- Andrew Rawnsley _XLR8R_ #23 (1996)