One of my mantras when talking about DJing is that the gear is irrelevant – it’s all about the music. And I’ve been quite struck by a couple of clips that typify this perfectly for me, and have made me realise that there’s a lot of good music simply passing me by, and just how a simple piano riff can stir real emotion.
First up is Benji B, a BBC DJ who plays a good spread of what one might class as urban. In the above clip, Benji has hooked up with a 16 piece string ensemble and created something pretty damned wonderful in every way. Laying down an eclectic mix of neo-soul, hip hop, trap and a few stops in-between, the result is a wonderful layering of real instruments with original tracks to create mashup, remix and fresh music too. This has actually made me go search out some of the music, as well as beginning to like things that perhaps I would have dismissed as rubbish. And yes, I know someone will say it’s nothing new, but it is nonetheless special.
The second clip popped up this morning on Facebook. Take a houseful of tipsy people of an age that would remember classic House tunes, and get someone to play a bunch of them on a keyboard. The result is utter magic, especially for old farts like myself who were around at the very start of House music. it matters not that he doesn’t hit every note, and that it’s off-beat at times – what matters is how it makes you feel. Those simple piano riffs stimulated memories of some amazing times. And if the reaction I’m reading in my Facebook timeline is anything to go by, this clip is going to be around and deeply loved for a very long time.
For me the clips underline firstly the importance of the human element in the music. There’s too much audio thrown out of studios that sound sterile and very lacking in the human touch. Perhaps it’s because I can see real people doing real things that I love these so much. I’m appreciating the dedication to learn and the skill that is going into each performance. I’d like them both if I’d only heard them, but actually watching someone craft and create is highly compelling and quite emotional too.
So repeating the mantra that I feel the need to remind you of from time to time – it’s not about the gear. It doesn’t matter if you weave your magic on über-expensive club gear, hunch over a multi-coloured arcade buttoned box, or lug Technics in the back of a van with a bag of just 100 tracks. It equally doesn’t matter if you have every track know to man, all tagged, looped and gridded to perfection and hammer the sync button all night long. Or if you play DJ russian roulette and grab a bag of random vinyl.