If you know your BPMs from your M&Ms, why not give Yangon’s first DJ school a spin?
I’m not someone you’d expect to find in a DJing class: I own three pairs of Birkenstocks and, until recently, I thought Skrillex was a brand of cleaning product. Nevertheless, DJ KC – expert turntablist and teacher at United DJ Mixing School – invited me along to give it a go.
Walking into the classroom for my first lesson, it occurrs to me that I might look a bit out of place in a room full of 19-year-old Myanmar boys in rapper hats. As it turns out, it wasn’t being foreign/female/almost 30 that I needed to worry about.
“Let’s go around the class, and you can all tell me what kind of music you like,” says DJ KC.
I should have known this dreaded question was coming. I rack my brains for an answer that won’t give away that the last album I bought was the CD soundtrack to the Mandela movie. Avicii? Is he cool? Or is he the one that did “Blurred Lines”? Don’t want to say I like rape anthems. Panicking, I decide to go with the tried and tested approach of just copying what everyone else says.
“EDM,” says a young hip-looking boy with headphones around his neck who calls himself DJ Something-or-other. ED-what? While I run through all the words I know that begin with “E” in my head, another student tells the class he’s a fan of “breakbeat”. At least, that’s what I think he said. “Trap,” says the boy next to him. Nope, nope, don’t know that one either.
As their eyes fall on me, I mumble something about hip-hop, throwing in an “old-school” for good measure, which must have worked because everyone starts nodding and talking about Grandmaster Flash.
The first test over, DJ KC – otherwise known as Kieran Way – talks us through the puzzling array of knobs, dials and switches in front of us. Unlike many other classrooms in Myanmar, this one has top-of-the-range Pioneer equipment, and over the course of six weeks, Way tells us, we’re going to learn everything we need to know to DJ in nightclubs.
If anyone’s going to turn me into a DJ, it’ll be Way: A DJ for over 20 years, he has played alongside icons like Jam Master Jay of Run DMC and has won countless awards for his scratching skills. Way was born in Myanmar but later migrated to Australia, so lessons are taught mostly in English (not that it would make much difference if they were in Swahili).
In our second lesson, we learn about BPMs and how to blend two songs together, known as “beat mixing”. It’s not as easy as it looks, and we spend hours training our ears to hear the difference between a seamless mix and a load of bloody racket.
While the other students in the class seem to pick it up pretty quickly, I score two out of 30 on my first beat mixing test. But Way assures me it’ll get easier.
“One day, it’ll just click,” he says.
And eventually, after listening to the same damn Mariah Carey remix over 100 times, it does. I get 28 out of 30 on my third try.
Now all I have to do is get my hands on some old-school hip hop, decide on a DJ name and figure out what the heck breakbeat is, and I’ll be on my way to superstardom.
Fancy giving it a spin yourself? Search for United DJ Mixing School Myanmar on Facebook.