DJing as a Language

It was through word of mouth I was first introduced to Rose. She was the person to have in mind when you wanted to go out on my campus. I came to know her through various interactions, and finally got to interview her before she graduated.

***I did this interview sometime towards the end of 2022

Hyperaware: Can you say your name and introduce yourself?

Rose: Yeah! My name is Rose, and I am a senior at Scripps (SC ‘22). I’m graduating this semester (Fall 2022).

Hyperaware: When did you start DJing?

Rose: I started DJing my freshman year, like late freshman it feels like. About March, maybe January 2019; and I started DJing because my friend Vani (she graduated) she was a year above me. She was a DJ on the [campus] scene and stuff, but she took me under her wing. We used to always talk about music. She would see me come to the [DJ club] meetings a lot, then we would talk about music. That’s how we became friends. She just really just put me under her wing, taught me how to do some transitions and showed me how the board works. So yeah, that’s how I learned and started.

Hyperaware: I know for me, I failed at learning how to DJ, but regarding you, was that a steep learning curve, or did it come really quick?

Rose: It was a learning curve [laughs]! Me, I would go, “Yeah, I gonna start DJing! I’m gonna go to every [club practice] meeting. Or like every other meeting.” But then I realized that if I want to do this for real, I have to be consistent. I’m a perfectionist. If I’m not good at something, I really will not keep doing it.

Rose: I had to sit down with myself and say “This is illogical, and you have to go through it, if you actually want it. So yeah, it was a learning curve. I had to figure out how to be uncomfortable with not having perfection. It took a lot of tries and a lot of iffy sets, but you know, it’s okay! I was a baby board (someone new to DJing), and people were nice to me about it. People were helpful and encouraging, pushing me to improve on some things like, “That could have been done better.”

Hyperaware: I feel like it’s undetectable at this point though!

Rose: Thank you! [laughs].I try a lot! It’s also been weird because I say it’s been like three years [of experience]. But like yes and no because of the pandemic. Everything just stopped. So active practice was limited. I told this to everyone who comes through to Tablemanners, I said this to you even, I learned from Tablemanners. I feel like there’s a learning curve, but once you get it, you get it! Once you go over the learning curve, and you look back, it is not even that hard to get the language, it is just growing to it. Of actual time I’ve had of DJing live, it’s probably been maybe two years. Even during the pandemic, I was still doing stuff, practicing.

Hyperaware: Hearing this stuff makes me want to root for you! Especially because at this point you have become embedded within the party culture of the 5Cs.

Rose: [laughs]

Hyperaware: Seriously! I feel that is something genuine to say. Most of the time, it’s like, “Should I go out?”. People basically ask who is DJing, or if they know who is DJing. It’s one of the major factors of going out.

Rose: True! That usually was not a thing my freshman year. We just went when we heard something was happening. It was just a way to interact with people.

Hyperaware: Have you felt like through Djing has led you to interact with various social circles within the 5Cs?

Rose: Yeah, actually more recently moreso than before the pandemic when I was a sophomore and freshman. I don’t know why it is, maybe there is a boom of people wanting to hear different genres. As of now, it is amazing, events like Celestial Bodies, where I was one of three sets. Another DJ was more electronica that night, and that was really cool. Just seeing how other people are doing their musical transitions has been really fun! So yeah, I would say I have been tapping into other subgenres in Claremont, but because of difficulties with administration, surrounding parties and events, these outlets have been sparse. The parties and songs that are there, in general, have been repetitive.

Rose: Because of students hosting smaller events, I now have greater freedom to experiment and include wider influence. Like the Celestial Bodies party, that shit was fun as fuck. I never get the chance to perform for an audience. It’s always students that end of planning. “Party at my house, here’s the theme, here’s the music we want to hear”. Versus school-administered parties, where student organizers go through so much to make it happen, it can be harder to have events that are out there. Still, I have been able to venture out, due to the 5C Music community.

Hyperaware: I know you’re graduating, which I’m really sad about! Do you have any plans for DJing post-graduation?

Rose: Not set plans, but I want to for sure. I just need to figure out where is going to be my home base for now. I’m looking to be back in California for a little bit, because I can tap into the Claremont community, like our friends and mutual friends. Also, as of senior year, I have been venturing more into the Black alternative community, since I have never been able to tap into that.

Rose: Sometimes, I feel like my experience of being a DJ is inextricably tied to being Black on campus. I have actually been studying sound and racism, which is part of my senior thesis. Basically, in the textbook I’m referencing, silence was used to detect and diminish Black people. If you ever stepped out by vocalizing too much – or anything that you did was too nosy, you are designated as not belonging. Also, you could be punished for your loudness for breaking the sonic barrier. There’s a whole text and articles surrounding this topic.

Hyperaware: I definitely understand, after reading some articles and discourse. Sound becoming criminalized in communities, or neighborhoods becoming quieter.

Rose: I’m happy to contribute to the Claremont scene, but I have a weird relationship. I say I love it here, but have definitely a strong relationship with the POC community. Like, if someone says, “I’m repping Claremont”, I’m like [voice trails off].

Hyperaware: I definitely understand your perspective, based on my experiences where parties with a major POC audience experience more policing.

Rose: Sometimes, it is so hard to host events on campus, but at the same time, to host unofficial events is a long process.

Hyperaware: I know we’re focusing on parties, but I just feel that general social interactions and events, that is how to build community. I just mirror my memories of home, with a lot of Haitian and Caribbean immigrants.

Rose: I did not know you were Haitian [exclaim]!

Hyperaware: Yes, I am! Those memories of community, I have never really experienced that in Claremont, but I feel it is present in the life off-campus. General life happening, which reminds me of home.

Rose: It reminds me of being home too. Being outside for the sake of being outside. Having ways to interact, out at work or other locations. In my city, it is really similar to yours I’m imagining. It’s really diverse. We have Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Haitians, just immigrants. It’s so loud and lively all the time, and I love it. You hear shitty cars all the time with subwoofers, and I love it.

Hyperaware: [laughs]

Rose: I can hear the subwoofers through a building, so I wonder, “How do you hear from your car?” [laughs]. But I live for that shit. It’s just a part of the culture. I can’t put it into words how I appreciate things like that, people playing music in the city. Just being able to be noisy, and share that noise, and celebrate that noise is really incredible. Whether it is at a punk show, or at a party on campus, or with your family, in a cookout, just walking down the street, you hear someone playing music, something about is comforting.

Hyperaware: In terms of best party or event you’ve DJed at in Claremont, which is it? Top 3 possibly…?

Rose: That’s a good question [laughs]. It’s hard for me to choose, but favorite party hands down it might have to be…

Hyperaware: My bad for putting you on the spot!

Rose: [laughs] This is hard, really hard! There have been some parties where everyone is having a good time, but I did not realize it because I was stressed. Other times, I can recognize where people are visibly enjoying themselves, and I recognize that. Personal favorite, it has been the y2k reggaeton party. I don’t know how they threw it without campsec (campus security) shutting it down. I threw it last semester during the spring, in a dorm courtyard. It was a speaker and a dream, and it worked [laughs]. It was just really cool to have a party that catered to one of my affinity groups. Everyone was dancing and having a good time, singing along.

Rose: And then I did Calypso a few weeks ago. That was one where I did not realize everyone was having a good time, since it was hard for a lot of people to get:

Hyperaware: Pomona BSU had to jump through some hoops…

Rose: Yeah, the wristbanding system was confusing. But I love Pomona BSU, and calypso was a fun event. Even though there were less people there than I expected, since people did not know if they could get in,. it still worked. I did my thing, and it was a great night, especially since I saw videos of what was happening on the floor.

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