Whaingaroa Soundsystem Introduces DJ skills to local rangatahi

The Local Rag went along to one of the Youth Intro to DJ’ing sessions hosted by Glenn (aka DJ King Macka) and Em (aka MC Jinja Cat).

Em and Glenn are a local DJs and MC act, Cat & King. The duo has worked together for 20 years in various musical manifestations, and between them have played around NZ and Australia to audiences of up to 10,000, so have a lot of experience and knowledge to share with the community. In their Cat & King project they mix up a variety of genres such as Reggae Dancehall + Dub, Hip Hop + Grime, Dubstep, Half-time, & Jungle breaks, sharing their love of dancefloor heaters and basslines with attitude, and their highlight gigs over the last summer were festivals CupaDupa in Wellington and Soundsplash in Raglan on the Roots & Culture stage.

 Glenn and Em are running the Intro to DJ’ing workshop series for the first time, on behalf of the Whāingaroa Soundsystem community group, for two youth categories – Year 9-10 and Year 11-13 (20 students in total).  The DJ skills course extends on from the previously held Youth Soundsystem Project workshop where students learnt about sound system building, lyric writing, music production, and music video making.

Whāingaroa Soundsystem provides a custom-built 12v sound system stack and digital DJ equipment for community music education purposes, and has, thanks to the big support from teachers Whaea Linda Holmes and Matua Joseph Rao, set up a DJ room at Raglan Area School for the course students to play music and practice techniques during school break times.  This itself is pretty awesome, as a DJ setup is expensive, and the room allows youth access and experience without the costly setup it would usually adhere to.

The workshop started with some theory, followed by a practical session where class participants got a hands-on practice of the techniques in focus that day, on both turntables and digital controller stations. The class is pretty cool, and the students within it would agree too. When asking the students why they are doing the course, the answers we were given were ‘I might want to do it (DJ’ing) as a career, I love the idea of it’ and ‘Music is excellent and allows you to meet new people.

 Glenn – lead tutor for the course – explained that ‘for us, the world of DJ culture has been a passion since our youth, and it has kept giving, bringing positive and exciting energy and experiences into our lives.  “Music brings people together” and that is the ultimate joy of it, getting together and making good times with people.  Glenn’s first experience of DJ’ing was organising & DJ’ing the music for his high school’s social when he was 16.  Passing on that gift is a crucial motivator for Glenn, with one of the goals of the course being to get youth confident enough to share their music curations with other people, as it has the potential to strengthen one’s identity and sense of community belonging, as well as being another option for participation and creativity in the musical arts.

 Em told us how she first got exposed to DJ’ing as a teenager – through the dance music rave scene and turntablist DJ’ing competitions. Em started to practice beat-mixing Hip Hop records at friends places who had bought turntable setups. A bunch of them would get together socially and take turns mixing. It was the coolest thing to do then, much preferred to going out to the city bars that played terrible pop music. It became hard to get enough time on the turntables being shared though, so Em got into MC’ing & B’girling.  Em has kept at her MC’ing since, performing by the name of Jinja Cat, calling it her ‘best hobby’, explaining it as her ‘creative outlet- writing and exploring stream-of-consciousness thought mingled with the musical craft of rhyme patterns and breath control’; and then there’s the energetic thrill of performing live and working with a DJ to bring a show … or dropping into a DJ’s set for a freestyle.

The course is now over for this term, but Glenn and Emily are looking into the prospect of running further courses which we would recommend signing up for. In our short time being taught by the duo, we learnt an enormous amount about Dj’ing and can see what is enjoyed and loved by so many.

The course wouldn’t have been possible without funding support from Waikato District Council’s Creative Communities Scheme, Raglan Lions, The Yot Club, Raglan Lighting and Sound, Jamin-I, and Ulo’s. Additionally, Matua Joseph Rao and Whaea Linda Holmes are thanked for their efforts to reach so many youths to get involved, as well as sharing their space for the event to take place. 

By Leilani Goodall