Recently, I was asked to step back into DJ’ng to cover for a friend who had a family emergency that called him out of town. I was glad to help out, and getting back into this role has been on the backburner for some time.
Turns out that a lot of your musical knowledge stays with you. Who knew?Although I haven’t danced as much down in SoCal, it certainly still helps to go once in a while and hear what’s being played in the milongas.
Meanwhile, I’m sure my musical tastes have changed.. (for the better, I hope) ..maybe even deepening in appreciation for some songs that I took for granted ..maybe becoming more clear on what makes good tango music for dancing.
What I missed the most from my previous DJ’ng were the systems and shortcuts that I had built up.. playlists that allowed me to plug and play tanda‘s (song lists arranged in sets of 3-4 songs) and useful tags like “plucking” or “playful” that allowed me to pull up songs in an instant for a mood or effect that I wanted to achieve.
While I didn’t ever want to totally walk away during a gig, I did have the art of DJ’ng down to a science where I could dance a good part of the evening without being chained to the laptop which served as DJ console – unless I suddenly wanted to build some tandas on the fly.
Still, I had probably allowed myself to stagnate a little bit – maybe becoming a little too predictable in my patterns, maybe being a little complacent.. Sure, I pretty much knew what my audience wanted and expected – and, sure, I delivered. At least that was how I justified a lot of cutting and pasting of my playlists.
But all that was taken away last night. I had tons of MP3’s literally at my fingertip in the form of a USB drive no bigger than a thumbnail – but no pre-made playlists. While the host offered to lend me a CD from the event organizer, some part of me needed to deliver more.
Sure, a pilot doesn’t re-invent a route to a destination each time, but he also doesn’t let the auto-pilot do everything from take-off to landing either.
No, no machine can watch the mood of the dancers.. (not yet anyways) gauge how they’re enjoying the music.. sense if they’re feeling inspired or bored.. detect energy levels – are they up or is it time to take it easy? Maybe extra high-energy milonga was a bit too much and now they need a break?
Recently, a friend pointed out that my introverted nature allows me to pay attention to these clues. Maybe that’s also why I’ve been a strong poker player as well.
“Weaknesses are just strengths in the wrong environment” – Marianne Cantwell
Combined with growing up a minority in a pretty white bread part of the country, I felt like an outsider for most of my life. Yet years ago, I started teaching how to dance tango with a friend at a local Y in San Francisco.
Once we did a demo for a corporate sponsored club. Here we were a Swedish gal and an Asian guy dancing a Latin dance for a Hispanic audience. The irony wasn’t lost on us, so we used it to point out how tango was indeed a vibrant international melting pot of cultures.
For some years tango had become some folk dance or a cartoonish rose-in-the-teeth routine that movies loved to stereotype. But a few of us sought to not only change that image but also to help it move forward as an art form.
Slowly, I’m stepping back into my own.. step by step..
p.s. Oh, and CTRL-SHIFT-ESC can save your bacon if you didn’t save your playlist in Winamp and accidentally clear your active playlist! 🙂