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October 12, 2010

Role of a DJ

This post continues on my thoughts concerning tango DJing.

An interesting point was raised in the comment to my post on danceability. In some communities (such as ours in Singapore), the DJ is likely to wear multiple hats, perhaps doubling as the milonga organiser, the MC, etc. The duties may include welcoming the guests/visitors, mingling as well as lots of dancing to get the crowd going. Even in the most of informal setting, he or she is ultimately answerable to the paying patrons of the milonga (and may or may not to the milonga organiser, as the case may be).

This then begs the question, what is the role of a tango DJ?

In some situations, such as in Buenos Aires or in larger communities around the world, the primary goal of the DJ is probably to pack the dancefloor as much as possible by playing great music. For smaller communities, I suspect the answer may not be so clear-cut all the time. Furthermore, as we evolve as dancers, obviously our tastes and appreciation in music will change. For example, I remember vividly how I used to think Di Sarli was terribly boring 🙁 – one of my first CDs was actually the RCA 100 Anons… For others, perhaps it was Pugliese that they had problem handling at first? This means that from time to time there may be a disparity in how a tango DJ perceives a certain piece of music compared to segments of the community, who may be more junior as far as dance experience is concerned. How should the DJ react in such a situation? Listen to his/her instincts or play to the crowd?

This is the type of dimlemma that all DJs are likely to face at some point in their careers, in that each DJ needs to be able to answer, not only to him/herself but also to the organiser of the milonga as well as the patrons. After all, why are people coming to your milonga? Do they come primarily to dance? To socialise with friends, as well as share a few dances with friends? To learn about music? Nevertheless, despite the possibly conflicting objectives, knowing the audience will greatly facilitate a DJ in carrying out his/her duty conscientiously.

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