Learning to DJ


I started learning to DJ recently.  I don’t have space for turntables at home so I’m using a midi controller, which is probably for the best as it would be the start of a serious vinyl-collecting habit!

Oxford Contemporary Music asked if I would be interested in putting together a playlist in connection with my fellowship on their Boom scheme. I decided this was an opportunity to use my new skills so instead of a Spotify playlist I made a mix, with transitions between songs and even some beatmatching. 

When I came to select the music, I wanted to represent my work at Cheltenham Jazz Festival as well as my Boom fellowship which focuses on producing music and sound outdoors. I realised this was not going to be a straightforward combination.

From the jazz side, I chose to showcase the emerging artists at the forefront of the new generation of UK jazz: the music incorporates electronica, takes influences from grime, hip hop and elsewhere, and is attracting a whole new audience. In my first meeting with the OCM team to discuss Boom, the Cities and Memory project was one of the many things they recommended I check out since I’m interested in music in and of cities. This ingenious Oxford-based project collects field recordings from around the world via a website and then remixes each one into something new. I love a good remix, both in live contexts (such as Punkt Festival) and in DJing. The Cities and Memory remixes are available in themed collections – in making this mix I checked out their ‘Sounds of 2016’ and ‘Sacred Spaces’ albums on Bandcamp.
 Finding a way to fit together the jazz I’d chosen with these landscapes of found sound which are ambient and often quite electronic has been both exciting and challenging. The final mix has become a kind of ‘Cities and Memory sandwich’, with one of their tracks at the beginning, one in the middle and one at the end.

The jazz in the ‘sandwich’ is mostly from the buzzing London scene, whose artists are starting to make waves internationally at SXSW and Afropunk festivals. It features beats and breaks from the brilliant drummer Moses Boyd; a gorgeous string-led track from Yussef Kamaal who have sadly now split up; hotly-tipped vocalist Oscar Jerome (features explicit language); a dreamily ambient track from percussionist Sarathy Korwar which perfectly bridges jazz and soundscapes; a bouncy tune from Ezra Collective featuring rapper Ty; and electronica from Blue Lab Beats featuring saxophonist Nubya Garcia (a rising star in her own right) which segues into the distant strains of saxophone of the lonely busker in the final Cities and Memory track. 

To provide some context for the UK jazz, I also snuck in a recent percussion-driven track from the godfather of jazz-electronica, Bugge Wesseltoft. The Norwegian pianist released the seminal New Conception of Jazz in 1995 which led to his music crossing over to the club and techno scene, and he has since become synonymous with ‘nu jazz’. See if you can pick out his music among the tracks by young musicians who he influenced…

You can hear the mix below. There is also shorter summary plus a bit about me on the OCM website.

Enjoy!

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