The Evolution of the DJ
Posted on Feb 20 17
DJ’s are more than just people that play records, they are musicians that have a gift for selecting the right beats with the perfect timing at just the right moment to make an explosion of musical genius that gives other artists the inspiration they need to experiment and perform new innovations in their own style.
DJ’s have changed the way music has been played and enjoyed for years, some examples of how DJ’s influenced entire movements and cultures are genres like Hip-hop. Founded on the streets of the United States in the cities of New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, the DJ’s that rose alongside the emcees were one of the five elements of Hip-hop that advanced this genre from its Jazz and Soul music roots into one of the most popular music styles of the last twenty-five years.
Today’s modern electronic music scene is powered by world-class DJ’s that spin their sets to thousands of fans at global destinations from London to Miami and Ibiza. The rise in house, trance and EDM has propelled the scene DJ’s to cult status, with many of them becoming top selling artists that are dropping beats on international radio stations across the globe.
The evolution of the DJ has undergone a transformation that starts at the midpoint of the twentieth century and has trans-morphed itself at a rapid pace as technology advanced electronic sound production, this article looks at the progression of the DJ and where we find them today, as an indispensable part of dance culture, hip-hop and music as a whole
The dawn of the DJ – 1940’s
A man named Leon Scott invented the phono autograph back in the year 1857, this was the first device to actually record sound. His miraculous invention was shortly followed with Thomas Edison’s phonographic cylinder, the first device that was able to playback recorded sounds. The debut of the world’s first audio radio broadcast came in the year 1906 at the dawn of the Twentieth century, and the very first disc-jockey debuted on the airwaves and in the history books in 1909. Californian resident Ray Newby only 16 years-old at the time, played records from a transmitter during his education while he was a college student and by the year 1910, radio broadcasting had exploded in popularity and was now seen as a must-have item for anyone that wanted to stay informed about the arts, culture, and news of the country.
It wasn’t until the Thirties that the term ‘Disc Jockey’ became a clarified description and the very first ever dance party, hosted by a DJ playing recorded jazz tracks to an audience was in 1943 by Jimmy Savile. Savile became the pioneer of modern turntablism when he hooked up a pair of record players to a speaker system and kept the music continually playing for his guests with no intermissions between the tracks. Then in 1947, the modern DJ era was born in Paris where the first Discotheque was opened to the public, ‘Whiskey A Go-Go’.
The rise of Radio and Disco – 1950’s & 60’s
The 1950’s saw the dawn of the radio DJ. If only the founders of this service understood the empire that was to be built around the commercial radio DJ in the decades to come. Radio DJ’s would show up at live events to emcee and host the proceedings, and the radio entrepreneurs of the island of Jamaica were famous for their ‘Sound systems’, touring the towns and throwing parties in parks and streets over large PA systems.
The European and American dance scenes saw the continued growth of discotheques and party venues that played pop music to the crowds of party animals. Finally, in 1969, Francis Grasso became the pioneering Dj to actually seamlessly mix two songs together in matching the beat and harmony levels to produce the first DJ ‘set’. This was the spark that lit the fire of the modern electronic era DJ.
Discotheques continued to spawn themselves throughout the United States and Europe. New equipment hit the market, such as the mixer, allowing DJ’s to have more control over their tunes. In 1969, a DJ by the name of Francis Grasso began popularising beatmatching, seamlessly mixing his songs so the dancing never had to stop. But the popularity of DJ’s in clubs began to slump in the late sixties, and the party was moved to the streets.
Taking it to the streets – The DJ’s of the 1970’s
From The streets of New York City, a new revolution in the art of the DJ began to bubble to the surface. DJ Kool Herc became the founding father of Hip-hop in 1973 where he started playing records at community block parties in the Bronx. Kool Herc became the first ever DJ to ‘Juggle’ two of the same albums at the same time, ‘breaking’ the beat and inserting his own loops.
This was the birth of turntablism, which became one of the 5 elements of Hip-hop and an indispensable part of the culture that helped the music transcend from just one finished product into different sub-genres that had dedicated and committed artists scrambling to create the latest unique sound.
In the mid-seventies, a DJ by the name of Grandmaster Theodore was practising his DJ skills one day at home when he stumbled upon what would become an iconic dynamic of turntablism. He accidentally discovered the sound of the ‘scratch’, where a DJ moves the record back and forth under the needle to produce a distorted sound that is timed to the beat of the record.
This launched Hip-hop into a burst of creative artists that began to copy Theodore’s style and take it to the streets of every block party in the Burroughs of New York City.
Hip-hop was to grow to epic proportions through the coming decades and talented DJ’s now competing in turntablist tournaments where they skip, juggle, scratch and break their way through battle sessions with other DJ’s in front of crowds of thousands of Die-hard hip-hop heads.
The 1980’s – the warehouse dance generation
The 1980’s was the introducing decade of house music. A club that was aptly named ‘the Warehouse’ opened up in Chicago’s downtown district and hosted parties that featured the pioneering house music artists and DJ’s that would go on to make the vibrant dance music scene of the eighties and nineties. The warehouses resident DJ was a house music legend, Frankie Knuckles, and Frankie pioneered a disco-house sound that blended together beats, driving basslines and electronica in a seamlessly blended set that kept party heads dancing all night long.
In neighbouring Detroit, the house sound quickly spread to the local dance clubs and before long, the house parties of the eighties were being held in both cities that founded an entire sub-culture of electronic music that has developed into a juggernaut today.
Another American city saw what was going on in Detroit and Chicago and decided that this would be the ideal party sound for a three-day long dance event to be held at Fort Lauderdale in Miami. In 1985, the debut of the Miami winter music festival was launched and it has enjoyed the last thirty odd years of tremendous success with party goers coming from around the world to enjoy a dance experience that is unique and tropical and a whole load of fun.
Today the event attracts the top superstars of the DJ world and the crowds are in the thousands, with never a dull moment in the entire 72-hour event that is an unbelievable sight to behold and a fantastic experience to be part of.
Into the information age – the 1990’s
The 1990’s saw the rampaging rise of electronic music and underground parties in the party states of the US. The Acid house parties and early emergence of style such as funky and deep house became the preferred choice of party goers and the record companies began to take notice of the sub-culture.
DJ’s began to set up residences at clubs or with Party organisers and they developed following that began to rival that of legitimate bands and artists. DJ’s were now seen as live performance artists and saw their reputations spread across the globe and inspire a whole new generation of DJ’s that loved the idea that you could become an independent artist by applying your own unique edge to the playback structure.
With the technological revolution now fully underway, the development of specialist DJ equipment now accelerated at a pace that allowed the DJ’s to further advance and refine their sound into a party innovation that captured the ears and minds of partygoers all over the world.
Mp3’s allowed the DJ’s to move away from the traditional vinyl record playback systems and introduce CD’s into the mix with the use of electronic mixing equipment that allowed them to control the playback digitally while still adding in effects like loops and flanges that made the set unique and the artists style recognisable to the fans.
The new millennium of the DJ
At the turn of the millennium, as the advancement in music technology gained critical momentum, DJ’s now had the ability to do their entire functions digitally. Digging through crates of records was replaced with rummaging through thousands of Mp3 files, and mixing units like Serato Scratch Live became the new gold standard for performance DJ artists that wanted to keep the old-school feel of DJ-ing on vinyl while still being able to benefit from the advancements in electronic music technology. The system links a pair of dummy records on turntables, with the needles linked to the electronic mixing system. This even allows the playback to be scratch, just as if the DJ was playing on a set of real vinyl records.
To the future
DJ’s continue to grow and dominate popular music culture, with the melding of the DJ into pop music culture to create cross-overs between hip-hop and pop artists. Technology continues to evolve alongside them, speaker systems and mixers become more advanced in their sound production with every generation and with the advent of social media, the interconnectedness and simplicity of execution has given rise to thousands of new DJ’s that are able to post their own sets online for anyone to listen to and share. The internet looks to be the new evolution of DJ’s and their art form that continually transforms itself to the cutting edge of electronic entertainment and pop culture.
The Earcandy DJ experience
Are you looking for a customised DJ experience for your next event? The Earcandy DJ’s are professional performance artists that have years of experience behind the decks, rocking crowds and playing the best tunes from the sixties right up to today’s modern electronic era.
No matter the theme or style of your event, whether it’s a corporate function or a wedding reception, the Earcandy DJ’s will work with you to create your ultimate idea of a party entertainment experience that you and your guest swill enjoy all night long as you party away into the sunrise.
With packages, available to suit any size or theme of the party and any budget that you have in mind, the Earcandy DJ’s can work alone, or accompany the other Earcandy artists, keeping the crowd going between sets. The DJ’s for hire from Earcandy Entertainment agency are able to assist you with their professional knowledge of everything from the lighting to the track listing. All of your requests can be customised and arranged with the management team and all you have to do is make sure that you show up to the party!