Being a professional DJ has gained respectability over the last decade. Back in the 90’s, a DJ’s public image was often associated with drugs and underground parties, but that is no longer the case. These days, taking DJ lessons is regarded by young musicians as not much different from learning the piano.
Spinach DJ Academy, the first DJ school in Kemang, opened in 2005. Founded by Riri Mestica, one of Jakarta’s most respected DJs, Spinach has grown not only as a DJ-training center but now also includes Spinach Records. The academy has trained about 600 students in the past five years, and about 200 former Spinach students are now practicing DJs.
“DJ School is for everyone, whether you’re learning it as a hobby or pursuing a career. There is no age limit,” says Ricky Tampubolon, distribution manager at Spinach Records. To give the students real-life experience while learning, Spinach integrates practical training sessions in the local clubs. “One of the advantages of taking courses with us is that we have a job training program at Barcode,” Ricky says, referring to Riri’s outdoor terrace and club located in Code Fin Kemang.
Students at Spinach are offered the opportunity to try their hand at performing for audiences at events like Royal Rumble, which is held every two months to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their DJ skills in clubs around Kemang.
Every student is introduced to the basic manual old-school equipment: a turntable and a vinyl. In the 80’s, before the CDJ era, DJs worked with two turntables and a microphone. Spinach students have to learn basic turntable skills before they can use Pioneer CDJ. “A turntable is much more difficult because everything is manual, if you can handle that, then moving on to CDJ will be a lot easier,” says Ricky.
At the end of the day, being a DJ is all about a love of music and the joy of making people dance. So what does it take to be a good DJ? “Some just have ambition, and they make it easily,” says Ricky. “But you need to have the whole package — talent, looks and the ability to socialize.”
DJ Gladiator is a former student who took a two-month Basic DJ Class at Spinach last year, and now plays progressive house music regularly at clubs such as 999, Musro, Domain, Barcode and Bloeming, as well as private parties around the city. “When I first joined Spinach, I started from zero,” says DJ Gladiator. He chose Spinach, he adds, because of DJ Riri, who inspired him to pursue a career as a DJ. Spinach has opened doors to advance his career. “The instructors never stop teaching us, even after we finish the program,” he says.
Most students at Spinach range from their 20s to their 30s. “In general it’s never too old to learn anything. Any music lover or anyone with a music background can be a DJ,” says Luckyta, a finance executive at Spinach Records.
Spinach DJ Academy also has some teen students. Thirteen-year-old DJ Putri Danizar has already had a lot of experience on the DJ set and was among the top ten of SE7ENTUuNE Next Generation DJ Contest last year at the Jakarta Convention Center. “Lucky me, not everyone has an opportunity like I did at such a young age,” says Putri.
DJ lessons can be taken for fun, not just to build a career. “We used to have a student who worked at Pertamina, and he would come in wearing his work suit,” says Ricky.
Like any other hobby, being a DJ doesn’t come with a cheap price tag. The club standard equipment, Pioneer CDJ 1000, costs about Rp 15 million, and a DJ needs two of those, plus a mixer, headphone, speaker and Apple laptop, the most essential tool. If you take courses at Spinach, all that equipment is provided.
Spinach DJ Academy offers many different types of classes; basic DJ class, basic private class, club DJ class, turntablism class, digital DJ class, and electronic & dance master class, with the price of courses ranging from Rp 800,000 to Rp 6.5 million.
For students who want to make a career of DJ-ing, it’s easy to get back your investment on the expensive equipment. “Yyou can make around 1 million a gig, for beginners, and female DJs sometimes can make more,” says Ricky.
DJ Deena Rhythm, a female R&B DJ based in Jakarta, plays regularly at nightclubs such as Domain, Equinox, Tribeca NYyC and has also performed abroad. She decided to become a DJ because of her love for R&B music. “I enjoy playing music and it’s not easy to master Hip-Hop/R&B,” she says. Deena ignores sexist bias in the business about the skills of female DJs. “I don’t pay any mind to what other people say, and most of the guys are my friends. DJs have a bond with each other.”
Iwan Putuhena Reports
Original article was published in Kemang Buzz
Pictures by Dissy for Kemang Buzz
Spinach DJ Academy/Spinach Records