Higher Learning at Spinach DJ Academy

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

Higher Learning at Spinach DJ Academy

Pictures by Dissy for Kemang Buzz

Spinach DJ Academy/Spinach Records

Jl. Kemang 1 No. 12H,
Tel: 021 719 0584
Fax: 021 719 5127
spinachrecords.com
spinachrec.wordpress.com

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My Kemang: Dhiah, Clubber

Dhiah, 21, spends several nights a week clubbing in Kemang and is a regular guest at a number of venues. We caught up with Dhiah at Venue, one of her favorite clubs in South Kemang. She talked about what she loves about the nightlife in Kemang, the hottest places to party and her resolution for the new year.

How often do you hang out in Kemang?
I started coming here around four years ago. Back then I hung out in this area almost every day; lately I’ve cut it down to about three times a week (laughs).

What do you normally do around Kemang?
My night usually starts at Shisha Café, dinner at KFF (Kemang Food Fest), then off to Triple Nine, Venue, Nu China, or wherever the party’s at.

Where do you go most often?
I like to go to Venue, it’s one of my favorite places, because on Mondays it’s 50 percent off for drinks, and Wednesdays is ladies night with R&B music. I feel like I’m promoting the place now (laughs).

Do you get privileges as a regular?
Of course, but I already get special privileges just for being a lady; I’m talking about free drinks and entry on ladies night. I normally get invitations and guest list to places almost every day. And almost everywhere I go, there are people who also party as much as I do. We know each other from hanging out, so we join tables and party together.

Do you call yourself a ‘clubber’?
I don’t go clubbing to get that title or recognition. I just happen to really enjoy going out, being with friends, being around people, talking and drinking. So I think it’s an accidental status (laughs).

What’s the hottest nightclub right now?
I would say Second Floor, because they recently renovated the club and it’s packed almost every night.

Do you live in Kemang?
No, I live in Central Jakarta, behind Grand Indonesia, because it’s closer to my work place. But I would love to be in Kemang. I used to live here a few years back. It was comfortable because everything is in the area. But being away doesn’t stop me from partying here.

Why do you choose to party here, it’s so far from where you live?
It’s my second home. When you’re in the area, everything is near and convenient; the clubs, restaurants, boutiques and lounges. Everything is within a walking distance, so it’s easy to hop around.

Where do you work?
I work in public relations at After Hour Sarinah, a billiard bar in Central Jakarta. Before that I was an SPG (sales promotion girl) for a variety of products and brands.

Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from South Jakarta, born and raised, so I’m comfortable with the area and I’m not scared to go places by myself or to walk in the street.

Do you think Kemang is affordable?
Well, it depends. There are expensive places and fine restaurants, but I think there are many more places for young people and professionals that are affordable.

What do you drink when you go out?
I would like to drink my favorite liquor, Johnny Walker Blue Label, but since I can only afford Black Label, anything mixed with that will do just fine. My friends and I usually buy bottles, because it’s much cheaper at the end of the night than buying drinks by the glass.

Do you have a boyfriend?
Yes, he is a DJ at one of the clubs in the area. But I don’t go to Kemang because of him, because he plays classic disco, and I’m not really into that (laughs).

What don’t you like about Kemang?
Not being able to get a table especially when you really looking forward to go to that particular place whether it’s at the club or restaurant. Kemang is always crowded, and it happens a lot, particularly over the weekend, some places don’t take reservations.

What is your New Year resolution?
I will try to quit smoking, because lately I’m starting to feel like I’m getting short of breath. But I’m not ready to quit drinking just yet (laughs). In the beginning I wasn’t a smoker but when I’m drinking it makes me want to smoke, so it will be a challenge.

Recently the government banned smoking inside public buildings. Do you think they should regulate that for clubs?
Well it would be nice to provide an outdoor space for smokers, like a balcony or roof top. I think it’s a good idea to enforce the non-smoking law in the club, because sometimes when everyone smokes in a packed room with bad circulation, my eyes gets watery and my clothes and hair will smell like smoke when I get home.

Do you think there will ever be a “last call” for partying?
Not anytime soon (laughs). Only when I’m in mourning, like recently when my father passed away. I was sad and stopped going out for 10 days, but then I couldn’t resist wanting to go out again. I guess I can say partying is kind of like a healing process for me.

Dhiah was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in Kemang Buzz

My Kemang: Dhiah, Clubber

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

My Kemang: DJ Icon

Everyone knows Kemang has some of Jakarta’s best nightlife. But we’re usually not aware of those behind the scenes — the event organizers, club managers, bartenders and DJ’s, who all play a role in lighting up the party. For Muhammad Nurhadi Furqoni, a resident DJ at The Green, Kemang, known to most people as DJ Icon, it’s all about mixing work and pleasure. We caught up with him on the set one Saturday night and got a DJ’s take on work, clubs and the ups and downs of life in Kemang.

How long have you been a resident DJ at The Green?
I’ve been a DJ for four years and a resident DJ at The Green for over two years.

What inspired you to be a DJ?
I became interested in becoming a DJ mostly from the influence of friends. My parents supported my decision to become a DJ, and from there my hobby turned into a job. I learned by watching other DJs; I didn’t have a background in music before that.

How did you come up with your DJ name?
My nickname is uQon. So I changed this to Icon to make it easier for people to remember my name. And, well, I would like to be a real “icon” one day.

Can you take me through your day as a DJ?
When I wake up, the first thing I do is prepare the music for the coming night according to the theme, say a beach party, or Halloween or ladies night. I don’t practice; I normally go freestyle, because the crowd is unpredictable and I have to be able to lead the crowd as I play. Then I go in early to the club for the briefing. After that I just do what other party people do — have a beer and relax, while monitoring other DJs until it’s my turn to play.

What are your responsibilities as a resident DJ? 
As a resident DJ I have to play opening and closing for two hours a set. And sometimes in between, when the DJ provided by the event organizer plays badly, I have to take over. Before the night begins, I have to check the DJ lineup and make sure they’re qualified. Basically I’m responsible to control the quality of music and maintain it according to our style.

What type of music is “in” at the moment, especially with the Kemang crowd?
Dutch House, it’s a high-energy and pumping sound.

Is it annoying when people ask for a request?
It depends. For a special guest or friends, I have no choice (laughs). Sometimes if people request music that’s a different style from my original set, I won’t play.

So what do you like the most about being a DJ?
Getting the crowd to dance while I play and, of course, attention from the girls. It’s all about the girls [laughs].

Do you have a girlfriend?
Yes, I’m happily in a relationship.

Got any fun stories to tell about DJ-ing?
Well, once there was this girl who drank a little too much. She decided to strip and dance right next to me while I was playing. I think she was having too much fun.

What do you like most about working at The Green?
Working with the crew at The Green is very relaxing. The owner and staff are like family, so I’m very comfortable playing here. And the DJ equipment here has the latest tools.

Where else do you play?
For special events, I play at Venue, Triple 9, Second Floor. And I play out of town as well. I’m allowed to play wherever I like, with permission from the management.

What else do you do besides being a DJ?
I’m also a DJ instructor at OS DJ Studio with DJ Oky Sydney, who is one of my mentors. I teach R&B, while DJ Oky teaches progressive music.

Do you make your own songs?
I work together with DJ Oky Sydney to make re-mixes, but I haven’t produced my own songs.

What’s the best thing about living in Kemang?
I think it’s the lifestyle. Everything is happening here in Kemang, especially if you’re a nightlife person. There are a lot of events and parties, so for me it’s easier to get gigs and network if I live in the area.

How would you make Kemang a better place?
Kemang is already a great place, except for the traffic. I would suggest that party people get in the clubs before 10 pm during weekends. Normally they come at the same time, which is after midnight, and that causes traffic on Kemang Raya.

Where do you like to hang out in Kemang?
I enjoy chilling at Food Fest eating dim sum, because it’s 24 hours and I sometimes finish work at dawn.

Where do you think is the most happening place in Kemang?
Well, you know [laughs], I have to say The Green, because it’s one of the biggest clubs in Kemang, and we have one of the best sound systems.

DJ Icon was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in Kemang Buzz

My Kemang: DJ Icon

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

My Jakarta: DJ Sonny, DMC Champion

Being a DJ is serious business. Just ask DJ Sonny, who competed for the DMC DJ world championship title in 2005. His mad skills at the turntable won him first place in Indonesia and 13th in the world. The Jakarta-born Sonny was the first Indonesian DJ to come that close to the title.

After almost 20 years behind the decks, DJ Sonny is still churning out tracks from his home studio, and passing on his knowledge and skills to the next generation of DJs. He talks about being a teacher, the growth of hip-hop and what it’s like being a famous DJ in Jakarta.

How long have you been a DJ?

I started in 1990, but I was first influenced by a national DJ competition in Jakarta in 1987.

What was the scene like here in the late ’8s and early ’9s? 

At that time, we were still playing lots of R&B and hip-hop. There wasn’t too much house music.

How did the DMC competition change things for you? 

I had been a resident DJ at clubs, played at events and private parties, but I never competed until 2005. In 1992, there was an international competition in Indonesia, but at that time I was still too young. I patiently waited and prepared myself for the right time. It took 13 years before another international competition came to Indonesia.

Do you play other music besides hip-hop? Why hip-hop? 

If you’re asking why, my title is DMC so I have to play hip-hop. As a DJ, I have to follow the trends. I can play anything from hip-hop, R&B, progressive to house music. I only play hip-hop in Jakarta, but anywhere else, you might catch me playing progressive or house. 

Do DJs make a good living?

Until today, I haven’t seen a successful DJ in Indonesia, compared to international DJs like Tiesto or DJ Armin Van Buuren who have had hit tracks. In Indonesia, some DJs produce their own tracks, like DJ Romy, but Indonesians have not supported their work.

Do you produce songs? 

I make tracks, mostly remixes, and send them out to be distributed. I usually share my remixes with friends and students so they can play them exclusively. I have two different remixes, one for the public — a free download — and the other is for my crew. I also make tracks for ringback tones, short and catchy tunes like “Mbah Surip.”

In the late ’9s, DJs had a bad image because they were linked to drugs. How is it today? 

I think the image is a lot better today. A DJ can play alongside bands or at a fashion show. I think a DJ competition is important because it shows their skills in a positive way.

Tell me a little bit about your DMC experience. 

After winning first place in Jakarta, I went on to the national finals against nine DJs from other cities. I became national champion and was sent to London for the international competition. There, I finished 13th in solo and fifth in team. The one that meant the most for me was the solo championship. Though I didn’t win, the best part was the opportunity.

Now you’ve established your own DJ school. Tell me about it and what you teach? 

I started teaching in 2005, right after the competition. Teaching never crossed my mind. It was a request from friends and other DJs, so I started my own school, DOPESPINNERS. I teach basic and advanced skills and music production. You can check out more info at my site, www.dopespinners.com.

How do you like teaching? 

I love it. I have the drive to teach. There have only been two international championships in Indonesia, in 1992 and 2005. We only ranked 13th in the world, so we are still behind. I see an opportunity. I might not be the next champion, but I would like to see one of my students make it.

What type of music is in now? 

In 1996 house music became big here, and also the drugs. Bar revenues were down at the time, but because the music was booming, every club played the same thing, which they still do to this day. I think house music has become a lifestyle and a big market here.

Which one do you prefer, turntable or CDJ? 

I started with a turntable and vinyl, but since 1998 clubs started to use CDs. The best thing about the turntable is the image or gimmick. Imagine watching a DJ selecting the vinyl, taking it out of the sleeve, putting it on the player and bring the needle to the record. There’s a style to that. The best thing about CDJ is the digital quality. You can be creative by making your own remixes, burn a CD and play it right away.

Do you think DJs have to do some sick scratching or tricks? 

Yes, because if you don’t have skills, you’re just the same as the other million DJs out there.

What’s your latest project? 

I remix gospel music. I work with church and youth groups to recreate English gospel music to Indonesian and make it hip.

What do you think of the DJ business in Indonesia? 

I hope it will continue to grow. DJs can still do so many things besides playing in the clubs. But they have to maintain their image so it won’t ruin the DJ reputation. They can be artists, just like any other successful Indonesian artist, so they have to be more responsible.

DJ Sonny was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: DJ Sonny, DMC Champion