BEats: Searching for New Rhythms
The setting feels all too familiar – it is the middle of the night, but the city’s gritty heart is more alive than ever. People leave their houses to bask in the nightlife, swarming around dimly lit clubs that rove with bright, flashing lights, and in all of these places, the crowd is anxious with anticipation. In a moment, DJs will step up onto the plate and behind their consoles, bringing to the dance floor the lifeblood of all popular clubs - their music.
But have you ever wondered how their jobs are like?
WORDS METYS NGO
PHOTOGRAPHS CHIA JIA LI
ILLUSTRATIONS ESTELLE QUECK
Meet Yu Hui, 19, who goes by the moniker Yuyu. A part-time DJ, Yuyu recently debuted this September after training under Altra Management, a local DJing and talent agency, for one and a half months.
During her training as a DJ, she often headed to Altra Management’s office to practice on a DJ console whenever she had free time. She describes the training as one that you graduate from “whenever they think you’re ready to DJ in front of a crowd”, so there is no fixed amount for how much time aspiring DJs need to spend in the offices practicing before they debut.
However, debuting is also just the first step. As a DJ who recently entered the scene, Yuyu does not have a resident club - a club she frequently plays at - yet.
The job is also one that requires a lot of preparatory work.
“Each DJ will have their own collection of music that they download on their personal laptops, and they will need to update it regularly. Some clubs also don’t like when the DJs play weird music, so a lot of people usually just try to keep up with the best-known mixes and Top 40 songs of the [musical charts that] season.”
“In clubs, you usually need to remix the songs on the spot, so you need to listen to the songs in your collection a lot. Most songs will have skeletons, such as the intro, melody, build-up, and drop. As a DJ you’ll need to be very clear about the song so that you can cue the next song and fade the current one when the beat drops, because the music is not supposed to die unless you’re wrapping up your DJing session,” she added.
She is currently learning to mix more difficult music, and plans to buy a DJ console so she can practice at home, but she does not think DJing is something she will do in the long term.
“I don’t like the late hours and rowdy, drunk people, but for the most part I think it’s okay compared to other work environments. But it’s affecting me and my health, and my body clock is now a bit messed up. So maybe I won’t do it in the long-term, but it’s still a good experience because it was fun and new. When I need to, I’ll take the time off from DJing to pursue something else, but for now I’m just taking it as it goes.”
Yuyu also confesses that the other reason she is unlikely to continue is because she does not like stagnation, which means her future in DJing is unlikely to last.
“Even in my room, I shift around the furniture every few months so it feels like I’m living in a new room. It’s more comforting to me, because the idea of staying in one place too long scares me. I’m not really sure why, but I feel the itch to move, and this moving... it’s sort of like a freedom to do whatever you want.
“[So] eventually, I’ll be bored of DJing too. I can’t see when, but eventually I know it’ll happen. I try to keep myself away from boredom in my personal life, so I’m quite happy with the life I’m leading now. But this means I probably won’t stay in [DJing] for very long.”
But this is something she is comfortable with, which has also affected her outlook on her own life. For anyone who wants to venture into any terrifyingly new and exciting experiences, she has a piece of advice anyone can take to heart.
“I feel like life is like playing a video game. When you first start out, you’re like level one. You’re really weak, you get killed by the monsters really fast. But it’s something you have to keep at, because beginnings are a gradual thing until one day, you finally realise you've reached the next stage. I find the journey more important than the beginning or the end, and how you face different challenges are more important."
She added: “To borrow from the Nike slogan, just do it. It’s like, don’t think too much about it, because when you think too much about it, you end up scaring yourself instead. So you just have to go for it, and see where it leads you.”