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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Queens of clubs

Female DJs are honing their turntable skills and gaining a reputation in nightclubs here.
The Straits Times - August 31, 2012
By: Melissa Kok
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Queens of clubs Sharon Ten also known as DJ Misty works the turntables on Wednesdays and Fridays at Avalon. -- PHOTO: AVALON SINGAPORE

Girl power is hotting up Singapore's clubbing scene, with more local and international female DJs hitting the decks at some of the biggest nightclubs here.

Nightclub operators say they are not just eye candy either, with many of them fast gaining a reputation for their technical skills and style of music.

Job hazards such as getting hit on by club patrons and not being taken seriously by fellow male DJs may still be par for the course, but these girls are taking it in their stride and letting talent shine through.

It is quite a spin from just a few years ago, when it was testosterone at the turntable, with only a handful of local female DJs having regular gigs here, DJs told Life!Weekend.

Now, they estimate that there are more than 20 local female DJs active in the scene, some with residencies at big-name clubs such as the Arena, Avalon and Home Club.

Even international female guest DJs are now a common sight at weekends. British-Japanese house music producer Maya Jane Coles, German electro DJ Ellen Allien and Australian DJ and songwriter Kate Elsworth are some who have featured here in recent months.

Just a few years ago, you would see an international female DJ only once every two to three months, say nightclub operators and DJs.

Zouk nightclub's head of marketing and events, Mr Timothy Chia, noted that more people are getting "exposed to dance music via popular media and the Internet", and this is encouraging females to join the male-dominated DJ industry. He added: "There have also been recent cases of celebrities such as Paris Hilton taking to the decks, which is something that definitely grabs the attention of the masses."

The reality TV star and hotel heiress made her DJ debut at the Pop Music Festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in June. It was not her best performance, but it definitely got people talking about the quality of female DJs.

Local female DJs on the scene now include veterans who have been in the business for more than a decade and young women in their early 20s just setting foot in the DJ-ing arena.

Driven by a passion for music and clubbing, many are self-taught or honed their DJ-ing skills via local mentors. Some also went to DJ bootcamps organised just for females.

Ms Farah Azizan, 26, a marketing communications manager at an architecture firm, tried her hand at DJ-ing when she got into electronic dance music a few years back, attending drum and bass nights at places such as the now defunct Mad Monks. She spins drum and bass, and hip-hop, mixing jazzy and Afro-Brazilian percussion samples into her tracks under the name of DJ Rah. She says technology is making it very easy for females to get into DJ-ing. She said that, for example, "you can play your music out through different channels besides the conventional turntables and vinyls". She also noted there are more courses dedicated to educating women keen to learn about electronic music and production.

For instance, Singapore has an annual all-girl FFF DJ Bootcamp run by veteran female DJs, now in its fifth year.

Since the bootcamp's launch five years ago, 40 women have gone through the month-long programme to learn basic mixing skills and prepare to DJ live. (see story below).

There is no gender inequality in the industry when it comes to pay, with the majority of local female DJs hired to spin at clubs commanding the same pay as male DJs. They make anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars a gig, depending on their experience and talent.

International female DJs also earn on par with their male counterparts, with popular DJs costing tens of thousands of dollars to book.

However, female DJs acknowledge that they still inevitably get judged based on their looks, unlike the men. Being hit on by male clubgoers on the job is also a common occurrence.

Mr Dennis Foo, chief executive of St James Holdings, which has five resident female DJs-cum-emcees, and video jockeys at Dragonfly and Shanghai Dolly, said: "When you have a female DJ, they are eye candy first, but then you look at whether the DJ can play or not.

"Female DJs have got good body rhythm, because girls can dance better than men. Clubgoers will look at that first, then look at the experience and talent later."

Indeed, Amy Saleh, 25, who is the resident DJ at nightclub The Arena under the performance name of DJ Amy Van De Beuken, said that she was once told to "dress up" and put on make-up by a client who had booked her for a corporate event.

The tomboy, who did not mind meeting this request, said: "I was told the clients needed a very girly DJ, so I wore a tube top and heavy make-up. A lot of guys came to take my photo. It was quite awkward, but really funny at the same time."

Director Phillip Poon of members-only club Filter and upscale Royal Room and Mink nightspots in the Pan Pacific Hotel, said some clubs look to book female DJs based on "sex appeal" or the novelty factor, but the ability to read the crowd and play music that appeals to clubgoers is more important.

Indeed, console queens tell Life!Weekend that skills and talent - being able to mix tracks well and command a massive dance crowd instead of merely selecting and playing tracks off your iPod - is what makes them last in the industry. Ms Ginette Chittick, 35, who has fronted Home Club's resident indie night Beat! for the past six years, said: "I've had some friends show me some tricks on the CD turntables, and from there it's really been just on-the-job learning.

"A large part of what I dois what I call indie-cheer leading. It's my job to ensure that the floor has a good time and my job to keep the energy up."

Veteran DJ Debbie Chia, 30, who has been a DJ since the early 2000s, said she sometimes wonders if her gender precedes her work, but added: "If I didn't have the skills to deliver, I wouldn't get repeat bookings." A copywriter by day, she said: "Perhaps previously, being a female DJ meant you stood out. Now it has become pretty normal and having a female DJ definitely adds value to the lineup of your team."

WHERE THEY SPIN...

DJ DEBBIE CHIA

Style of music: House

Where: KPO Cafe Bar, 1 Killiney Road

When: Every Thursday, 8.30pm till late

Admission: Free

Tel: 6733-3648

 DJ GINETTE CHITTICK

Style of music: Indie

Where: Home Club, 20 Upper Circular Road

When: Last Friday of every month, 11pm till late

Admission: $15 (includes one standard drink)

Info: Call 6538-2928 (1pm onwards)

 DJ MISTY (SHARON TEN)

Style of music: Top 40 hits, hip-hop, R&B and pop

Where: Avalon Singapore, Marina Bay Sands, 2 Bayfront Avenue

When: Wednesdays and Fridays, from 11pm

Admission: $30 at the door (includes one standard drink)

Tel: 6688-7448

 DJ RAH (FARAH AZIZAN)

Style of music: Drum and bass, hip-hop

Where: Next Friday, The Devil’s Toy x Good Times at BluJaz Cafe, 12 Bali Lane, and Sept 14, Fash x Good Times Crew presents Good Vibes at The Butter Factory, 1 Fullerton Road

Admission: Free admission for BluJaz event, $23 for women and $28 for men at The Butter Factory (includes two standard drinks)

Tel: 6292-3800 (BluJaz Cafe) or 6333-8243 (The Butter Factory)

 DJ AMY VAN DE BEUKEN (AMY SALEH)

Style of music: Electro house, alternative remixes

Where: The Arena, 3B River Valley Road, Clarke Quay

When: Saturdays from 11pm to 2am

Admission: $18 for women and $22 for men before 11.30pm; $24 and $28 after; (includes two standard drinks)

Tel: 6338-3158

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