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Are DJs Musicians?: Is Electronic Music Actually “Music”?

Through this article, I’ll be resurrecting a debate that has been going on for a while, on music forums, Youtube comments and all over the place since the start of the ever-flowing transformation of the music industry. This debate stems from a belief that music is restricted to real instruments and the years of practice that requires to master them. On the other hand, the new age of music that has dawned on us, which has ushered in an era where music does not necessary involve the use of instruments. Cue, the computers, the samples, the turntables and the age of electronic music, where pressing a few buttons can get you on top of the billboards, swimming in hordes of fans. Yes, I am talking about DJs, who mix two songs, add a few samples, synths, and a monotonous and mechanical beat, and call that music.

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Tripped Out Fact: David Guetta had to recently cancel his World Tour because he lost his USB drive containing all his songs! That is more inconvenient than having to travel with instruments on the road (sarcasm intended).

The question that is haunting me is, “Is that it?”. Are DJs actually dependent on a pen drive for their talent or is there more to it than meets the all-watching eye of criticism? For this, I will have to let go of my identity for a while as I transform from the spectacled metalhead with completely biased views towards “actual” music to my alter ego, “John”, who is generally capable of looking at everything under the blanket of things and experiences that we call life in a very objective way.

John is a bit reserved though and hence, has only a few things to say to us. He says, “Be wary and open to things that you do not understand, even if they seem stupid at first.” Due to the overwhelming amount of time I have had to spend with John, I have learned the art of translating things that he says in a more “layman” kind of way. Basically, what he is hinting at is the fact that electronic music might have more elements in it than we actually can comprehend if seen from a normal “musician” point of view.

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The art of making music is something that is much larger in scale than we know it to be. For instance, what might seem to be a practice where individuals are only pressing a few keys and producing music may involve some serious skills as well. This could be in line with the fact that when a guitar player listens to a metal song, he/she has much more to appreciate and observe than an individual who has not played an instrument to date. For instance, a DJ who mixes two tracks, adds samples to it and fills it with a steady beat is, in fact, composing a song, even though it may not be comparable to the compositions that involve a group of musicians churning out music by communicating through their instruments. Moreover, the art of mixing and sampling needs really good hearing skills as well, in order to understand and sync songs and samples to the note.

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So, I ask you this once more, do you think DJs are musicians. Music is evolving as we are, changing from one form to another. As the evolution happens, there are more and more people trying to come up with new ways of producing music, using the power of technology to explore new realms of expression. What needs to happen is a coexistence, where new forms of music are not treated with contempt just because they vary widely from previous forms of the same. Moreover, as new forms of music emerge, there is always the exciting opportunity of trying to merge playing styles and genres in such a way so as to form a combo of complete novelty! Let the evolution continue.

P. S. Here’s one video where the art of music triumphs over aspects like prejudices over “real” and “fake” music, as instrumentalists, dancers, DJs and all kinds of crazies come together in harmony. Wish the world could be like this!

Image Sources: [1], [2], [3]

Further Tripping…

About Ashwin Ramesh

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