You should be dancing.

Posted: November 18, 2010 in Features
Tags: , ,

Back when man was stumbling around the dusty savannahs figuring out the best way to surprise a woolly mammoth, he found his experience divided sharply between night and day. In the light he was a naked animal, prey to those greater than him; but once darkness fell he joined the gods. Under the star-pierced sky, with flaming torches smearing his vision and armies of drummers hammering out a relentless beat, he ate some sacred roots and barriers, abandoned the taboos of waking life, welcomed the spirits to his table, and joined his sisters and brothers in the dance.

More often than not, there was somebody at the center of all this. Somebody who handed the party plants, somebody who started the action, somebody who controlled the music. This figure – the witchdoctor, the shaman, the priest – was a little bit special, he had a certain power. The next day as you nursed your hangover, he probably went back to just being your next door neighbour – that guy two huts down who wears a few too many feathers – but when the lights were off and you were heading out into a drum and peyote-fuelled trance, he was the don.

Today (no offense to rabbis and priests, who try their best) it is the Dj who fills this role. It is the Dj who presides at our festivals of transcendence. Like the witchdoctor, we know he’s just a normal guy really – I mean look at him – but when he wipes away our everyday lives with holy drums and sanctified baselines, we are quite prepared to think of him as a god, or at the very least a sacred intermediary, the man who can get the great one to return our calls. In a good club, and even in the worst ones, the dancers are celebrating their youth, their energy, and their sexuality. They are worshiping life through dance and music. Some worship with the heightened levels of perception that drugs bring; but most are carried merely by the music and the people around them. The Dj is key to all this. By playing records in the right way the average Dj has tremendous power to affect people’s state of mind. A truly great Dj, just for a moment, can make a whole room fall in love.

Because you see, Djing is not about just choosing a few tunes. It is about generating shared moods; it’s about understanding the feelings of a group of people and directing them to a better place. In the hands of a master, records become the tools of rituals of spiritual communion that for many people are the most powerful events in their lives.

This idea of communion is what drives the most music happenings. It’s about breaking the audience/artist boundary, about being an event, not just watching one. The hippies in San Francisco knew this when they made the early psychedelic rock shows places to dance. Sid Vicious knew it when he jumped off the stage to pogo in the audience and watch the Sex Pistols. And it’s why the twist caused such a dancing revolution; without the worry of having a partner, you were free to be part of the whole room. The Dj stands at the apex of this idea. If he does his job right, he’s down there jumping around in the middle of the dance-floor, even when he’s actually locked away behind a lot of electronics in a gloomy glass box.

(Borrowed from last night a dj saved my life)


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