DJing is an art, a craft, and even a sport. For the past 38 years, British company DMC has hosted an official world championship for DJs who use vinyl records to battle each other on turntables. The idea is to combine musicality, technique, and confidence to shock, surprise, entertain, and show who’s the best. The competition is most often held in London, but this week, the Technics DMC DJ World Finals will take place in San Francisco for the first time (Fri/3, 8pm, The Midway, SF. More info here).
According to Christie Z., who serves as DMC’s longtime US branch manager and the organizer of this event, DJs and enthusiasts of battle DJ culture from around the world are flying to San Francisco to watch 20 international competitors compete across two categories.
“One is the classic battle that we’ve been doing since 1985,” she explained. New Zealand’s DJ K-Swizz will be defending that title. “Everybody does a six-minute set to win first, second, or third. The second battle is the battle for DMC Supremacy and it’s a head to head battle. That one is two rounds, 90 seconds each round, and it has about four competitors this year.”
People are also traveling here to watch several past champions perform and be honored, including the Bay Area luminaries who make this region an international hotspot for what came to be known as turntablism in the Nineties. Following their three-day takeover of Outside Lands, Qbert, Shortkut and D-Styles of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz will perform and Mix Master Mike will receive the lifetime achievement award.
The event will be hosted by Babu and Rhettmatic, who will be taking a day off from teaching lessons at their Glendale based school, Beat Junkie Institute of Sound — one of few places where anyone can learn how to become a competitive DJ school through in-person or online instruction. Babu is also the DJ for the hip-hop group Dilated Peoples, and the trio will perform live.
Christie Z. noted that some degree of musicality got lost over the years when competitors focused more on the fervor of outdoing each other with their technical skills, and that may have cost the culture some of its more general audience.The lineup she’s programmed, which also includes Kentaro, a world champ from Japan; Prime Cuts, an acclaimed UK DJ with a world team title, and two-time French champion UZ, favors DJs who know how to balance it all well.
“We want it to get back to being as popular as it used to be, and I think the only way it is going to happen is if it gets back to being more musical,” she said.
This week’s event in San Francisco is an important step in bringing the spotlight back to the skill it takes to be a truly competitive DJ.
TECHNICS DMC DJ WORLD FINALS Fri/3, 8pm at The Midway, SF; tickets for the all-ages event are $40/three for $90 on Tixr. Shortkut is hosting an official afterparty cruise on Nov.5; tickets are $20-$260 on Eventbrite.