I’m with the DJ
Andrea Yu takes a look at how Hong Kong’s DJ culture is portrayed in the upcoming documentary Tableturnz
At the centre of every good club night lies one humble music selector – the DJ. Spinning, scratching and mixing his or her way through endless party tunes, this master of the decks can make or break a night out. But, when we’re strutting our stuff on the dancefloor, it’s rare we spend more than just a passing thought on the dude or dudette behind the booth (unless they’re a massive star, of course). But Bon Pang, a multimedia designer and former DJ of 10-plus years, is hoping to change the hearts and minds of clubbers and allow them to appreciate the city’s DJs far more with the first-ever documentary about the Hong Kong scene − Tableturnz.
After Pang saw the documentary Scratch (2001) about American hip-hop DJ culture and realised no such film existed in Hong Kong, he was inspired to create a documentary of his own in order to capture the essence of the city’s DJ culture. Funded solely by his own savings – and with the help of his film-savvy friend Kwok Leung – Pang set out to speak with a host of acclaimed local DJs to find out their opinions on Hong Kong’s state of music, club culture and how it’s progressed.
The who’s who of Hong Kong’s DJ and club scene is faithfully represented in the 70-minute-long Tableturnz, which screens this fortnight. Viewers follow veteran house and techno DJ Frankie Lam from his home, while he preps his DJ tool kit and then plays a packed house in former underground mainstay Yumla. We also hear candid musings from 24 Herbs rapper and producer Ghost Style, and see turntablist DJ Mikey of Black Sheep demo a seriously epic scratching routine. This is just the start of the dozen-plus DJs who appear in Tableturnz.
There are more than a few common threads which run through Tableturnz. After going through a brief history of Hong Kong’s club scene, courtesy of the city’s ‘godfather of DJing’ Roy Malig (seriously, the guy’s been around for ages…), the Tableturnz DJs agree that Hong Kong’s club crowds have become too commercial. Pang captures a passionate (and possibly alcohol-fuelled) rant from Jonathan Chan about how ‘people watch too much MTV’ nowadays, meaning that we’re exposed to a narrowing range of music. An equally entertaining outburst from a clubber outside Insenses chimes a similarly telling note as the guy claims he can listen to Top 40 songs at home… ‘so
why should I pay to listen to them in a club’?
Especially mind-boggling for some dedicated DJs is when those ‘MTV tunes’ are played from laptop playlists. “Everyone’s a DJ,” says Ghost Style, recognising how a laptop and Serato (software for mixing songs) is all it takes to put on a party these days. He does, however, applaud the technology, which is more convenient. But some in the industry, including old school hip-hop spinner K-Melo, relish in the golden days of vinyl records. Pang and his crew also visit a packed-to-the-rafters used vinyl shop in Sham Shui Po apparently filled with more than 200,000 records. The owner, Paul, is a massive fan of the medium and patiently explains the mechanics of vinyl records and record players for Tableturnz audiences.
Even if vinyl isn’t your thing, Bon Pang hopes the video will have a three-fold effect on viewers. Firstly, for DJs just starting out, he believes it’s a great way to get tips and tricks from those more experienced in the field. Secondly, he wants it to be an outlet for DJs to have their voice heard (‘you won’t usually talk to DJs but, in fact, we’ve got a lot of things to say!’) and, lastly, he hopes it might encourage the everyday viewer to pick up DJing as a hobby or career. Whether or not Tableturnz brings out your closet DJ, we think anyone who is, knows or has listened to a local DJ should catch this film. Now that’s a rap!
Tableturnz screens at XXX from Saturday June 16 to Sunday June 17. Check www.facebook.com/Tableturnz for schedule.