DJ Jimmy Jatt on DJing ahead of Red Bull’s December 3 Style contest

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Victor Okpala

“I remember one time, someone pointed a gun at me when I was playing at a party. He had requested that I played a particular song and I respectfully told him that I was going to do so when the time was right. Minutes later he walked up again and insisted that I played the song. This time, he was rude so I dismissed him. Next thing, he pulled out a gun and place it above my hip. Of course, I was forced to seek out the record and play it
even though it was barely in sync with the mix.” DJ Jimmy Jatt narrated whilst recounting his worst experience as a disc jockey. Jimmy Jatt is one of the pioneering disc jockeys in Nigeria with an illustrious career that spans up to three decades.

We had met at the retro-themed Hard Rock Cafe on Victoria Island, Lagos for a get-together with four other Nigerian DJs that’ll be contesting at the regional finals of Red Bull’s 3 Style contest set to hold later this month. You know what they say about experience; it’s like a priceless collector’s item so as part of preparations for the contest, these DJs were granted the luxury of tapping from Jimmy Jatt’s wealth of experience. DJ Jimmy Jatt has lived through the evolution of the music industry, from the days of vinyl to this moment that is nearly entirely digitally-driven. A lot may have changed over the years, but “the role of a DJ remains the same,” Jatt cited. “I think the biggest misconception about DJing is that people think we are mere button pushers. It is a job
that comes with a huge responsibility. You have to be able to elevate the mood of the people and sustain the excitement. It is not just about starting a party, you have to sustain the thrill. The people should be able to trust you to take them on a journey.” he buttressed, explaining how much of a psychological task it is to helm a set.

Although he’s had an array of unflattering experiences, Jatt’s view on receiving music requests from guests isn’t one that is totally marred by those encounters. “There’s nothing wrong with music requests, as a matter of fact, a request can tilt your set towards a direction that might turn out really great. The problem is just with people’s attitudes. People should not always expect a DJ to concur with their own personal taste. A larger portion of the audience might be into the ongoing flow, so to expect the DJ to interrupt the set because of you, would be unrealistic.” Albeit at a slow pace, Nigerian DJs are beginning to receive well-deserved acknowledgment for their contributions to the meteoric rise of the country’s music scene. Brands are beginning to offer stand-alone endorsement deals to DJs, and just about a year ago, revered awards show, Soundcity MVP introduced a category that caters specifically to the DJs. Jimmy Jatt corroborated the recent progress; “In other parts of the world, DJs are highly respected. We are beginning to see progress back here in Nigeria, but more work needs to be done. We need more award shows to recognize the DJs, we need more platforms and rewarding activities like the Red Bull 3 Style Competition.”

The Red Bull 3 Style is an annual global competition. DJs from around the world are tasked with the responsibility of delivering a set that incorporates three different genres. It is a test of diversity and fluidity. The competition had begun about four months prior with free workshops for budding disc jockeys that held in Port Harcourt and Lagos before the zonal contests that streamlined the Nigerian contestants to the final four. DJ Switch, DJ Soy, DJ Sleam, DJ Legend and two other DJs (Hamma and Papa Soul) from Tanzania will go head-to-head in the regional finals which will be held in Lagos. The winner will head over to Russia in 2020 to represent at the world finals.

DJ Switch who happens to be the only female contestant amongst the bunch is no stranger to the demands of competitions as she memorably rose to prominence in 2013 by way of her impressive performance on popular reality music show, the X Factor. When it comes to her profession, Switch says she’s blind to gender. “I see myself not as a female DJ, but simply a DJ”. In her view, it is for sure a male-dominated space, but whoever put on a better performance, will win. DJ Sleam is also a one-time contest winner and for him, this is another opportunity to display the dexterity of his skill. DJ Soy and DJ Legend are super hyped for the contest and are impatient to thrill guests with their sets.

“I know you are all ready to compete, but I want you to know that the most important thing is representation. Only one person will win and it may not be any of you but I want you guys to understand that you are in this competition to represent not just yourselves, but Nigeria and the entire continent,” Jatt cited whilst admonishing the contestants. “I know there are not so many DJing competitions out here, but it isn’t really about how many competitions are organized, it is more about what you make of this very platform that you now have. Also, if you guys put on a great show, it’ll prompt other brands to invest in more competitions and create more platforms for DJs,” he closed. The regional finals of the Red Bull 3 Style will be held on December 12 at Hard Rock Cafe, Victoria Island, Lagos.  The event will see performances by some of Nigeria’s music heavyweights and an array of side attractions.

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