The other day I was driving home from work, listening to G98.7fm and heard a mix from Jason Chambers. He was going hard! Reggae, old school, R&B, everything all mixed into one, and I thought to myself (and Tweeted, of course) that no one in the world has mastered cross-genre mixing like Toronto DJs.
Starting From Scratch. Chief. Jester. And then I thought about Spex, DJ Jay, Soca Sweetness, Riyad, King Turbo, Lindo P, and all of the other DJs I essentially "grew up" on from house parties in Ajax, out to the University of Windsor, and now back to Toronto. These are the DJs that have supplied the soundtrack to our lives.
It's wicked to be able to turn on the radio now, at any given time of day, and have access to these individuals and countless others (shout out to Chris Dubbs!) to see the longevity of careers, the resurrection of careers, and the emergence of new sounds and specialists. I love that Toronto has it's own sound when it comes to DJs and music...and I think it's the sound of versatility. Our DJs are international in spirit and in talent...they can play anything, and are good at it. They understand every culture, and they translate it marvellously.
I'm just touching the surface with those names. There are so many talented individuals who have been grinding, and spinning records, and essentially building the infrastructure that is Toronto's urban culture today. There are reggae sounds like Black Reaction that I've always loved, and promoters like Ron Nelson that MADE me love dancehall culture in the early 90s. There are also original radio broadcasters and television VJs like Master T and Michael Williams who have also helped to shape the industry that now entertains us weekend in, and weekend out.
And it's not just about the music, or about the "DJ" specifically. It's about what they represent. They represent who we are, and what we like. The DJs of your specific generation ('cause I know I'm probably out-of-touch with some of the newer people on the scene) have a way of re-creating experiences and feelings with their selections.
That's why parties Redemption, Amnesia, and Memoirs of Soca, continue to be a hit with "our" generation. Because they bring back a feeling, a particular way of moving your body, and the memories and experiences that went along with that era. As much as "we" like the new stuff, the old stuff is classic.
I'm biased because I've always been someone who likes to go out and hear music...I realize that is not everyone's experience or preference, but to me, my memories coincide with the music and the events that were hot at that time.
Like when I think of the mid-90s, I think of basement parties in Ajax and Pickering, and I hear that Pepperseed riddim or Stink riddim. I hear Shabba. I hear Beenie Man. I hear Ron Nelson!
When I think of the late-90s to early-2000's I remember Windsor Sports Weekend, Toronto DJ's infiltrating our little temporary college town. I remember coming home for Caribana or long weekends and MISSING the way our DJs played. The skill. The mixes, in particular...I can even remember SPECIFIC mixes from SPECIFIC parties because they were that sick.
I remember leaving Windsor, and moving back home in 2003 and re-embracing the Toronto culture that I had grown to love, and realizing that nothing in my heart could compare to it. And to this day, now that I've been to other cities and experienced other cultures, I still have to rate our home-grown talent because they are who I am. Same experience. Same intention. Same spirit!
When I think of the present time, I think about how I don't know these DJs personally, but their music has still influenced me. I still NEED to go out and take in live music and mixing. I crave it. It's important for me to hear the evolution of our generation, and the integration of the new styles and movements.
I love music It is my fuel. In fact, I love it so much that I took all of that energy and put it into one book. This book encapsulates my love for Toronto, my love for music, and my appreciation for the wonderful DJs and cultural icons that make our city move.
"Request to Rewind" is my tribute to the music and the city, and through the inexperienced eyes of the fictional Abigal Thomas, she gets to experience everything straight from the heart of the process. It's available on Amazon and also BarnesAndNoble if you wanna check it out.
This book is my ode to the music and culture of Toronto, and those who keep it moving and thriving!