Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, June 29, 2001

DJ Deception a k a Tony Balbuena will be competing
in the Technics World DJ Championship regional
competition tomorrow at Wave Waikiki.

Trying to
skratch the spot

Nearly 50 contestant
s will vie for tops at the
DJ championships for the region

By Gary C. W. Chun

The Big Throwdown is tomorrow! Will the members of the Nocturnal Sound Crew successfully defend the honor of the state of Hawaii by vanquishing foes from all points of the globe?

DJs Compose, Jami and Deception (a.k.a. brothers Jay and Jami Ablan and Tony Balbuena in their regular, mundane lives) are primed and ready to take on all comers, a dynamic trio of the nearly 50 contestants in tomorrow night's regional competition, and they're all fighting for the world DJ championship of turntablism.

And we're not talking about any vinyl record turntable -- this is about the prime workhorse model for all righteous-thinking DJs, both dance club kinds and self-dubbed turntablists -- the Technics 1200 MkII.

Built to perform for continuous and consistent play hour-after-hour, in the hands of a turntablist, the turntable is transformed into a musical instrument, specifically if there are two of them with a connecting mixer. This setup is the primary hip-hop weapon, with the ability -- in the right hands -- to create sounds in a completely different way than the old, boring way of simply playing a record straight through. The turntablist's hands weave his magic, with one hand manipulating the records on the decks while the other controls the mixer's faders. When it's done right, it can be a revelatory experience in sound.

Contestants will each have six minutes tomorrow night to make their hip-hop statements and, hopefully, get the crowd going with their awe-inspiring skills.

Honolulu DJs, from left ETA (Steven Kanemoto), Compose
(Jay Alban), Logoe (Lowell Viloria), Jami (Jami Alban) and
Deception (Tony Balbuena), will be working the turntables
in the Technics World DJ Championship regional competition.

That means doing practically anything. Besides cannily altering the pitch and speed of the record's play with forward and backward "skratches" with either long, sweeping strokes or small chops and stabs, creative DJs also resort to quickly snapping the mixer's crossfader with razor-sharp timing, adeptly juggling the sounds between the two decks. Contestants may also employ special tricks, like cleverly using a prop (like a basketball), skratching with their elbows or even turning away and flipping the beats backwards. And it has all gotta make some musical sense, or it will be just show and no flow.

The guys of the Nocturnal Sound Crew have been honing their turntablist skills in monthly battles with other DJs from around the island in the storefront of Local Motion International Division on Kalakaua Avenue. An integral part of a quickly-growing scene, the guys from Pearl City, Waipahu and Salt Lake found a common interest and have been together for five years.

Turntablism combines the vocal qualities of skratching with beat juggling, creating bass and drum sounds. "Juggling is taking a known beat and changing it into something different," said the 22-year-old Jay Ablan, with the rest of the crew gathered at the Waikiki store on a recent Tuesday afternoon. With the pads of his fingers, hands arched, younger brother Jami shows how, with two vinyl copies of the Jay-Z 12-inch single "I Just Wanna Love U," the groove can go on as long as he can last, with circular colored stickers marking the section on the records used for the skratch.

"This is a (valid) form of expression," said the older Ablan, "like playing an instrument. It's been accepted in the mainstream, where you can see skratching on 'Sesame Street' and even Ronald McDonald's doing it!"

Honolulu is one of 14 U.S. cities (plus a stopover in San Juan, Puerto Rico) this year holding these regional battles, with winners heading to L.A. for a July 18th semifinal showdown, with the survivors going on to the world finals in London in September.

And as the only local entrants, the Crew know they have a daunting task ahead of them, but feel ready to fight the good fight. "We're honored for the DMC to be here," said Jay Ablan. "To be in it makes us feel like superstars!"

Like their heroes the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, the Allies, X-Men and Turntable Technicians, the Crew's always on the search for that new sound or trick. With the Ablan brothers attending Radford High and UH, the 19-year-old Balbuena, currently going to what he jokingly calls "the University of Daiei," said he's the experimental one, "doing new things with the turntable, like I've adopted a technique where I don't use the fader for skratching."

The Ablan brothers, says Jami, are "clean and funky -- we're more fundamental in the way we skratch," constantly battling each other on the turntables at home.

The Crew's working on some new routines for tomorrow night, ready to take on the competition, some coming from as far away as New York and, in Jami's succinct words, "kick 'em out!"

Originally getting their inspiration from watching videos of previous DMC competitions and later going to the San Francisco Skratchcon, this additional exposure to the best can only work in their best interests, according to the Crew. "People have no clue what Hawaii has to offer," said Jami Ablan, "so we have to go out there and do our job."

Skritch, skritch, skratch

What: Technics/DMC World 2001 DJ Championship regional competition, hosted by MC Infamous, with special appearances by world champion turntablists A-Trak and Q-Bert
Where: Wave Waikiki, 1877 Kalakaua Ave.
8 p.m. to 4 a.m. tomorrow
Admission: $10 for 21 and up; $15 for 18 to 20

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.

E-mail to Features Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin