Tasa Nugraza Barley
Jakarta is a city known for its nightlife. When the weekend hits, it’s easy to spot scenesters — decked out in designer duds, eagerly lining up to get into the most happening clubs as the sun sets.
The clubs are where the fun is at, and it’s the DJs who crank up the music to get people into a party mood. DJs have become stars in their own right, with DJ Riri, DJ Winky and DJ Bone the most famous local talent.
Hiring them isn’t cheap because they have amassed loyal fans who follow them wherever they spin.
For a time, male DJs dominated the scene. But not anymore. Women are now starting to take over turntables.
“Female DJs are so much better,” said 22-year-old Andhika Primananda, who belongs to Jakarta’s anak gaul — cool, hip kids who like to party.
He said he loved watching female DJs spin music at clubs because they were so much more attractive compared to their male counterparts.
“It’s so much better if the DJ is both beautiful and sexy,” Andhika said.
Asked if he thought female DJs played better music than male DJs, he said, “Do you really care about the kind of music they’re playing if you’re drunk?”
Andhika added that male DJs are boring because they always dress the same way: usually in T-shirt and jeans, with some also sporting a baseball cap or a jacket.
“It’s a completely different case with the female DJs. They usually wear sexy clothes and put makeup on,” he said.
He added that one of the reasons why female DJs are gaining traction in the current scene is because of their sex appeal.
DJ Jacqueline and DJ Ferra Allony, both 24, are currently two of the up-and-coming spinners in the city.
They decided that they wanted to become professional DJs because they had always loved going from one club to the next. Jacqueline is into house and techno while Ferra prefers progressive.
“I guess it’s the latest trend among clubgoers in Jakarta and Indonesia, that they now prefer female DJs,” Jacqueline said. “The clubs think that we bring more people to the place.”
Jacqueline, who is also studying public relations at a university Central Jakarta, said that she developed her interest in deejaying when she saw a woman DJ spinning at a club.
Only 17 at the time, she was amazed to see that the woman at the booth could pump up the crowd with her selection of beats.
But she did not become a DJ overnight. She had to wait for a while because her parents were initially against the idea.
Though, when she sought to seek their permission once again last year, they finally agreed.
She joined the DJ Spinach School in Kemang. In 16 two-hour sessions that cost between Rp 2.5 million to Rp 3 million ($270 to $320) each, the school teaches anything and everything you ever wanted to know about becoming a DJ, offering classes on how to mix music and how to use the turntables.
Barely a year after she started, Jacqueline now regularly spins at various nightclubs in Jakarta like Centro, Vertigo, Barcode and Kampus.
She has also played in other cities, putting her mixing prowess to the test in Bandung, Surabaya, Makasar, Pontianak and Bali.
DJ Audi Roro was only 14 when she wanted to learn how to spin house music a few years ago. She said she had gotten used to house music because her parents had always played it at home.
While she had her dad’s support, her mom needed more convincing because she was afraid that the nightlife would have a negative impact on Audi.
“The nightlife has always been associated with negative things, such as alcohol, cigarettes and drugs,” Audi said. “That was the reason why my mom freaked out.”
Audi, however, managed to persuade her mother to change her mind. Her mom finally let her join a DJ school because she knew the school’s owner.
Her mom’s decision to let Audi pursue her dream has now paid off. The now 18-year-old high school student has won many DJ competitions, including the 2008 Pioneer Pro DJ in Jakarta, where she beat male DJs for a spot in the top five.
She now plays regularly at school events, product launches and clubs.
Audi said female DJs were better at synchronizing themselves with the music.
“Unlike male DJs, female DJs aren’t shy about dancing with the crowd,” she said.
Jacqueline shared the same sentiment. She said she always encouraged those who attend her sessions to dance along with her and just move to the music.
“Most male DJs just like to stand still behind their turntables and clap their hands sometimes,” she said.
Audi said some of the female DJs she knew liked to dance seductively just to draw attention. She was quick to add, though, that this was something she didn’t do.
She added that both male and female DJs basically followed trends in music.
“But in most cases, female DJs like to play the kind of naughty and pumping music that encourages people to dance harder,” she said. Jacqueline admitted, however, that male DJs were better and more experienced than female DJs.
But Ferra is not of the same opinion, saying that many female DJs are now just as good.
Dian Sinar, 35, is an instructor at the Rumus DJ School in Fatmawati, South Jakarta. He’s been involved in the world of deejaying for more than 18 years now.
He said that it was true that most clubs now prefer booking female DJs because they believe they attract more people to their parties. Dian, who’s known by his stage name DJ Dudut, said that female disc jockeys in today because most clubgoers are men. And all men like to see beautiful women, he said.
“We live in a male-dominated society where men rule, whether you like it or not,” he added.
“I do like to wear sexy clothes while I play my music at a club,” Ferra said, adding that she mostly wears an eye-catching dress, high heels and some glitter on her face.
“I think it’s normal [that I dress up] because I need to look good, as I’m the center of attention.”
If most female DJs want to look pretty while they spin, Audi is more partial toward wearing black.
“That’s because I like to be idealistic and I like dark music a lot, with lots of futuristic and techno musical elements,” she said.
Being a female DJ isn’t always a spin around the park. Both Jacqueline and Ferra said that they try to be alert at all times while on the job.
“Drunk men can just come up and do stupid things,” Ferra said. Audi added that men ask for her phone number all the time. Because of this, they always have someone with them when they perform.
Dian that he was certain that the demand for female DJs would remain high this year.
He said that a famous female DJ could be paid between Rp 4 million to Rp 6 million for just one night’s performance at a club.
“With this kind of money, I’m sure more women will want to become DJs.”
A Male Perspective on the Turntable Invasion
Pradhika Ahardi, 25, has been a DJ for more than five years. What started as a hobby for him has turned into regular gigs at various clubs in Jakarta.
He acknowledges that female performers at the turntables are more physically attractive compared to the men. “Most of them are sexy,” but he added that he was concerned many of them were not as skilled as they should be.
He shared his experience about a female DJ who was forced to play at an important event even though she wasn’t ready. “She [ended up] blowing the party and people just left.”
Pradhika said he didn’t feel threatened by female competition. He believes that in the end, successful DJs will be judged based on experience and the quality of their work.
“Some female DJs are just lucky to have something we male DJs don’t have. But one day, people will realize that they can’t really deejay.” He suggested that women not only rely on their physical assets but also take time to work on their technique.
Tasa Nugraza Barley