Diamond in the rough
The vibe and rhythm of music developed Joyann Skeete’s passion for disc jockeying. The energy of the crowd and the synergy between audience and DJ wowed her, and since then she has been scratching vinyl and using jog wheels, faders and backlit buttons to mix music on her controller.
“Music was always a thing for me because I love it. I like following music trends and enjoyed watching deejays doing their thing.
“Fifteen years ago, my sister’s husband, who goes by the name Mega Sounds, taught me how to deejay on vinyl; so back in the day I used to go with him to work to understand the deejay culture. But it was only four years ago I decided I would actually pursue it as a job. I used to tell myself that I was not ready and the time was not right because I was a perfectionist.”
Joyann who is popularly known for her sass and attitude onstage as a backup dancer and has also competed in several island pageant competitions, told BUZZ her experience as a performer moving to different genres and beats naturally gave way to her ability to maintain the flow and groove of dancehall and select the music to suit. However, she waited so long to act on her passion that by the time she was ready to play at events the nature of disc jockeying had changed twice. After learning how to operate vinyl records she had to learn how to manipulate a CD console set and then how to deejay virtually on a laptop and controller.
“Transitioning from vinyl to CDs, and then to controllers was a big jump. It was difficult, but, eventually, it got easier.
“Using vinyl required DJs to have extreme caution because you had to be extra careful not to break the needle or scratch fragile records. Using CDs was a little easier because you could have listened to the other CD in your headphones but today playing is the easiest. Now you can store all of your music on a hard drive and play using your computer and controller.
“Records and CDs could not hold as many songs as a hard drive, so it is convenient in that way and inexpensive because you no longer have to buy two of each CD or record.”
Nonetheless, Joyann stressed that there was more to the art form than the simplicity of playing a song. She explained that with the advent of technology people might assume that anybody could be a disc jockey. Although the nature of the job is not as intricate as it used to be in the “years of vinyl”, it still requires a level of skill and application of knowledge.
For her, sound selection, the connection between player and the crowd, genre knowledge and the ability to set the mood at an event matter. She also said paying attention to the time of year, the type of event and location were all important factors which determined skilled players. She pointed out that considering those aspects of the job gave her the opportunity to travel to Canada and Antigua to perform.
“I guess what also makes me stand out among other deejays is the fact that I bring an entertainment package – DJ Diamond and The Diamond Dancers. For me, it is more than an audio thing it is a visual package as well.”
Joyann has been enjoying her dream so far to become the number one deejay in Barbados and the region, however, she said there were challenges in the industry that could alter her goal. She explained that there were prevalent gender biases that affected the booking ability and popularity of female disc jockeys.
“Some people dismiss the idea of a female disc jockey and we constantly have to prove ourselves. “Although it can be upsetting sometimes, you cannot allow those types of comments to get the best of you. You just keep focus and always try to do your best.”
DJ Diamond plans to take her music career to a higher level by creating and ceasing every opportunity that comes her way. She has developed an online show called Diamond Corner Wassy Wednesdays. (SB)