Mixing it up Women are jockeying for spaces in Hamilton’s DJ scene

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Being a woman in a male-dominated scene, specifically in music, is never the easiest course of action, but prominent Hamilton DJs are making waves within the scene.

The fight for a place in the music scene has created a supportive community of women who are working together to make their beats heard. With a focus on helping each other through collaboration and promotion, these women are making sure that their respective music scenes see an inclusive space for everyone.

DJing in general began to take off in the 1960s and 70s, finding influence particularly within the hippie and disco eras. Most of the DJs shaping the movement during this time were almost exclusively part of the LGBTQ+ scene and after the Stonewall riots in New York City, nightclubs became a popular scene and became a more inclusive space.

From the beginning, DJing has served as a space for loud self-expression, a cultural movement founded on peace, love, unity and respect. From there, the evolution of the nightclub scene took form, reflecting the needs for particular styles and communities and creating various types of music genres that we know today.

Female DJs have always been an inspirational force within the scene, with the earliest female DJ on the scene being traced back to 1912. In 1922, Sybil True was one of the first people to ever play records on the radio, borrowing records from 6a local record store and playing them on air to encourage young people to gain interest in radio broadcasting careers.

Another important woman on the scene is Annie Nightingale, who was one of the first globally famous radio DJs. Her beginnings in 1963 at BBC Radio 1 is still one of the highest-revered positions on the charts, and in history.

With the help of a few prominent Hamilton DJs, including DJ Fazooli, DJ I Heart Hamilton, DJ Donna Lovejoy and DJ Rosé, women in Hamilton will have the opportunity to mix up the scene.

Creating Space in Hamilton

The early years of DJ Fazooli (Julie Fazooli Marquis)’s career, there were several instances that made it difficult to be a female DJ. There were very few other female DJs when she first stepped onto the rave scene in Toronto in the late 1990s and the misogyny was rampant.

For that reason, Fazooli took it upon herself to learn how to spin by actively watching her heroes while they played, and “obsessively” listening to mixes trying to figure out how it was done.

“Any time I asked someone to teach me how to spin, they always assumed I wanted to date them,” said Fazooli. “My first live performance at a rave was filmed, and when I saw the footage, they had pretty much focused my whole screen time with the camera pointing up the back of my skirt. I got intimidated regularly by men who would line up in front of the turntables to stare me down and watch every movement of my hands.”

Despite these instances of misogyny within the scene, Fazooli continued learning and teaching herself the ways of the turntable. She continues to DJ today, playing a multitude of venues within the city including Club Absinthe, the Casbah, Sous Bas and This Ain’t Hollywood, to name a few.

“I’m the type that bites back when annoyed, so now I get treated with a ton more respect and people know I am very capable of what I do, and not mess with me,” said Fazooli. “You gotta be tough sometimes — there’s no room to be passive and sometimes people need to be reminded that women are just as talented as men when it comes to DJing.”

Last year, Fazooli and other other female DJs in Hamilton, including Donna Lovejoy, I Heart Hamilton and DJ Rosé, came together to create the Diamond DJ Collective. The collective serves as an alliance to combine their different strengths and to promote themselves within the community.

Each DJ within the collective uses different styles and genres of music together that blend well when they play together. They also come from a variety of different social backgrounds and immersed into each one.

“The tides are turning. By having conversations and being open about experiences we’ve had, it’s so empowering to voice it and be validated by other women,” said DJ I Heart Hamilton (Kristin Archer). “From there we can figure out how to make the scene more inclusive. There’s a lot to unpack but we won’t get anywhere without having some tough conversations.”

Women’s DJ Workshop

To keep up with the stamina that female DJs have been seeing over the past few years, Fazooli and fellow DJ, Donna Lovejoy, launched a series of workshops. Under the title of Women’s DJ Workshop, the pair are teaching introductory classes to women and non-binary folk in Hamilton.

Women’s DJ Workshop originally came to the pair after being approached by the Art Gallery of Hamilton to create a series of workshops, but found that logistics would be costly, making it inaccessible for individuals to join. The duo then condensed it to an introductory, one-afternoon workshop so that people could test the waters first.

“DJing is incredibly intensive in both time spent practicing and finding records, and the financial burden of buying pricey equipment and building a proper vinyl collection,” said Fazooli. “You need to have an insatiable thirst for music and playing with music to even consider it as a hobby, as it’s a big investment on both of those levels. So a proper introduction to test the waters to see if it’s a good fit is key.”

For those who felt intimidated by the technical aspects, the workshop created a friendly and educational atmosphere. By pointing out all of the similarities between all of the different brands of equipment, the workshop ensured that new DJs were able to confidently adapt to changes when they were faced with an unfamiliar set-up in a live situation.

The major goal of the workshop was to start a conversation and about what it would be like to become a DJ without overwhelming students. Fazooli stresses that DJing is not an easy set of skills to earn, so the workshops aim to make it as simple as possible to understand, taking away the fear of misconception or obstacle for students.

“I think when people are put in front of all of this equipment and a few crates of records they get easily overwhelmed,” said Fazooli. “So this was a chance to kind of simplify

and break it down so that people could see that once you practice and get the techniques and concepts down, the world opens right up for you and it begins to be a lot of fun.”

Moving forward

In future workshops, Lovejoy and Fazooli will be covering more information about troubleshooting and specific technical aspects to ensure students feel armed with knowledge of how to overcome stressful technical mishaps.

By preparing students for anything that may come their way, the pair hope to instill a sense of independence, which is a quality that is crucial in DJing, and to create a new wave of empowered individuals, capable of creating new and exciting ventures for themselves in our community.

“The music scene is still very deeply rooted in being open to everyone as it always has been, with very few exceptions,” said Fazooli. “I find it hard to fathom that any scene would exist without women and non-binary people as an intrinsic part of their foundation.”

While DJing in general is heavily male dominated, the support and encouragement from two talented women in the capacity of a student can be crucial. Being backed by a network of women can help other women gain confidence to move forward on their own and have the ability to create their own style.

The workshops will continue on a bi-monthly basis beginning in April, and Women’s DJ Workshop will be hosting a meet and greet DJ session on March 17 at Dr. Disc.

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Author: Emily O'Rourke

Emily is a recent Communication Studies grad. Now you can find her in the big seat as Editor-in-Chief. She mostly talks about PR, meme culture, coffee and dogs. Emily was also voted biggest klutz in her high school's graduating class, FYI.