Thursday, October 11, 2007

WE Feature - Scratch Lab DJ Institute

by Stacey M. Robinson

You don’t have to be Machel Montano or Chris Brown to activate a dancing frenzy, or leave a crowd in awe. As a DJ, you single-handedly have the power to ignite vibes into a room, whenever you put on headphones and select a tune.

Abby Tobias, Jordan Fisher and Baba Kahn acknowledged the phenomenal impact of DJ culture, and decided to create an institution that would take this art form and make this musical power accessible to everyone. Thus, the Scratch Lab DJ Institute was created nearly two years ago, to nurture, motivate, and train Canadian DJs to carry on the legacy of excellence already established in Toronto clubs.

Located at 1170 Sheppard Avenue West, the Scratch Lab is a 2500 square foot studio with state-of-the-art equipment, world-class instructors like DJs Baba Kahn, Grouch, Baby Yu, Dave Campbell, Jr. Flo, Starting from Scratch, Jedi and many other legends of the Canadian music scene.

“I went to an all-ages club at fourteen, and fell in love with the way the DJ managed the crowd. I was in awe. I begged my mother for turntables, she bought them, and I didn’t leave my room for about a year,” said Baba Kahn, DJ-ing now for 15 years. “I asked every DJ I could find how they do things. Everyone would give me five minutes to teach me something, and I just practiced. Learned about beats, and bars, how to mix – basically absorbing everything.”

Although anyone with a laptop and a reliable downloading site can DJ and create their own mix CD now, the Scratch Lab recognizes that the art of vinyl is back, and with programs like Serrato, turntable mechanics will not be lost. Students of the Scratch Lab Institute are taught on vinyl, and have access to the school music library containing everything from classic house to dancehall.

The Scratch Lab curriculum, now in line with the Ontario Ministry of Education Secondary School’s music curriculum, takes students from Beginner to Advanced levels, and covers a variety of courses from DJ Skills & Techniques, to Equipment Knowledge and Use, the History of Music, Remixing, DJs and the Digital Age, and Mixed CD and Tape Production.

For just under $500, students can register for 10 classes, running 70 minutes each, for a span of 12 weeks. Registration also includes 6 hours in a private practice room where students can experiment, and take advantage of equipment they may not have regular access to. Along with in-studio privileges, students over 19 are given the opportunity to job shadow with one of the instructors in a nightclub setting. The Scratch Lab also ensures that advanced students are schooled in the business aspect of the game, teaching the fundamentals of taking their hobby to a professional level.

Baba noted that although DJ-ing is a hobby-turned-profession for him, he doesn’t lose sight of the fact that it is still, indeed, a job; a job that he is dedicated to 52 weeks a year. His resume reads like the soundtrack to the experiences of many of Toronto’s 20- and 30-somethings: live-to-air on 93.7 fm’s Wreckshop Radio, Thursdays at Fluid, Friday’s at Guvernment, parties at Tropicana, and long weekends at Power Bar. Kahn was there to see the urban club industry begin, develop, and now excel. The hot spots may have changed, and the participants have matured or been replaced, but the process is still the same. For Kahn, he has transcended the generational gap, and managed to stay current. You can now find him back at Guvernment on Friday nights, at Afterlife on Saturday, and Embassy on Sundays.

“Having a school like this was important to me,” said Kahn. “I want to show people that this is a true art form. Myself, Scratch, Dr. Jay and a few others, we’re still here because we understand the fundamentals of the game…you have to be well-rounded to survive.”

Kahn, also busy with his first fully licensed album with Universal, his music label 747 Records, and his event marketing group Soul Shock, has allowed music to successfully influence all aspects of his career. Baba, Tobias and Fisher, proud of what they have created, hope to one day expand the DJ Institute into a franchise, giving this unique opportunity to aspiring DJs across Canada.

“There’s nothing better than seeing people react to music,” said Kahn. “I really get high off the music. I love people’s reaction. I love seeing their faces. That’s important to me. That’s what keeps me where I am. I still get the chills. If I were to ever lose that, I think I’d get out of the business. But I won’t, because I have too much damn fun.”

For Info see

No comments: