DJs come up on film | Arts & Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

DJs come up on film

Phil Harris' documentary, The Come Up, pits newbie DJs against each other in a battle for turntable supremacy.

Battle Stance: Which fresh DJ will Come Up on top?

In Coconut Grove, just above the flickering neon lights of Pizza Corner, up the stairs from a glass window that appears to have a slight stain made by a hard fist, in a low-lit bar filled with candlelight, are the competitors for Phil Harris' The Come Up documentary, getting ready to give Halifax its first taste of a new generation of DJs at Lifted, Halifax's weekly hip-hop night.

Harris came up with the idea for the documentary after a few drinks at the DJ Olympics, watching the experts play their game. He wondered what would happen in a competition with no professionals, just inexperienced people with a dream. The goal is to see how long it would take to make a regular everyday guy or girl into a real DJ.

To see this experiment through, Harris is sacrificing his time, money and sanity. He spent $4,000 on a camera, computer and numerous expenses to make his dream into a slowly developing reality. "I am trying to make this happen on my own---all of my money goes into it. Postproduction is going to cost thousands of dollars and that's money I don't have. But we'll confront that when we come to it. It's how we've done the rest of it, and it's turned out pretty good so far."

Each of the newbie DJs has been connected with an experienced local Halifax DJ specifically picked to suit their eccentric sensibilities. Harris says it's the characters that make this documentary interesting and there are certainly enough characters amongst the contestants.

Adena Brown, a 16-year-old East Preston student, has been partnered with master of old skool hip-hop DJ Loonie Tunez, who she describes as a man on a constant sugar high.

"He has this energy. It's insane," she says.

Brown found out about the project while interning at CKDU. "Whenever I listen to the radio with my mom and stuff, it's the same songs over and over again," says Brown, beaming with enthusiasm. "I know a lot of people who rap, a lot of people who are coming up and I want them to have a chance to have their music heard."

That's what The Come Up is based on, says Harris, giving people a chance to do something they would never have been able to do otherwise. Sean Young is 29 and works 60-hour weeks at a multinational corporation that will remain nameless. His partner is DJ IV, who is currently touring in Europe with Classified and could not be at the event. Young has been interested in DJing for years and never found an opportunity to learn.

"It's one of those things, honestly, I never would have gone out on my own, gotten turntables and started doing it," says Young. "When this came up I was like, 'Perfect.' Sometimes there are coincidences, other times things are just meant to be. Things happen like that in life, it happens and you're just like 'Let's do it."

On the way to Coconut Grove Khephra Ahounou, 30, and her mentor DJ Y-Rush were almost hit by a car. She refers to her mentor as sensei and apologizes for only practicing for about 10 hours before her debut, due to a busy work schedule.

Ahounou sees her participation in The Come Up as a way of getting out of her shell for the first time in six years. From 1996-2002 she was a background dancer on the popular MuchMusic program Electric Circus. You can see this when she begins her set, hands slowly manipulating the turntables to The Pharcyde's early '90s hit "Passing Me By" and beginning to dance to the rhythms created by the movement of her hands.

"It was awkward at first, then you get comfortable with it, and then it gets awkward again. Then your mentor tells you to do something new and it stays awkward for a while. I'll get it though," says Ahounou.

Her mentor, DJ Y-Rush, AKA Kevin Bryden, is passionate about turntabling and spent his youth in its pursuit that he traces back to his childhood love of juggling. He became a DJ because he got to music by moving his hands. He loves playing the crowd. He is also very passionate about his art.

"There is an interesting history behind it all, hip-hop sample, once you find the sample, then you can find where they found their influence from or why they were doing what they were doing at a time, the social situations, the circumstances that make people do what they do," says Bryden. "This is history at your fingertips."

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