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Vinyl records: round and acetate dream of the DJ

The advancement of technology determines to a large extent the work of artists such as DJs. In the last 50 years the media to store and transport music have changed dramatically and, although many still prefer to be carried away by the magic of vinyl, it has been a long time since these were replaced by laptops and audio controllers.

If we could travel in time and see in action a DJ of the seventies, eighties or nineties, We would find him surrounded by plates, in a mixing table full of equipment. But the heavy suitcases of discs were changed by computers and sound softwares, with CDs first, and then with flash USB or SD cards, during the new century.

With the advance of availability of technological devices and access to the Internet, it is becoming easier to have on hand updated and varied music, and to store a large amount in a small physical space. The audio softwares allow to prepare the lists in advance and almost nobody dares to start playing live on the vinyl.

However - long after having been technically obsolete - the vinyl continues to be reborn. Apparently they never left the music scene and today they have become an object of worship for music lovers and musicians. For many DJs it is an exclusive instrument, endowed with a special touch that makes those who know how to master an artist of deserved respect.

"When you play with vinyl the wave is different", the DJs tell me again and again when I ask them about their experience with those big albums that now unequivocally transport us to another era.

Apparently, no matter how advanced the technology, those who love making music continue to prefer the unique sound that a turntable needle produces when it touches that black and crushed circle. "It's something nostalgic," they tell me, and this possibility of traveling through time on acetate wheels gives them a special flavor for mixing and sampling.

When I asked him how special is the music produced by these machines, Bjoyce, a Cuban DJ who shares his life between New York and Havana, vinyl collector and lover of producing mixtures old school style, He says:

"The technique of pacing with vinyl is different and the mixing is more primitive. Clicking with vinyl is very exquisite and truly unique, you have to have a very good ear because it is very difficult. My technique is still perfecting, but it is an addiction. Once you get into the world of acetate, you never want to leave. "

The adrenaline of moving from one album to another is something that producers who prefer this technique are grateful for. Even the defects that can result from a live session, for some, provide the authenticity of the mix, making the satisfaction of an impeccable work unique.

On stage, the technology of mixing tracks has changed, but the principle remains the same since the time of the acetate: combining two or more tracks to create a melody with a unique sense in itself. The modern softwares, however, offer the advantages of adding sound effects to the session without having to concentrate on the good "turn" of the vinyl, or even, with the necessary equipment, combine the two technologies. In addition, they allow DJs to focus more on the music and the intent of the set, and to experience more on stage.

To play with vinyl you need a turntable, which is connected to the computer and all the audio equipment to achieve the session. And although you can currently use a sound card to record the tracks, when DJs work with vinyl usually mixes live completely, which makes the process even more complicated.

However, in a work so mediated by the advance of science as that of DJ, new technologies always come out. To play with vinyl you need the connection to other audio equipment; the so-called style old school, which describes the technique of playing tracks on acetates, is almost never alone today and is usually reinforced by the work of sound software on laptops to combine the themes that sound on the dishes with the virtual tracks.

As they explain to me, only the DJs Joyvan Guevara (DJoy from Cuba), Kike Wolf and Wichy from Vedado have the combination of technology plus the experience in mixing to make dijing with vinyl in Cuba, or at least his work in that sense is better known. They have been in charge of showing their colleagues how it works, and from time to time, if the situation deserves it, they remove their devices from home for some event.

Many other DJs would prefer to be able to play the classical style, with vinyl and turntables. But being able to get all the implements to do it this way is very difficult: needles and machines in general are expensive and you have to buy them out of the country.

In Cuba there are no conventional stores where you can buy vinyl. I say "conventional" because they can be found in private collector's shops, such as Rafa Jiménez in Neptuno and Águila, where the same QuestLove, leader of The Roots, bought a pair. Or in stores of old objects, like those that we found lately, especially in Old Havana and Vedado, where among Singer sewing machines, strange lamps and radios of the first half of the last century, we always find some old record.

However, either through the aforementioned channels or because at home they have a few vinyls that they inherited from their grandparents, in any case, the music that is achieved in this format is old and mostly Cuban.

Ivan Lejardi and Joyvan tell that the majority of their collection has been made from the vinyls they buy when they leave the country or with the DJs that come from abroad, and this is the experience of many of their colleagues.

The The issue of the availability of varied and updated music in this format becomes fundamental. El Bolo SM, one of the Cuban DJs that has had the opportunity to venture into the dijing with record player, he tells me about this particular work: "It is very difficult to be able to make a collection of vinyl broad enough to be worth only of her when playing". But this artist has dared to do it and for several hours in the local The Magic Flute, next to the Funky Groove project.

It must also be borne in mind that vinyls are much more sensitive to deterioration than other technologies: they wear out little by little due to the friction of the needle against the grooves of the disc and this can influence how they sound; besides that the needle ends causing a "hiss" effect that reduces the clarity of the sound.

For Joan Coffigny, a young DJ on the Cuban scene, preferring "machines" instead of vinyl is more a matter of necessity. Do not provide of music updated and varied in acetate makes that, even having the necessary equipment, you are forced to limit this work or end up playing the same music every week.

On the other hand, It is very difficult to transport all the equipment necessary to puncture the old school style. When a DJ is going to play in a club, he often has to carry the machines himself. The basics already involve heavy equipment that needs to be handled with care. If you also want to bring a record player and a vinyl collection, you need a greater effort. Keep in mind that the amount of music that a flash by A few gigabytes can store it being equivalent to a sack full of vinyl records.

In fact, not only in Cuba, but worldwide, one of the main reasons that led DJs to stop using vinyl and replace them with more "comfortable" technologies was the difficulty of transporting the first ones.

The sum of all these difficulties -transportation, availability of updated music in vinyl format, high costs of the machines for turntables ... - have made this technique something rare and exclusive among the DJs of the Island. Worldwide, something similar happens: electronic music producers prefer the large number of possibilities offered by sound softwares when playing music, and those who work with vinyl usually reserve their use for special spaces.

Undoubtedly, in Cuba or in China, the DJ with a couple of acetate discs spinning in front is the idealized image that we all have in our heads when we think about this art, but music, as long as it is good, that comes from where come on!

Ailén Rivero Journalist. Activist for sexual rights. Feminist, ecologist, left. And music lover, of course. More posts

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