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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 July, 2005, 07:18 GMT 08:18 UK
Digital Citizens: My night as a DJ
By Darren Waters
BBC News entertainment reporter

Nowax party night
My DJ efforts are clearly amusing....
All this week the BBC News website is speaking to people whose creativity has been transformed in the digital age.

From blogging to podcasting, millions of ordinary people are becoming writers, journalists, broadcasters and film-makers thanks to increasingly affordable and accessible tools.

How would I fare as a digital DJ for a night?

Now I know how Fatboy Slim feels. I too have stood exposed at the decks, the crowd hanging on to my every tune, swaying to the hypnotic beats I serve up.

Well, almost.

Today's DJs are be superstars, who earn their crust through a mix of performance, musical knowledge and skill with the all-important vinyl.

But can the digital age sweep away these highly-paid DJs and replace them with citizen DJs?

That is the thrust of Nowax - evenings devised by two friends Raj Panjwani and Charlie Gower who want people to bring their own music to the pub or club.

The premise is simple - people can bring along an MP3 player to a Nowax night and then get a chance to play three selected tunes to the crowd.

Desperately looking for a song to please the crowd

The idea has been so successful that Nowax nights have sprung up around the world - in Tokyo, Detroit, Vienna and Singapore.

After interviewing Raj and Charlie I fancied my chances as a DJ and signed myself up for the second anniversary Nowax party in Shoreditch, east London.

With more than 4,600 songs on my iPod I was confident I could find three that would get the crowd on its feet. But which three?

Nowax parties are structured like a head-to-head battle. There are effectively three rounds of action as a pair of DJs take turns to play one of their three songs, in an effort to bounce off each other.

In the days leading up to the event I was scouring my MP3 player looking for tracks that would be popular and imbued a sense of cool. I was not hopeful.

My search continued, album by album and track by track until I found the song I knew I would play first - Goldfrapp's Strict Machine, a rousing, beating, thunderous pop track I believed would get the crowd going.

I was more than a little nervous when I arrived at the bar - populated as it was by the shabby chic, whose MP3 players were no doubt replete with soothing vibes and irresistible beats.


I took my place at the decks and mixer, MP3 player at the ready, adopting a nonchalant stance of cool indifference.

But the bravado drained from me when my rival played his first track.

It was undeniably hip, and the word urban sprang to mind. I knew there was nothing remotely "urban" on my iPod.

Flustered by his track I stuck to my original choice and as his soothing song ended my pounding number began. The contrast was brutal.

The 100 or so people in the bar flinched and instead of tapping toes and fingers they merely leaned in and tried to continue their conversations.


My rival DJ, Tom, selected his next track, his final selection, and again I knew I had nothing in my arsenal to match it.

My choice of music creates barely a ripple of interest

Panicked, I scrolled frantically through my song lists, desperately seeking something, anything uplifting.

As his track faded out I stabbed the play button wildly on my iPod and Leftfield's Open Up, featuring John Lydon screeched out.

A bombastic rant of a dance track, it sounded wildly inappropriate for nine o'clock on a Thursday evening.

The crowd hunched further over their drinks as they absorbed my aural assault. I now had one song left to redeem myself but was still confident because I knew my next DJ rival was a BBC Radio Five Live reporter, Ross, who had earlier confessed to me that his MP3 player was mainly full of classical music.


Mercifully, I faded out Leftfield early and awaited my BBC colleague's selection.

Expecting Bach or Mahler, I was dumbfounded when C'mon C'mon by the Von Bondies played out.

The Five Live man had cheated - not wanting to disgrace himself he had researched playlists at previous Nowax parties and had downloaded a track he knew that had been played before.

By now I was punch drunk and beaten. My final track was meaningless so I chose a dance remix of an old Jean Michel Jarre track, Chronologie Part Six.

There was barely a ripple of reaction from the crowd.

The song ended and I gathered up my MP3 player and tried to make a discreet exit from the bar.

As I left, the bar was engaged in a raucous sing-a-long to the Kinks' Sunny Afternoon.

I had wildly misinterpreted the mood of the audience and stupidly overinflated the quality of a music collection.

Did Fatboy Slim ever feel this way?

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