Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

I Spy A DJ: Nadia Ksaiba

Written by Emily Westerweller
So, you know that game you play when you’re younger, “I Spy?” Let’s play our own version. I tell you what I spy and you tell me what you imagine. What comes to mind if I say, “I Spy with my little eye, a DJ?” And no, we are not talking about your friend that breaks out his iPod at parties, or another friend that plays a few CDs between bands at a show. (Yes, we all have those friends!) So, back to the game. You spy someone that is mixing records? Check. You spy someone that manages to control the whole room and grip the audience in a way comparable to watching a live band play? Check. You spy a guy with headphones that…? Wrong!
 So, you know that game you play when you’re younger, “I Spy?” Let’s play our own version. I tell you what I spy and you tell me what you imagine. What comes to mind if I say, “I Spy with my little eye, a DJ?” And no, we are not talking about your friend that breaks out his iPod at parties, or another friend that plays a few CDs between bands at a show. (Yes, we all have those friends!) So, back to the game. You spy someone that is mixing records? Check. You spy someone that manages to control the whole room and grip the audience in a way comparable to watching a live band play? Check. You spy a guy with headphones that…? Wrong!

The DJ I am thinking of is female. To be more specific, the female I am thinking of is London-based DJ, Nadia Ksaiba. Nadia has been around the London scene for the last five years mixing electro, house, and disco. She is known to get even the most timid dancer to the dance floor. She is not the only girl out there behind the decks either. In what is becoming more than just a current trend, girls are proving they can out mix the boys. I asked Nadia some questions to find out what it’s like being a female DJ, a DJ in general, and about the scene in London. I found the only obvious difference between her and the male DJs is that she has to figure out how to do it all in heels!

Emily: How did you get into DJing and mixing records?

Nadia: I learned how to mix so that there wouldn't be gaps when I had to change the records over when my friends came ‘round. I have always collected vinyl and found it slightly annoying when the record would run out and you would have to turn it over.

Emily: Are there a lot of other female DJs in London?

Nadia: When I first started DJing (over five years ago), there were not as many girls, but now there are loads more.

Emily: Where have you traveled DJing?

Nadia: European cities mostly. I have played in Australia too.

Emily: You got your start in London? What is the scene like there?

Nadia: It’s probably the best place to experience music—any night of the week there are always about eight different things going on—sometimes you [even find yourself at] three clubs in one night. Plus, every DJ or band always passes through while touring. I don't really think there has ever been much of a unique London music scene because there is always so much going on and everyone is distracted. I think, for the most part, we just embrace other scenes, though UK Garage, and Grime are quite London-y.

In London, we tend to make a party out of anything, so you don't even need to be in a night club as long as there are speakers...we party anywhere.

Emily: What is your favorite vintage track? Favorite new track?

Nadia: Probably any disco played in New York in the ’70s; and currently, any disco from present-day New York, so probably something on the DFA label. LCD Soundsystem’s 45:33 which they did for Nike [is an awesome record].

Emily: So, you teach kids how to DJ. Do you have a lot of girls in your class?

Nadia: A few years ago, I worked teaching kids how to DJ. I still do some workshops with schools, but now they’re so young, they’ve never even seen a 12" record before, and they don't know what vinyl is! They can relate more if you show them DJ software, as they know what an MP3 is.

The girls are into it as much as the boys…especially when they’re young and don't know that maybe not as many girls do it for a living as boys do.

Emily: What is a typical night like for you when you are working?

Nadia: I usually panic about what to play... and take ages to pack a record bag and a CD wallet, and I listen to everything beforehand. I’m sure it would be easier just to shove everything in my bag and not worry about it ‘til I got to the club, but I don't like playing the same things all the time. Then I worry about what to wear, and then usually change because it's hard to carry records and wear heels!

Emily: Any female that DJs you like, or that inspire you?

Nadia: Two London DJs, Heidi and JoJo De Freq. They are both great fun.

Emily: What advice can you give girls that want to DJ?

Nadia: I think being passionate about music is the number one priority.

Emily: Thanks Nadia!
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Five Steps to Starting Your DJ Career
By Josh Sparber
 
1. Commit and invest. You won't be playing Ibiza overnight, but if you're determined to start playing parties, invest in decent DJ equipment. One mixer, two speakers, and a pair of CD or vinyl turntables if you're feeling old school—DJ software for your laptop if you're feeling new school.

2. Practice. After work, during the weekend, in front of your friends or alone late at night. You don't need to be a scratch master but a little beat matching can go a long way. Plus, the more feedback you get, the better sense you'll have for what sounds like a train wreck and what works.

3. Keep your ears open. The best songs can be discovered on soundtracks, at thrift stores, or at that Turkish hookah bar down the block. Take the time to find out song artists and names if you ever hope to hear a track again. In your downtime, scour blogs and listen to Internet mixes and web radio for tastes that match yours.

4. Spread the word. If you're keen on starting a business, you'll need business cards and a mix CD. Beyond that, start building a website and collecting email addresses to let friends know when and where they can come and hear you spin.

5. Get play. In the beginning, no job should be too small and no pay too little. Spin at as many parties as possible and ask around at local venues—preferably with mix CD in tow—until someone gives you a chance. Once you're in, the only direction to go is up.

A Few Extra Tips…
—I wouldn't recommend a DJ to start out with records in this day and age. Why? Because they're cumbersome and using them makes it more difficult to stay on top of the latest music, which comes out constantly thanks to the Internet.

—I also don't recommend iPod DJing at this point in time because you cannot manipulate the songs—you can't speed them up or slow them down to match the next song.

—My suggestion is to amass CDs as well as MP3s that you can either burn onto CDs or play off of computer software when you DJ. Yes, you can also play MP3s off of iPods, but not as easily. Best of luck!
 
Illustration by Justine Zwiebel

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