I'm a veteran in the DJ game, and have been hittin the decks since ’97, playing a vast range of styles over the years - ranging from funk, early to mid-90's hip hop, trip hop, B-Boy anthems, electro, house, French Touch, acid techno, breaks , classic rock, pop punk, indie rock, and even 80's classics - at a variety of raves, parties, clubs, and venues across Ontario. As a college student at the University of Toronto, I produced my own style of trip hop and hosted a weekly 3 hour radio broadcast called “Back II Basics”, a show about the history of electronic music that ran for 5 years in the early 2000’s, patterning the format off of legendary music historian Alan Cross. I was awarded the Atomic Turntable Award in 2005 from VIBE to celebrate that accomplishment.
Currently only a couple of years out of an 8 year partial hiatus, I now focus on hip hop, trip hop, French Touch, electro, indie rock, and retro hits from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and still maintain a strict use of vinyl only. I am also a founding member of the female DJ squad The Diamond DJ Collective, as well as a founder and instructor for the Women’s DJ Workshop, currently located upstairs at DrDisc, and also offering live nightclub workshops at Absinthe Hamilton. I will be offering workshops for teens this June at the JNAAG in Sarnia for their summer camp program this year as well. Stay tuned for more details!
Check out my Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/znakattack-1-1
You can find my mixes on Spotify at www.djfazooli.com
The DIAMOND DJ COLLECTIVE
The DIAMOND DJ COLLECTIVE is a rotating cast of female DJs dropping dancefloor gems to make your body rock. Our founding members include Donna Lovejoy, I Heart Hamilton, and myself. We are a group of women who formed an alliance to combine our various strengths to promote ourselves within the community. We work really well together because we all play different styles that easily mesh, and we come from different social circles and are all very immersed in different facets of the community, so we share DJ bookings, and can pass off dates we’re unavailable for to others. Recently, we've added a few others to our roster, and are continuing to evolve and spread joy to dance floors throughout Hamilton.
A LITTLE MORE IN-DEPTH ON BEING A FEMALE DJ AND OUR WOMEN'S DJ WORKSHOPS - AN INTERVIEW WITH HAMILTON'S THE SILHOUETTE...
THE SIL: How are you involved in Hamilton's DJ scene?
FAZOOLI: I came out of a short retirement a few years ago when I was working at the Baltimore House on their Saturday House music nights (called Night Drive, and later, NoThrills, which we currently continue at Club Absinthe) to kind of fill in some gaps when we were short on the DJ lineups. I had so much fun playing live again, I decided to start saying yes to requests to play more often. Now I play in a multitude of venues like Club Absinthe, the Casbah, Che, Sous Bas, The Gasworks, and This Ain't Hollywood, to name just a few.
Last year, a few fellow DJs came together to create the Diamond DJs Collective (comprised of Donna Lovejoy, I Heart Hamilton, and DJ Rosé), a group of women who formed an alliance to combine our various strengths to promote ourselves within the community. We work really well together because we all play different styles that easily mesh well, and we come from different social circles and are all very immersed in different facets of the community, so we share DJ bookings, and can pass off dates we’re unavailable for to others.
Donna Lovejoy and I also recently founded the Women’s DJ Workshop for the Art Gallery of Hamilton in a one-off afternoon of learning at the AGH Design Annex, which we’ve now expanded on our own with the help of DrDisc and Club Absinthe to create a biweekly workshop for those who want to learn more, or missed out on the introduction. Our focus is on creating a stress-free and fun learning environment, free of intimidating factors, and we cover a broad range of basics, including a bit of history, equipment and technical knowledge, as well as a few rudimentary mixing techniques.
THE SIL: How long have you been a DJ?
FAZOOLI: I started DJing in 1997 in Toronto's rave scene as it was coming into a massive international scene. I mostly played underground raves for many years, playing a variety of styles, before attending the University of Toronto, where I hosted two radio shows over my 5 year career there in the early 2000's - "Back II Basics", a show about the history of electronic music, and "Showtime at the Dump", which was basically a mix-up of underground B-sides and rarities. This was also around the time I started producing my own style of Trip Hop, but my studies and work quickly took over so it became difficult to keep up with it.
THE SIL: Have you ever been faced with any form of discrimination as a female DJ within the music scene?
FAZOOLI: After all these years, that has kind of dissipated in the scene as it's grown to include a multitude of women now, but when I first started in the late 90's, there were all kinds of issues that made it difficult to be a female DJ, as it was predominantly a boys club. There were very few of us, and we had to put up with a lot of misogyny in the early years. Comments like "women make horrible DJs, but they look cute doing it" and "you only got booked because you're dating the promoter" (which was never true), were always flying around. Any time I asked someone to teach me how to spin, they always assumed I wanted to date them, so I ended up teaching myself by watching all of my heroes like a hawk while they played and obsessively listening to mixes trying to figure out how it was done. My first live performance at a rave was filmed, and when I saw the footage, they had pretty much focused my whole screen time with the camera pointing up the back of my skirt. I got intimidated regularly by men who would line up in front of the turntables to stare me down and watch every movement of my hands. My whole life I've had male DJs come into the booth while I'm playing and reach over me and twiddle with the knobs on the mixer even though it sounded fine.
Things like that really grind my gears, but I always kept my head up, shoulders squared and I'm the type that bites back when annoyed, so now I get treated with a ton more respect and people know I am very capable of what I do, and not mess with me. You gotta be tough sometimes - there's no room to be passive and sometimes people need to be reminded that women are just as talented as men when it comes to DJing, and we do have a sort of different way of approaching it. Men tend to focus on being extremely technical and seamlessly perfect - but women seem to go more with the flow, focusing on track selection, weaving a story or evoking a feeling on the dancefloor. We're much more emotionally-inclined.
THE SIL: How are organization, such as Women's DJ Workshop, helping to get rid of the stigma surrounding women in music? What are some other collectives that are doing this work as well?
FAZOOLI: Luckily I think the stigma out there that women in music are just pretty faces put out there for sex appeal and to add diversity to a lineup has drastically changed. The world of DJing is a LOT less intimidating than it was before, when it was primarily a world run by mostly men. Women aren't generally drawn to electronics quite like men tend to be. For those who still feel intimidated by the technical aspects, we make it easy to follow in a friendly laid back atmosphere, and point out all of the similarities between all of the different brands of equipment so when they're faced with an unfamiliar set-up in a live situation, they can confidently adapt to changes. We'll be coving more about troubleshooting and specific technical aspects going forward so they feel armed with knowledge of how to overcome stressful technical mishaps (which always seem to occur). That alone helps women gain confidence to move forward on their own and have the ability to create their own style. It's about instilling a sense of independence - a quality most instrumental to DJing, as eight times out of ten, you're playing on your own.
I know that there are quite a few other female DJ collectives globally - it's not a new idea by any stretch. TGAF out of Paris is comprised of five women DJs who run a radio program and play together in clubs, Discwoman NYC is a group of Techno DJs in New York that tour worldwide, SISTER is an international online collective that has taken over Soundcloud, Born N Bread from London in the UK who also do radio, fashion and art as part of their collective feats, there's Mahoyo out of Sweden doing Hip Hop and R&B, Miss Modular in Los Angeles is a female DJ-run radio show on Radio Sombra. Work in Progress out of Toronto is another one that's pretty great - they do a radio show as well as throw their own jams, so if you ever come across them, you should check them out.
THE SIL: How is the music scene changing to be more inclusive towards women and non-binary folk?
FAZOOLI: I think this is where people get things confused very easily. There has always been female DJs and we've always been an inspirational force - in fact, we can trace them all the way back as early as 1912. One of the first people to ever play records on the radio, back when it was becoming popular around 1922, was a woman by the name of Sybil True. She would borrow records from a local record store and play them to encourage youths to get an interest in radio broadcasting careers. Annie Nightingale was one of the first globally famous radio DJs on BBC Radio 1, who got her start in 1963 and still maintains one of the highest-revered positions on the charts, and in history.
DJing really came into it's own in the 60's and 70's with the hippie and disco eras. Back then, most of the DJs shaping the movement, the craft and the evolution of the equipment we know today, were all almost strictly a part of the LGBTQ scene. If anything, that's exactly the basis of what we know DJing to be today - it didn't start out to be something many straight people were into. After the Stonewall riots in NYC, the nightclub industry really blew up and became more all-inclusive and everything after was an evolution out of those scenes. So basically, we have the reverse situation that created everything for us - and it hasn't changed since then. The shift away from that culture was purely evolutionary as genres split away, creating new styles in different parts of the world, reflecting the needs of those particular communities and evolving and branching out into the myriad of types of music we know today. The music scene is still very deeply rooted in being open to everyone as it always has been, with very few exceptions, and I find it hard to fathom that any scene would exist without women and non-binary people as an intrinsic part of their foundation.
THE SIL: More info on Women's DJ Workshop? Why you started the organization and what you're expecting out of it?
FAZOOLI: We were originally approached by the Art Gallery of Hamilton to create a series of workshops, but found that the logistics would add up to making it completely unaffordable for people to join, so we condensed it to an afternoon workshops we could at least have an introduction to the practice of DJing so that people could test the waters first. DJing is incredibly intensive in both time spent practicing and finding records, and the financial burden of buying pricey equipment and building a proper vinyl collection. You need to have an insatiable thirst for music and playing with music to even consider it as a hobby, as it's a big investment on both of those levels. So a proper introduction to test the waters to see if it's a good fit is key. It was awesome to see everyone really find something to identify with at each topic of conversation, and it was cool to share knowledge with a wide range of people with differing tastes, as we all really kind of span the whole spectrum when it comes to the love of music.
We were kind of expecting to just start a conversation, plant a seed, an idea of what it would be like to start getting into DJing, and to kind of give that extra push if there was any doubt as to how difficult it can be. It's not an easy set of skills to learn, and it's not for everyone, so we had the intention to make it as simple as possible to understand, and kind of take the fear away from any misconceptions or obstacles that any student may be facing. I think when people are put in front of all of this equipment and a few crates of records they get easily overwhelmed, so this was a chance to kind of simplify and break it down so that people could see that once you practice and get the techniques and concepts down, the world opens right up for you and it begins to be a LOT of fun. We're hoping that this kind of creates a new wave of empowered individuals, capable of creating new and exciting ventures for themselves in our community.