DJ SBL is a well known DJ on the Island of Bali who has been on the island for many years following a very successful international career prior to landing on these shores, and under the safety blanket of anonymity aka DJ SBL, they have kindly agreed to write occasional articles for Secret Bali Life on the subject matters others dare not to discuss publicly.

For their first piece DJ SBL discusses the plethora of DJ’s on the island and how many of them are not professional DJ’s and the reasons why they have a detrimental effect on the wider scene…


The Technology 
As with many fields of work that rely on equipment such as DJ’ing, the advancement of the equipment is often embraced by those involved, as it means they have even more ways of experimenting and enhancing their craft to a level not possible before.

The sad truth of the matter though, is that what you actually end up with, particularly in Bali, is a sea of DJ’s that are now able to perform the rudimentary basics of the art-form thanks to the technology (BPM’s displayed on screens and Sync buttons etc) but I’m sorry to say if you cannot beat match two tracks you are and can NEVER be considered a serious DJ… if you don’t know how to control beats you are in the wrong game from the off!

'I’m a DJ!!'
The next issue is what actually makes you a ‘DJ’. I can go onto a football pitch with 21 friends and play the game but that does not give me the right to tell people I meet the next day that I am a footballer when they ask what I do. There are so many ‘new’ DJ’s on the island who think ‘id like to have a go at that’ and off they go.
Often they are influencers or socialites with a lot of followers and this allows them to get away with it… Admittedly a DJ should be able to pull a crowd, and that will certainly get them onside with many promoters but the fact they can ACTUALLY DJ should be first and foremost beyond anything else, something that appears to be lost on many who support this trend in Bali. People should follow a DJ for their music and abillity, not because of their social standing.

Understanding Music
The accessibility of music is also a massive issue now with apps like Shazam allowing anyone to hear a dope beat and instantly find out what it is and with some basic googling instantly know where to get it. Then of course there are the Beatport 100 ‘DJs’ who just use charts as guides rather than dedicated research. I spend hours and hours every week listening to new music and choose it according to what i think would work, not purely because it’s a top 10 track. Then there are DJ’s who don’t pay ANY attention to the quality of a download as long as it is free… resulting in a sub standard sound which is your responsibility and can ruin a set, nevermind the ethical issues with downloading for free!

Further to this I often use tracks from the last 20 years where I think they will work, classics and obscure gems and most, if not all these newbies, only have a catalogue from the last year or so which is just not good enough! 

Then there is the tapestry you create with the music you have at your disposal. A ‘real’ DJ will know that certain elements of different tracks wont work well together, due to conflicting harmonies or vocals for example. Then there are tracks that work well at certain times of the day or the set, a banging tech house track is NOT what people want to hear as the sun dips over the horizon!! A DJ should instinctively be able to work out which tracks will work so incredibly well together, they almost create an entirely unique experience for the listener or the dancers, a live remix if you will, an audio amalgamation of sounds selected specifically for the crowd and that specific moment in time. What went well at 4am at a Villa after-party doesn’t get the same result at 6pm at a beach club.

What can be done?
Unfortunately there is now a sea of average (that’s being polite) DJ’s out there who can do the basics but are slaying the art form with their sub par performances and Bali is a breeding ground for this. This is hard to say as some of these guys and girls are friends, and lovely people, but they would not last a minute in traditional hotspots like Europe, America and so on, they would be found out in a heartbeat and laughed out the club never to be booked again.

So the question is why do they get away with it here? One answer is because they will practically play for free for their 5 minutes in the limelight or the sunlight which in turn creates another major problem… the DJ economy and this is the MOST serious issue because this is where the local scene gets totally handicapped because any genuine, talented up and coming or established DJs who think of coming to Bali to get a residency will see what the venues are offering financially and realise it’s just not worth it and from there it is a slippery slope of mediocrity and will stop Bali ever becoming a serious player on the world music map. My fee in most places has not changed for many years! 

With this aspect there is also a portion of blame to be laid at the feet of the venue owners and promoters for not being able to spot the talent out there and to stop booking the sub par performers or DJs who play music not right for their venue, but unfortunately the copycat formula that is popular across the board on the island, only makes it worse. 'Oh.. he played there he must be good'… NO!!!…. listen to them live and make the judgement yourself!!

Also there are not enough venues that understand the true value of resident DJ’s and how to use them once you find them. If you pay your residents above the average, on the understanding they play almost all their sets at your venue, what you will benefit from that is immeasurable. Sure, DJ’s can play elsewhere, but most their sets should be with your venue as it means they get more sets, you get a higher quality of music in your venue, and it means they become ambassadors for your brand at the same time… it’s a tried and tested formula over decades acros the world that is for some reason overlooked here by all but a select few.

I must say before I end this piece that there are MANY amazing DJ’s and venues on this island but we are finding it harder and harder to get the recognition we deserve when swamped by so many mediocre pretenders and I just pray that some of the leading venues do more to halt this trend before its too late… Without naming names in the last few years I have seen at least 3 internationally acclaimed DJ’s move to Bali and for the reasons outlined above leave again within a year… and that’s a sad indictment and a real shame for this wonderful beautiful island if it ever wants to become a serious consideration for music lovers across the globe. Bali has the potential to be a mecca when it comes to musical destinations but things NEED to change!