It is a no-brainer that music is the life of a wedding party. And also that wedding shenanigans are the very identity of diaspora Indians. The music can make or break a party, which means the band or DJ is one of the most important factors that influences the vibe of any wedding celebration.
Here are three key parameters on which you should measure the prospective entertainer for that awesome sangeet, main ceremony, cocktail or reception:
Is this your full-time business? Are weddings your primary focus? What clubs, lounges, and corporate clients have you performed for in addition to weddings?
First and foremost, figure out whether they have the technical and operational know-how or expertise to bring a level of versatility to your event. There is a difference between someone who can just cue up songs and someone who can actually make music magic on the turntables. The DJ should not be a fly-by-night operator or a rookie, but a true performer whose had varied and extensive experience performing in front of different (and tough) audiences. It is obviously better to hire someone who is a DJ primarily in terms of his or her profession. If not, you might get his voice mail 10 times the day before your wedding because of an all-day meeting at his “real job.”
How do you customize the music experience for each couple? Can you help with song lists and providing suggestions?
Find a DJ who will create a soundtrack for your wedding that is based on your style, taste, and vision for that day. One size does not fit all—if your desire is to have a full-on Punjabi tadka at your wedding, then the DJ will need to deliver that and anything else the clients want, for that matter. As a client, you need to figure out if their style will work with the vibe you’re going for. If you want an elegant cocktail party with lots of casual conversation, a DJ that describes himself as “rock and roll” is a music mismatch. A skilled DJ will gladly accept your must-play and do-not-play lists, no matter how short or long. The DJ needs to know that the client/s are in control of the music that will be played and they need to allocate time to work with him to ensure smooth timing for their event.
Your prospective DJ must be flexible and willing to listen. It’s easy to come up with lists of songs to play—determining the placement of the music (e.g. bride’s entry and couple’s dance) and how it fits into unique themes is the real challenge. Be VERY SPECIFIC about your “Do Not Play” list. Those are the songs you really, really don’t want to hear at your wedding. You never know what your friends may request, and you’re better off making sure the DJ knows at the outset exactly how you feel about that. Trust me, “Gandi baat” can be a very awkward music selection in many groups. Get your playlist to your DJ as early as possible. Every DJ has a different system, and many of them have to pull your playlist from their master systems, especially if you’re having a destination wedding in a place where the DJs might not have the most current systems. Some of them need time to make sure they have all your music ready in time for your wedding. Have all song selections to your music master no less than 30 days prior to your wedding date.
How do you get the crowd pumped? Can I hear some examples of mixing and blending different tracks? What sound equipment do you utilize? Do you have back-up equipment?
You want to make sure your DJ understands how to read a crowd, build up the energy and then keep it up. There should never be a lull—your DJ needs to have the ability to blend all sorts of genres to accommodate everyone and keep them on the dance floor. There are all kinds of incentives that DJs use to encourage guests to storm the dance floor, whether it’s asking couples to join the newlyweds for a good-luck dance or playing a meaningful throwback song from the groom’s college days. Listen to the DJ’s music demos or watch wedding performances to get a sense of how they will interact with your guests in person. Interviewing prospective DJs is certainly helpful, but hearing them in action will really seal the deal.
When mixing is done correctly, you probably aren’t even aware of it. The DJ should be able to blend between songs seamlessly; you don’t want guests to become bored by a ten-minute long Madhaniya rendition! When there is no mixing or blending, there is awkward silence between songs.
DJ equipment is just as important as musical instruments. Turntables allow the DJ to have hands-on control of the music and the ability to manipulate it instantly. Ask if your DJ is certified and knows all of the ins and outs of connecting a system. I allow my equipment to operate without overdriving it, which is when guests start to complain about it being too loud (sometimes referred to as ‘muffled’ sound). Backup equipment is also essential: DJs should always have the equivalent of a “flat spare” on hand, whether it be a microphone, computer, mixer, etc. Don’t forget to ask how soon before the reception they plan to arrive and how long it will take for them to set up.
Not all DJs are created equal, and the good ones are worth their weight in gold. But even if you don’t necessarily have a whole bunch of DJ options for your wedding (the venue provides it or you’re getting married on an island that only has a couple of choices), a little snooping around your prospective DJ is definitely needed. Whether it is their amazing sound equipment? Their can-do-anything personality? Or is it their professionalism and dedication towards making your wedding a success? Hopefully, you will find a DJ that matches all of the above!
Mr. Nakulogic is an India-based Music Producer/ DJ who studied Music Production & Engineering at SAE Liverpool. He has worked with the who’s who of the Punjabi music industry, including Badshah and Raftaar. His song Att Tera Yaar, sung by Navv Inder, has 15 million YouTube views and he is readying for his new song – a take on Surjit Bindrakhiya’s Yaar Bolda.