DJ Collective Partners with Hip-Hop 101 to Host Series of Vinyl-Themed Events

Dessane Cassell, Arts Editor

Ben Goldfarb, OC ’93, describes his transition back to vinyl records as a return to “artifacts of [his] life.” A DJ and the founding member of New York City-based DJ collective I Love Vinyl, Goldfarb spent Friday night discussing his early DJing career and his pref-erence for vinyl over digital formats while leading a hands-on workshop with fellow alumnus, old friend and DJ Opuruiche Miller, OC ’98.

Goldfarb, who DJs under the name Scribe, founded I Love Vinyl in 2009 to get back to the beloved format with which he started his career. After spending a few years DJing in digital formats, he returned to vinyl for a small gig, and quickly remembered why records used to be his medium of choice. Nostalgic for all the old memories he had attached to his records — even the feel of them in his hands — Goldfarb got a group of his friends and fellow DJs together for an all-vinyl party that would form the basis of the collective.

In addition to Goldfarb and Miller, I Love Vinyl consists of DJs and record industry veterans Jon Oliver, Amir Abdullah, Geology and The Twilite Tone. Together with Wax Poetics magazine, music retailers Turntable Lab and Halcyon and the online music publication Fusicology, the members of I Love Vinyl host a weekly all-vinyl dance party at the Gallery at Le Poisson Rouge in New York, in addition to hosting a radio show and pursuing their own individual projects.

This past weekend, the entire I Love Vinyl team traveled to Oberlin to host a series of vinyl-themed lectures and events. Organized by Hip Hop 101 — Oberlin’s student-led hip-hop programming organization — in conjunction with Goldfarb and Miller, the series commemorated the 65th anniversary of the long-playing record and the Oberlin Africana community’s Kumba week creativity celebration. The series featured educational lectures, demonstrations and workshops about a range of vinyl-related topics, including music production, DJ techniques and a lecture on Detroit’s legendary independent jazz label, Strata. The weekend culminated in an all-vinyl dance party at the ’Sco featuring the I Love Vinyl DJs and special guest, DJ Spinna.

On Friday night, Miller and Goldfarb hosted a vinyl DJ workshop in the Lord Lounge of Afrikan Heritage House. Oliver, Abdullah, Ge-ology and The Twilite Tone were also in attendance to contribute their own input and DJing advice while cracking a few jokes with the hosts every once in a while.

Miller began the workshop by explaining how he first became interested in DJing. He moved to Oberlin at age 15 with his parents — his father is Chair of the Religion De-partment A.G. Miller — and had his first encounter with live DJing when he ended up at a college party Goldfarb DJed at Stevenson Hall, which was then “the new dining hall.” Amid laughs and immediate questions from the audience, Goldfarb stepped in to clarify, remarking, “OK, there were not parties there. That was completely our doing. I saw that space and I was like, ‘We need to have a party here,’ and so we made it happen.”

From what must have been an epic party, the two struck up a friendship that would lead to years of the musical and professional collaboration that continues between the two to-day.

Over the next couple months, Miller spent almost every weekend at Goldfarb’s, practicing the art of maneuvering and mixing vinyl records. After initially struggling to mix two records together, Miller was eventually able to build up to mixing three, four and eventu-ally five records together. He nailed his first gig — DJing a formal at Afrikan Heritage House before he was even a student at Oberlin — and started to pursue DJing more seriously. After college, he traveled to South Africa on a Watson Fellowship to study the country’s hip-hop and youth culture, and is now a DJ instructor at Dubspot, a New York DJ school.

Throughout their workshop, Goldfarb and Miller provided the audience with a basic introduction to working with vinyl. They discussed their own musical backgrounds and the beginning of their friendship before covering everything from the mechanics of their turntables — three impeccable sets of Techniques 1200s — to some DJing terminology and basic spinning techniques.

From the outset, the workshop was casual and intimate. Goldfarb, Miller and the rest of the I Love Vinyl team punctuated their demonstrations and bits of advice with funny stories and jokes directed towards each other; it was clear that they were all old friends. Miller and Goldfarb provided the audience with an engaging and, at times, hands-on introduction to working with vinyl records. Several audience members, including young kids and several College students, were given the chance to step behind the turntables and practice needle dropping, a DJing technique used to cut into and out of different records without using the fader.

Miller demonstrated the technique at first, explaining how to count the beats of the music and drop the second record in at just the right moment. When Miller asked for volunteers from the audience, a young boy was the first to shoot his hand up, eager to try the tech-nique himself.

The boy nailed it right away, and Miller then turned back to the audience to find another volunteer. Standing at the front of the crowd and making what must have seemed like a terrified face at the thought of going up there, I may as well have shot my hand up like the little boy before me, because I was immediately called upon to try the technique myself.

As someone who has trouble clapping to a beat, I did not expect the demonstration to go well. Yet while I never quite managed to drop the needle correctly — Miller let me go after the fifth “not quite” — the experience of standing behind the turntables was a cool one, even if I did get shown up by an elementary school student.

So with only a slightly bruised ego, I stuck around for the rest of the workshop and learned about a few more DJing techniques, though I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be attempting them on my own in front of an audience again.

The workshop was followed by another lecture in Bibbins, during which Abdullah, a renowned record collector and compilation curator as part of Kon & Amir, discussed Detroit’s short-lived but influential independent jazz label Strata.

The series continued into last Saturday, with a live I Love Vinyl radio show on WOBC and a record dig in Cleveland. The series brought a bit of something for all kinds of music lovers. From initial workshops like the Vinyl DJ event to more advanced production classes and the all-vinyl dance party, the series was multifaceted and offered people a good introduction to DJing or just a fun evening.