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July 29, 2011

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Cavia consumes then creates seamless DJ sets

OUR conversation quickly moved to Marcus Aurilius' "Meditations," a classic of Stoic philosophy written by the Roman Emperor mostly known today as a supporting character in the film "Gladiator."

As DJ Cavia stood there in a pair of athletic shorts, his legs lankier than two turntable arms, I bent my ear closer to his explanation of his other favorite books, including those by French libertine poet Arthur Rimbaud.

This was on the couch of nightclub DaDa, and this is probably all I would need to like Cavia. All of it before he proceeded to tear up the place with a DJ set that included cuts from artists as diverse as Cameo, AC/DC and The Jackson 5.

DJ Cavia has established himself as one of Shanghai's premier DJs.

Along with DJ V-Nuts, he represents the classicist form of turntablism that can be traced straight from hip-hop DJ pioneers such as Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash.

Finding the drum-breaks to songs, scratching, danceable beats, mixing, keeping the flow of the party: it's all there.

What distinguishes Cavia is his eclectic taste, and beyond that, his ability to incorporate it into a seamless set.

A great DJ is like a film editor, and what makes film editing uniquely artistic is montage, or the art of juxtaposing different images together in a row.

When DJ Cavia is able to line up Run DMC's version of "Walk This Way" with Michael Jackson's "Black or White," he's doing the aural equivalent, throwing together two formerly separate pieces into something new.

Especially when combining such seemingly disparate elements, it really tells you a lot about Cavia's outlook.

By doing it skillfully, it shows his craft.

It's no surprise his favorite filmmaker is Stanley Kubrick, another artist known for having a radical notion of what should follow any given image (see films "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Full Metal Jacket" for well-known examples).

In a 2009 lecture at the Red Bull Music Academy, a world-travelling series of workshops and festivals, rap group Public Enemy's frontman Chuck D asked the musician audience (and listeners of the subsequent podcast), "Are you a creator or a consumer?" Chuck D's point makes sense for a large body of music producers, but for DJs, it's somewhat paradoxical: great DJs tend to get that way by being great consumers.

By consuming a wide range of material, DJ Cavia positions himself to provide a unique voice when he reassembles it, be it conversation or DJ set. Art is like anything else: you get out what you put in.

Cavia's next show will be at Lune (418 Xinle Road, near Donghu Road) for Pop Party No. 4 along with drum'n'bass/napping maestro DJ Siesta.


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