Updated: Mar 23
Written by Ernesto J. Green Rután on 13th November 2018
The International Week is celebrated in educational institutions across the United Kingdom (UK). According to the Census 2011, London city is considered to be the most culturally mixed place in the UK featuring a 40.2% of ethnic diversity. Hence, the International Week is an important event because teachers, pupils and parents share their knowledge about traditional elements of their culture such as food, music, dance and costumes.
In the summer of 2018, on the last day of the event, I had the opportunity to run a workshop about the Caribbean culture and the art of DJing for years five and six at a primary school in East London. The school featured a great ethnic diversity due to the cosmopolitan character of the East London area. During the International Week, they celebrated the culture of India, Africa, Turkey, Asia, Africa, and the last day was dedicated to the Caribbean.
As I was born in Cuba—an island located in the centre of the Caribbean—sharing my knowledge with pupils and teachers about West Indies' culture and musical traditions was a rewarding and unforgettable experience. Regarding the presentation, my son (aged ten) helped me out with the document's visual-editing , my daughter (aged seven) offered her invaluable feedback about its aesthetics and lay-out, and their beloved mother assisted with the final arrangements.
The workshop was presented in an elementary and fun way to be assimilated and enjoyed by primary school students. Beautiful pics of the Caribbean Sea and its landscape were used to enhance the educational experience.
During the first part of the presentation, the geographical situation and cultural manifestations of the Caribbean were covered. Children were asked questions about the location and different languages spoken in the Caribbean.
We talked about Caribbean fruits, its vegetation and beautiful beaches. We mentioned the precautions to be considered in hot weather conditions.
Pupils and teachers were introduced to traditional Caribbean music genres through suitable music videos, illustrations, dance, and real musical instruments.
I showed the children how to play some Afro Caribbean-Latin percussion instruments such as maracas, güiro, claves and shekere; subsequently the instruments were shared with them for fun musical interaction.
The contribution of Caribbean music to electronic music was briefly explained and children were introduced to the dem bow rhythm—the trademark drum pattern of reggaeton music.
Reggaeton is an electronic music genre very popular among children in Caribbean and Latin communities. Many contemporary commercial hits such as Despacito by Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee & Justin Bieber have used the dem bow rhythmic pattern in the drum section. Due to the electronic character of reggaeton, I decided it was the right platform to dive into the art of deejaying.
I introduced the pupils to the concept of disc jokey and the basic DJ set-up. I illustrated and explained the transformation of the turntable from analog to digital format.
I used two reggaeton instrumental compositions to demonstrate the transition from one song to the other applying the mixing technique called 'beat-matching'. Both instrumental pieces were harmonically compatible and featured simple arrangements—common time (4/4)—for straightforward execution.
Children were encouraged to engage in the practice. They took turns behind the decks and enjoyed the technical/creative interaction.
I was amazed at how quickly and accurately pupils learned the concept and executed the technique respectively. Their short DJ performances were entertaining and gratifying. Every child joined the queue to have a go on the decks; they kept coming back until the class was over. Teachers, pupils, and parents danced to the music and had a great fun.
I would like to conclude by saying that I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to participate in the International Week at a Primary school in the UK. Sharing my experiences and knowledge with pupils and teachers about Caribbean culture and the art of DJing has been a fascinating practice. The workshop encouraged me to study and refresh my knowledge about the Caribbean islands' geographical situation, their musical history, and cultural traditions. The second part of the presentation—related to DJ culture in the digital era—allowed me to introduce the pupils to basic technical/ creative concepts of mixing electronic music using the beat-matching technique.
I enjoyed the presentation, and I am grateful to the teachers and headteacher for their trust and assistance. The children were amazing, well behaved, and very clever. I hope the workshop expanded their knowledge about Caribbean culture, and served as a source of inspiration to those who would like to seek a DJ career in the future.
Ernesto J. Green Rután is an experienced DJ/ audio producer. He holds a BSc (Honours) in Music Technology. He's currently attending an MA Audio Production course at UoW.