Music for a summertime partyFor many years, when I visited my home town in southwest Georgia, and told them that I was a mobile disc jockey, it would require some further explanation. Their typical thoughts when I initially told them that I owned a disc jockey company was that I operated a radio station. Since I was a DJ during high school in the mid-70s on WBBK radio, that response was certainly warranted. My response was of course to inform them that a mobile DJ would take equipment and music to the event, such as a wedding or school party and play music for the party so that people could dance. In a single sentence, that helped explain to them what a mobile DJ does. Of course a mobile DJ does a lot more than that short line states, but if you’ve ever had to briefly explain what you do to someone who doesn’t have a clue, then chances are you mentioned “playing music for people to dance to.”
It does seem that we mobile DJs often think like club DJs, in that we are only doing our job if people are dancing. If no one is dancing we feel that we must be doing something wrong and we need to take corrective action. Though there are clearly times when that is the case, there are many other times when our job is to play music that sets the mood for the occasion. Two occasions should readily come to mind where we initially play music to set the mood rather than to get people to dance immediately-a wedding reception and Christmas party. At almost every wedding reception we play “mood music” of either lively jazz, American Songbook, or love songs. For an office Christmas party, there are always plenty of traditional holiday tunes played during the social and dinner hours.
This Magic Night
Another type of event, especially during the summertime, where dancing is not the only focus, is a pool party. To make a real musical splash, a pool party should be flavored with a good sampling of Hawaiian music, with some California surf music, reggae and Carolina beach music stirred in the mix as well.
Pool parties are very common during the summer, as people want to beat the heat by having a cool party by the water. Often community gatherings, corporate functions or birthday parties will have a Hawaiian or beach party theme. While the party is often held around a swimming pool, there are times when it is a “dry” event and is held indoors with the same decorations and “surf’s up” feel. Some dancing may take place during the event, but to make it a memorable occasion play a good portion of summertime music. Hawaiian music, Bob Marley, or the Beach Boys drifting from your speakers will instill a carefree mood that is the essence of any good party.
Recently, at the school my children attend, a teacher appreciation luncheon featured a Hawaiian-style setting. The food, the decorations, and the final touch-the music-all helped create the “island of paradise” aura. In the middle of their workday, the teachers were treated to a rare break from reality. For just over an hour, they could take Bobby McFerrin’s advice heard in his catchy tune, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” As the teachers exited to return to the classroom, each of them left with a smile on their face-because they had been briefly transported to the white beaches of Hawaii with its soothing waves crashing rhythmically around their sandaled feet.
As you can see from this issue’s song list, there is a pretty wide variety of summertime, feel-good beach music to choose from. A Hawaiian CD with great favorites like “Blue Hawaii,” “Kaimana Hila” or “Pearly Shells” should be part of your repertoire for the traditional sounds of our fiftieth state. Other “modern” artists like Don Ho (“Tiny Bubbles” and “Beautiful Kauai”) and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (“Over the Rainbow/Wonderful World”) have established a distinctive Hawaiian pop sound and deserve our attention at a gig. And don’t forget the King of Rock & Roll; Elvis made his contributions to the genre with his legendary hits, “Rock-a-Hula Baby” and “Hawaiian Wedding Song.” Any groove from the Beach Boys or Jan and Dean will set the California surfs-up mood. For the Carolina shag scene, spin a few from groups like Chairmen of the Boards, the Embers or the Tams. Reggae music, of course, is also associated the islands, so Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and UB40 jams should also be played. Parrotheads, those devoted fans of Jimmy Buffett, will also want their own brand of island escapism, so don’t forget to push play on “Margaritaville,” “Son of a Son of a Sailor” or “Volcano.”
The next time someone asks you what a mobile disc jockey does, perhaps the following explanation would enlighten them. Our ultimate job as a mobile DJ is to create a party where everyone leaves their worries behind and at least for a brief period enjoys life like it should be enjoyed-sharing good times with great friends. We play the music that helps to set the mood for the occasion, as well as music to get people on the dance floor when someone yells, “Play Something We Can Dance To!”
Mobile Beat’s resident musicologist since 1992 (in every issue since #11), Jay Maxwell runs the multi-unit, multi-talent entertainment company, Jay Maxwell’s Music by Request, LLC, in Charleston, SC. He is also a professor of Mathematics and Business at Charleston Southern University. His passion for detail and continuous research of clients’ requests can be found not only in this column, but also in his annually updated music guide, Play Something We Can Dance To.
Pool Party Pleasures
1 SURFIN’ SAFARI BEACH BOYS
2 TINY BUBBLES DON HO
3 UNDER THE BOARDWALK DRIFTERS
4 BLUE HAWAII ELVIS PRESLEY
5 I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW JOHNNY NASH
6 PEARLY SHELLS TRADITIONAL
7 MARGARITAVILLE JIMMY BUFFETT
8 I’VE GOT SAND IN MY SHOES DRIFTERS
9 WIPE OUT SURFARIS
10 KOKOMO BEACH BOYS
11 POKAREKARE ANA TRADITIONAL
12 ROCK-A-HULA BABY ELVIS PRESLEY
13 DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY BOBBY MCFERRIN
14 THE TIDE IS HIGH BLONDIE
15 CATCH A WAVE BEACH BOYS
For the rest of the list, subscribe to Mobile Beat to access the online PDF of issue #115 (May 2008) or pick up a hard copy back issue at the MB Store.
Filed Under: Issues from 2008, Music
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