photo by Devon Akmon
Even though their parents said “Don’t touch the turntable!” these DJs, including the Founding Fathers of Scratch — Kool Herc, Grandwizzard Theodore, GrandMixer DST, Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, The X-Ecutioners, Mix Master Mike, Q-Bert, Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow — used their hands to change the speed and volume of records, playing the turntable like a musical instrument.
I’m producer Michele Myers and this is our fourth official KEXP Documentary series: “Masters of Turntablism”
This 10-part series of short radio documentaries airs on KEXP every Thursday at 3pm and Saturdays at 2pm. All KEXP Documentaries, once they’ve aired, can be heard in the LEARN section of kexp.org.
The first episode aired today: In the early 70’s in the Bronx, Jamaican-born DJ Kool Herc used two turntables to extend the instrumental part of records. This instrumental part, called the “break”, was the part where the dancers on the floor went crazy. This gave birth to a craze called “breakdancing.” It also was the start of a billion-dollar industry called hip-hop.
Listen now to Part 1 of “Masters of Turntablism”: