Spin Cities

Where else to shuffle the decks.

Jamaica

Learn how to mix and scratch while you work on your tan at one of Jamaica’s Beaches Resorts (also available at the Turks and Caicos property). The five DJ lesson packages – including an old school DJ battle ­– were designed by Scratch DJ Academy, who taught us in Miami.
888-BEACHES, beaches.com

Canada

With advanced one-on-one instruction on everything from basic music theory to final mix-down, the DJ masters at the School of Remix in Vancouver will have you rocking the dance floor like a pro.
538 Cambie St., 604-738-1446, schoolofremix.com

Dominican Republic

Make music a family affair at Punta Cana’s Club Med, where kids can take DJ classes at Passworld, a club designed specifically for teenagers.
809-686-5500, clubmed.ca

I thought I’d be a natural at spinning the decks. After all, I’ve been listening to electronica since I was 17. I’ve danced away more nights than I can remember and spent years wearing the quintessential raver’s uniform: zebra-striped fun-fur pants and a neon soother. (My poor mom still hasn’t recovered.)

But it turns out there are two unforeseen factors: I’m terrible at math, and I have no hand-eye co-ordination. At least, that’s what I soon learn at Miami’s Scratch DJ Academy, where my teacher, K Razor – one of South Beach’s hottest DJs – is trying to impart the basics of his craft. DJs don’t just play records; they play with them. The result, even if it doesn’t look like serious business, has been revolutionary – the genesis of whole musical movements, including both house and techno.

After a cursory overview of the equipment – two decks, a mixer and a stack of vinyl – I’m ready to become the next Tiga. K Razor puts a slow hip hop LP on each turntable, and my heart sinks. (My tempo of choice is more along the lines of frenzied tech house.) While the left record turns, my teacher instructs me to slide (or scratch) the one on the right with my index and middle fingers, using a back-and-forth motion. The technique, called baby scratch, is “the backbone of DJing” since it’s what allows the sound from the two turntables to mix together. It also makes me feel like I’ve got 20 thumbs.

I struggle to match the rhythm of my scratches to the beat of the music. Just as I’m starting to feel like I’m getting the hang of it, K Razor sets me straight: “Try to clean it up.” Then he decides to raise the bar. While continuing the back-and-forth motion with my right hand, I’m now supposed to control the volume with my other hand. The goal is to cut out the first part of the scratch (the “back”) so that only the second part (the “forth”) is heard. Remember when you were a kid and you’d try to pat your head while rubbing your stomach? That’s how I feel.

It’s like I’ve forgotten how to count. Worse, I’m not even listening to the music anymore. While I’m trying to co-ordinate my hands, K Razor just smiles and tells me to loosen up. “You have to feel what you’re playing, man. Don’t forget you have an audience. Have fun!”

Easier said than done. Claiming to need a break, I ask K Razor to show me what a pro sounds like. He picks a track by Swedish DJ Jesper Dahlbäck (my favourite) and another by Montreal duo Chromeo. While watching him spin, I can’t help but let loose a couple of dance steps. If only I’d brought my fur pants. 


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Where to Stay

The Setai in South Beach melds style and history with its two buildings: a 40-storey glass tower and a 1930s Art Deco landmark that used to house the Dempsey Vanderbilt Hotel. After your spin at DJing at the Scratch DJ Academy a few blocks away, celebrate your new skills with a martini at the hotel’s oceanfront Pool & Beach Bar and a lump crab and cantaloupe salad with crème fraîche, lemon and chives.
Scratch DJ Academy 2 N.E. 40th St., #304, Miami, 305-535-2599, scratch.com
The Setai 2001 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 888-625-7500,
setai.com

Where to Eat

Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, in Miami’s Design District, does its diners the favour of feeding them only as much as they want; it offers small to extra-large plates. We suggest you mix and match so you can taste more, including the crispy hominy with chili and lime, the slow-roasted Fudge Farms pork shoulder and the tangerine creamsicle pot de crème with Cara Cara orange confit and hot doughnuts.  
130 N.E. 40th St., Atlas Plaza, Miami Design District, 305-573-5550, michaelsgenuine.com