Isle turntablists repeat as world champions

By Shawn “Speedy” Lopes

It took the Nocturnal Sound Krew four flights, more than a day’s worth of traveling and countless hours of preparation to prove the impossible.

Again.

Last month, in Munich, Germany, Hawaii’s world champion deejay crew beat the odds and claimed the International Turntablist Federation team title for the second year in a row.

“Honestly, just being there made me feel like whatever we’ve done was worth it,” says DJ Compose, a k a Jay Ablan, who along with three of his Nocturnal compatriots, Jami (Jami Ablan), Deception (Tony Balbuena) and Solution (Kyle Cardenas), secured their position among the world’s elite turntablists. “Who would’ve thought four Filipino kids from Hawaii would be traveling first class to the other side of the world for an international deejay competition?” said Compose.

In a repeat of last year’s final, the Nocturnal Sound Krew battled Belgium’s Killa Tactics for the world title on Nov. 16. The Krew knew this year’s showdown would be even more competitive, as Killa Tactics, like many European turntable crews, are highly regarded for their daring, innovation and one-upmanship. “The European deejays just shine,” says Compose with admiration. “Technically, musically, everything. They keep finding ways of manipulating the mixer and turntable and taking it to another level.”

As Compose explains, single competition winner DJ Kohd of France fed a microphone into his mixer’s headphone jack and created an entirely new effect through feedback, a la Jimi Hendrix. “It’s not just about the record and needle anymore. It’s about finding new ways to create new sounds.

“Even though we won it last year, no one thought we could do it again,” Compose said, citing numerous Internet postings on turntablist message boards that declared new world champions long before the first scratch had sounded. “The people who know us were giving us love, but the general public? Not at all. They wrote us off automatically.”

BECAUSE last year’s hotly contested world title between NSK and Killa Tactics was nearly too close to call, the Krew dedicated themselves this year to forging a larger arsenal of turntable trickery. “This time we blew ’em out the water,” Compose said. “We really made a conscious effort to come at it with a more musical and entertaining set.” Showmanship may have been the difference in Munich as Nocturnal Sound Krew’s live antics — throwing hats into the audience and smashing records onstage — put an exclamation point on their performance and brought howls of approval from the 3,000-plus in attendance.

It’s been said the best way of gaining an audience’s favor is through a crafty and incisive diss. After studying Killa Tactics’ frenetic, electronic-tinged sound, NSK decided to cut and paste Masta Ace’s hip-hop classic “Born to Roll” into a personal attack on the European champions’ distinctive style: “Killa, Killa, Killa, turn that (expletive) down,” went the Krew’s live remix. “You know that America don’t wanna hear the sound/Of the drum, drum, bass, bass.” The routine brought the house down and helped the group retain their coveted title.

“We respect them a whole lot, but their style was something we felt we could target,” says Compose. “It’s like chess, man. No mercy. They even called Solution ‘a fat little kid’ or something.”

Compose does his best to stifle a giggle. “But we’re real cool with each other.”

For their efforts, the victors came away with plaques, new mixers, embroidered winter jackets and snowboards (the latter two awards bringing cackles of disbelief from the audience) and, perhaps most surprisingly, newfound celebrity.

“We didn’t think they were going to respect us in Europe, but what was crazy was, people knew everything about us,” says Jami. “Deejaying is really big there. They knew all our names and all the little details about us. It was like being a rock star or something.”

WHILE the ITF has designs on releasing footage of the contest on DVD in January, Nocturnal Sound Krew is working on putting their performance on their Web site at http://www.nocturnal-sound.com.

A third consecutive title would seem to be the next goal for them, although, as turntable legends like Qbert and DJ Craze have shown, it’s not out of the question for a champion to simply relinquish his title and pursue other opportunities rather than endure another grueling year of contest preparation.

“The next one is in Paris if we decide to do it,” says Compose with an exasperated sigh. “It’s really, really tough getting everyone together, and we’re also looking into other things. It might be time to grow. It just took up all of our free time. We all got together every chance we got to work on our routine, but in the end it was worth it. For us to make that much noise was incredible.”

Dubbed from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Monday, December 9, 2002


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Written by Shawn "Speedy" Lopes

I am a lifelong Honoluluan whose true calling is to tell the stories of others, whether through photos, film, video, audio or the written word. Here is a collection of my works – some previously published in periodicals like Billboard, the Honolulu Advertiser, Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Honolulu Weekly, though most of what you read or view here has never been seen before.

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