Thursday, October 20, 2005
Gathering 'Round the Turntables
As a child, I remember when my siblings and I used to gather around my aunt's record player and listen to such classic songs as "Ye Olde Gaytes of Heaven" and "Repent! Lest Ye Be Lost to the Lower Flames". Those were righteous times.
Then one day, my aunts started getting all gangsta. Suddenly the record player had to be called "turntables", and they brought in a second one, and some kind of box with wires and dials.
Aunt Therma would say to me, "Bobby, it's time to bust the wax! Let's drop some beats and rejoice most vigorously, dog." We didn't know what Therma was talking about most of the time, but we humoured her. Aunt Louise would do this thing with her mouth, making strange percussive noises, and my brothers and sister and I would sing one of the old standards while Therma would insert little snippets from other records into the mix with the turntables.
We didn't realize it at the time, but what we were witnessing was the birth of a whole new form of musical expression. Therma would mix "The Old Rugged Cross" with "Sweet Jesus, Saviour of All", and the two would blend so perfectly into one song, you couldn't help but to get up and start clapping your hands to the rhythm.
One day, Therma had a young fellow from across the tracks over for tea. His name was Grandmaster Flash, and I think he watched very closely what my aunts were up to, because within a few months, kids started having these neighbourhood parties where they used the same mixing and scratching techniques, only with disco and R&B records.
Later, when the phenomenon went global, Flash claimed to have invented these processes, but I will always know it was my aunt Therma who gave birth to the whole hip hop thing that is so fashionable with the young heathens of today.