At just eight years old, Ameer Kumaravel Rasa already looks the part of a deejay. Or, at least, an emerging one to look out for in the not too distant future. Last December, the young Year Two student performed at the Traxx FM Christmas Charity Event as well as a a New Year's Eve function alongside his father.
More recently, in April, Ameer showcased his solo deejaying skills at a private event in Genting Highlands. And last month, he walked away with a consolation prize for at the Kids Got Talent (Malaysia) competition for his deejaying skills. He's also rubbed shoulders with many talented deejays including world-class French music producer DJ Snake.
A video of Ameer with DJ Snake, which was uploaded a week ago, has received over 100,000 likes on TikTok.
"When I'm at the turntable, it's all about the fun and excitement," says Ameer during a recent interview in Petaling Jaya. "With practice, it's not as challenging as it may seem. I used to feel nervous performing at events, but now, thanks to my father's guidance, I'm growing more confident.
"I aspire to become a popular deejay when I grow up," shares the student at SJK (C) Kota Emerald in Rawang.
It's remarkable but perhaps not too surprising as Ameer's dad is electronic dance music producer and deejay Kumaraza and the young one may just a chip off the old block.
Kumaraza has three children – Ashanti, 13, Avanish, 12, and Ameer.
Ashanti and Ameer have embraced their father's passion for deejaying and, with their father at their side, they are shaping up to be budding deejays themselves.
Says Kumaraza: "Throughout my deejay career, I've performed at various venues such as nightclubs, festivals, weddings, and parties. The kids have accompanied me to some events, like annual dinners and beach gatherings. Gradually, they became exposed to the world of deejaying and they do take pride in witnessing my performances and how I create enjoyable experiences for the audience."
Kumaraza loves that he is able to spin alongside his oldest and youngest (middle child Avanish has different interess) and sees it as a way to bond with his children – a bond that is evident not just in their shared interest in music and deejaying but also in how the family joke and banter with each other.
"With a home studio at our disposal, all my three kids have grown up watching me me mixing and blending music using my deejay equipment like turntables and digital controllers. They are captivated when songs from different genres and styles can seamless flow together. Most of all, they find joy in seeing an audience get energised by the music I spin during my performances at events," he says.
Kumaraza, 48, says that he has "scratch sessions" with his two proteges in the mornings, before they've to leave for their afternoon school session.
"We work with vinyls on turntables. The kids scratch on the left side of the turntable deck, while I guide them on the right side. Additionally, we spend several hours together on weekends, selecting songs, practicing music transitions, and experimenting with various genres. Through music, we not only bond but also gain a deeper understanding of one another," adds Kumaraza, whose real name is Kumaravel Rasa.
Last year, Kumaraza and his wife, trainer Jean Pang, 38, enrolled Ashanti and Ameer in a basic deejay course at DJ's Playground, a Petaling Jaya-based music school.
As the record spins
It all happened during the pandemic. Worried about the amount of time their children were spending on their digital devices, the couple decided to introduce the little ones to deejaying. They also thought it'd be a good way to teach them new skills.
"Seeing my kids constantly engrossed in games on their devices, I began to think about how I could motivate them to step out of their comfort zones and pursue a new, exciting skill. I wanted them to explore something new and so I made the decision to enroll them in the deejay course," Kumaraza explains.
Explaining his decision to send them for classes instead of teaching them at home, Kumaraza reveals, "It's difficult to capture their attention in my home studio. They tend to take me less seriously at home and they tend to be playful and this distracts from the learning process. At the deejay school, they have the structure of a formal learning environment, where they are required to follow instructions and remain focused."
However, convincing his children to attend the six-month deejaying course was not so easy. Initially they didn't see the relevance of learning the art of spinning.
Ashanti admits that she wasn't exactly thrilled at going for deejaying classes.
"At first, I was reluctant as it clashed with my gaming time. Additionally, I found it challenging to grasp the basics of deejaying, particularly techniques like scratching, beatmatching, and mixing," admits Ashanti, a Form One student at SMK Taman Desa 2 in Bandar Country Homes, Rawang.
"But, I eventually caught on and started enjoying the lessons. Now, I can balance my time between gaming and creating music on the turntable. I'm much happier with this newfound equilibrium," Ashanti adds.
As a dad, Kumaraza couldn't be prouder of his children and beyond just teaching them to deejay, his mission is to instill in them an appreciation and respect for deejay profession.
His own journey as a deejay began at the age of 14 when he first witnessed a broadcasting deejay using turntables in a shopping mall in Kajang, Selangor.
But he vividly recalls the initial disappointment on his mother's face when he shared his ambition to pursue deejaying.
"Many friends and even my mother thought I was simply daydreaming. My mother worried that working in a bar or nightclub would lead me astray. However, it's important to note that renowned deejays like David Guetta, Martin Garrix, and Marshmello are regarded as music icons of this generation.
Born in Kajang and currently based in Rawang, Kumaraza has been a deejay since 1991. He is the founder of Play for Passion, a Malaysian community of deejays with a shared love for non-mainstream music.
“Deejays today are the rock stars, earning millions. Contrary to popular belief, not all deejays indulge in unhealthy lifestyles. This misconception surrounding the music industry is slowly changing, and even my mother has come to appreciate that I'm passing on a valuable skill to my kids," Kumaraza says.
By encouraging his children to learn the skills, he hopes to gradually dismantle these common misconceptions about deejays.
"I want my children to understand that deejaying encompasses more than just playing music or partying," Kumaraza says. "It is an art form that requires dedication, creativity, and a profound understanding of music.
"Through the basic deejay course alone, my kids now think about how songs are crafted, focusing on elements like the chorus, melody, rhythm, and bass. This newfound knowledge fuels their creativity, and I am genuinely thrilled to witness their growing interest in music production."
Pang, echoes his sentiments: "I want our children to recognise their father as a professional deejay and respect his chosen profession. I want them to understand the hard work their dad puts in to provide for the family."
The children are tight-lipped about their plans for their dad this Fathers Day, but Ashanti teases that she has a surprise in store for Daddy. Usually, Fathers Day is a subdued affair for the family: A meal with family at a restaurant followed by a cake cutting in their home. This year, however, both Kumaraza and Pang will be working on Sunday and so they "will probably go out for dinner on Saturday", says Pang.