In the city: Decks in the City

DUBAI’S BURGEONING HOUSE music scene has placed the city firmly on the international clubbing map, its relatively newfound status attracting top-name DJs into jam-packed nightclubs such as Alpha, 360, Zinc and Chi at The Lodge.

By Steve Meunier

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Published: Mon 20 Jul 2009, 8:45 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:32 PM

It seems that every weekend the most popular evening entertainment venues are locked in attempt to earn the greatest kudos by presenting the hottest, most-bookable turntable stars to pull in the crowds.

But spare a thought for the unsung heroes of the emirate’s day-to-day party circuit, the stalwart disc spinners who may lack the recognition of the exalted and well-remunerated masters of the booth, but who nevertheless possess an abundance of talent, an encyclopaedic knowledge of popular music and a strong work ethic that commits them to ensuring that their customers - even if not at the biggest clubs in town - still get to enjoy their night on the dance floor.

One such performer is Rukshan Jumath, aka DJ Rukie, who has just finished a residency at Harry’s Place at the Renaissance Hotel in Deira and is currently finding his crowd entertaining skills in demand at private functions across the city. Hailing from Sri Lanka, Rukie typifies Dubai’s hardworking disc jockey; an enthusiast who plays more for the love of music and to make people happy than for financial reward; the passion for rhythms being something he says he inherited from his family.

“My mum is a very good pianist and we have a grand piano at home,” he reveals, taking a breather in between sets. “My dad also enjoys music, so my parents’ love for songs and dancing must have rubbed off onto me, as apparently I liked repetitive noise a great deal when I was small,” he adds. “When I was 15, I was invited to my cousin’s 21st birthday party and in their main room there was a set up of two huge speakers, a row of audio cassette players, turntables and small electronic units with lots of knobs on. I could see that there were two guys behind the system and could hear that they were playing my favourite songs back to back, but I couldn’t work out how it was being done,” he continues.

“After watching them the whole night, I decided that I could do this myself and when my own 16th birthday came up, I made sure my cousin told me where she had found those DJs. I sought them out for advice and to hire their equipment, but I hadn’t realised just how expensive all the gear could be. Fortunately, my dad was so generous that he gave me that amount as a birthday present. I rented the equipment, put it all altogether and made my little circle of friends dance. I was the happiest guy in the world and that’s how it all began,” he says.

Rukie continued to DJ for his friends on social occasions, but his overwhelming ambition was to make his hobby a full-time occupation. His break came after gaining employment at the five-star Oberoi Hotel in Colombo, initially as a waiter. Perhaps with fate stepping in to take a hand, the would-be deck master discovered that the then number one night club in Sri Lanka, ‘Chapter One,’ was situated in the very same hotel where he had landed a job. Visiting every night after his restaurant shifts had finished in order to learn the secrets of the trade, the in-house resident at Chapter One, DJ Shad, took the fledgling spinner under his wing; providing him with the essential turntable and mixing skills that would provide the foundations for his future.

But it was a move to the bright lights of Dubai in 1996 that gave Rukie his chance to fulfil his dream. After taking up another position as a waiter in 1996, this time at the Dubai Intercontinental Hotel, he found himself allocated to the Chequers night club as a bartender and happened to mention his experience to the club’s resident DJ, who was from the UK. It was this person who gave him the much needed leg-up by letting him play from 9 -11PM, which was the warm-up set for his own act.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw people dancing at Chequers to the tunes I was playing,” says Rukie. “The warm-up slot continued for two years and with the money I made, I was able to buy my own equipment. After my contract at the hotel had finished, I flew home to Sri Lanka and took over at some clubs, playing at private parties and even participating in a DJ competition where I came second runner up. I also once flew to Singapore for a huge gig,” he adds.

Rukie continued to correct his new trade in his native Sri Lanka, even setting up his own ‘DJ Rukie Dance Department’ events company in 1998, which he used as a forum to train other budding disc spinners. But it wasn’t long before a siren call from Dubai pulled him back to the Gulf region again. During his return visit to Sri Lanka, Rukie had become a close associate of Mass Ramli (latterly two-times Middle East DJ Champion), with the duo collaborating on hosting events for over 5,000 people, as well working together on the radio and sharing a recording studio. After Ramli was offered a contract to DJ in Qatar, Rukie picked up employment in Dubai once more, although this time not as a waiter, but as a DJ for The Quality Inn Hotel. It wasn’t long after that Ramli joined him in Dubai, with the duo sharing the billing at a club called The Horse Shoe.

During this early period, Rukie could not have exemplified less the archetypal image of the super-rich DJ. “I remember that I got paid very little then,” he admits. “There were times when I didn’t have money for a taxi to take me to the club – and this was just Dhs 7! I also recall thinking that a fast-food burger was a luxury meal,” he adds.

Since then, however, through a dedication to improving his skills and maintaining a strict work-first attitude to life, Rukie has ultimately been able to turn his childhood hobby into a career. A huge leap forward came when he pooled his resources with a number of his professional peers and became a member of United Dubai Disc Jockeys (UDDJ); a co-operative of turntable maestros who share the workload when requests for DJs come in from Dubai’s party and entertainment scene. Among his contemporaries in the organisation are his long term associate Mass Ramli, UDDJ’s managing director, and Subandrio Sinhawansa, who won Middle East DJ Champion this year - an accolade Rukie says he is determined to collect himself in 2010.

“I think that I have been fortunate in many ways, being able to spin professionally for a seven-year stretch,” says Rukie. “Right now, I have a huge customer base and after all my experiences coming up the hard way, I think I have learnt enough to cater for clientele anywhere in the world. I am very grateful for what I have, although I still have more goals to aim for and I am determined to achieve these,” he adds. “I’m so thankful to my parents, brothers, relatives, friends and club managers for their faith in me – belief that has made me what I am I am right now.”

Information about United Dubai Disc Jockeys can found at www.uddjs.com. To book a DJ for an event or find out more about the organisation, please send an e-mail request to: info@uddjs.com.



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