oliver wang on filipino mobile djs of the bay area

Oliver Wang has a great guest blog post for The Atlantic looking at the Bay Area's Filipino American mobile DJ culture of the 1980s. If that sounds oddly specific, it doesn't make it any less fascinating. These Filipino crews have been the subject of Oliver's dissertation-now-book-research for the better part of a decade: Unlimited Creations: Filipino Mobile DJs of the Bay Area.
Quick primer: Mobile DJs provide lighting and audio services for events: weddings, parties, dances, etc. The "crew" phenomenon was produced partially by necessity. By the 1970s, when mobile DJs were expected to replicate the sound and light atmosphere of discotheques, they needed people to help move and set-up heavy, bulky audio and lighting gear. Crews evolved to include the DJs, roadies, business managers, security, not to mention all the hanger-ons who wanted to get into the party for free and kick game to the ladies.

Amongst the Bay's Filipino American population, the mobile scene got underway in the late 1970s and lasted until roughly the mid 1990s. Along the way, estimates for how many mobile crews may have circulated range somewhere between 100-200. More importantly, as a "scene," it touched the lives of many—if not most—FIlipino youth in the Bay Area in the '80s. If you didn't know of someone actually in a crew, you at least went to a party or dance where one was spinning. At its height, the mobile scene probably resembled similar mobile DJ-based subcultures including Jamaican sound systems, South Bronx party crews, and the UK's Northern Soul scene: crazy creative energy, super loyal fans, and as I'll address in a second, profoundly influential in shaping a community's identity.
If you're at all interested in DJ culture, or if you're just interested in how youth subcultures develop and become communities, it's a really good read. I can't wait to read the book that this research eventually becomes (if Oliver ever gets his manuscript revised).

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