March 10, 2005
Two Teens Put Their Own Spin on DJ Biz
It takes more than a sense of rhythm to make a DJ business successful. Being able to mix two songs together seamlessly is a good start, but each act needs its hook -- something that grabs the audience and draws it in.
For Avi Elhiani and Yoni Aviv, both 14-year-old Orthodox day school students, that unique spin comes from the melding of their distinct personalities and drawing from the musical heritage of their Sephardic cultures.
Before the Big Boyz D-Jewz make it to a gig, these young entrepreneurs have a lot to overcome -- heavy schoolwork loads, long hours spent perfecting mixes and dealing with conflicts that inevitably arise in any business arrangement. But when they overcome the obstacles, Elhiani and Aviv can focus on what matters most.
"Starting up that first song and watching people start to mingle and sing and dance is our favorite part of performing," Elhiani said.
The two started Big Boys D-Jewz last year, using their own bar mitzvah money as their start-up capital. The company is named after their tall statures -- Elhiani is 6 feet tall, while Aviv is 6 feet 1.
Elhiani's got a flair for comedy, so he makes jokes and does a Jewish rap routine, substituting obscene words with ones that instill Judaism. Meanwhile, Aviv draws on his talent for dancing to get the crowd pumped.
Elhiani and Aviv both come from Orthodox families, where music held a prominent place. Elhiani, with his Moroccan-Israeli and Polish background, and Aviv, with his Sephardic background, credit their heritage when mixing with Sephardic drumbeats.
So far, they've given 24 performances, during which they've played a wide range of musical styles, from Hebrew to salsa to jazz. Recent gigs have included a temple Chanukah party, a birthday party at a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Elhiani's grandfather's 86th Yiddish-infused birthday party.
The YULA ninth-graders donate 10 percent of their business proceeds to charity, putting ethics from their Jewish education into practice.
In addition to their schoolwork, Elhiani estimated that they spend between 10 and 15 hours a week on the business of Big Boys D-Jewz. Often, the two don't get home until 8:30 p.m., but even then, the work continues.
"It's not easy," Aviv said. "Sometimes I'm up until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning burning a CD."
Even though the business can take time away from schoolwork, Elhiani's mother said it's helped them become more mature.
"I hear them say this is the gig, and this is how much, and where it is," Rita Elhiani said. "It's interesting to see them work out how they share the money, and who does the work. As soon as they get mad at each other, they work it out."
The teenagers see this as more than just a DJ job. To them it's also a way to bring the Jewish community together through music.
At Shalhevet junior Kalman Chodakiewitz's 17th birthday party on March 5, Elhiani and Aviv were doing just that, bringing together students from Beverly High, YULA and Shalhevet with their music. Before the party started, Aviv was out on the dance floor on his own, getting pumped, while Elhiani set up the sound system creating an environ ment conducive to dancing the night away.
When asked what it is they do to create this party atmosphere, their peers seemed to articulate it best.
"They got everyone to the dance floor," said Party host Chodakiewitz, who recalled the last party he attended with the D-Jewz and what made them stand out from other DJs. "It doesn't always happen with DJs. Yoni got out in the crowd and got people excited."
Jeremy Medioni described a similar phenomenon at the pair's gig at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.
"They always know how to get a party started," the Shalhevet junior explained. "Like at Coffee Bean, for example, it was like, 'What are we doing in a Coffee Bean setting?' And they just made it like a regular party. Yoni came into the crowd and got people going,"
The enterprising DJs are young and, at 14, can still improve. For one thing, they lack the obvious -- a driver's license to get to their gigs.
Currently Big Boys D-Jewz performances are confined to local simchas, but they hope to expand their reach in the near future.
"Maybe at some point we can take it to the next level and open up a chain of D-Jewz," Elhiani said. "My brother-in-law in New York wants to be a DJ, as well, and maybe we can get started."
For more information about Big Boys D-Jewz, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.