Over the years, the DJ Mag Top 100 poll has become dance music’s favourite piñata, and the accusations against it have varied over time. The current favourite is that the poll is colonialist and doesn’t represent the origins of dance music. Accusations of sexism frequently circulate too. And whilst there’s a degree of truth to these views, my main criticism of the poll is that it’s basically rubbish.
And now, the backlash has come along – in the form of the Bembe DJ Awards. Set up by Carlos Mena, the poll was set up in order to create a list that was more reflective of the culture and roots of dance music. Nothing wrong with that idea, allow me to emphasise. Late last week, they revealed their list of top DJs – all 125 of them…
Why does the list consist of 125 names? Your guess on why the list has this random number is as good as mine. Not much is known about the voting process either. According to a video Mena posted explaining the process, the list was compiled by a combination of a selected panel and members of the public. But this answer raises far more questions than it settles.
How many people are on the selected panel? What are their names? Are any of them DJs whose names have ended up on the poll – and isn’t that a conflict of interest if this has happened? And how does the panel work – did they merely submit a shortlist for the public to vote on, or were they given a certain percentage of the power to decide, with the public having the rest?
Secondly, there’s a decided lack of women on this list – admittedly, I’m not aware of the genre of all 125 DJs on the list, but a quick glance suggests to me around a dozen females. I also note there are very few white DJs on this list. Without information on the panel and who voted for this and in what area, it’s extremely hard to make any deductions as to why.
And here’s one I have a particular issue with. Bembe DJ Awards is the creation of Carlos Mena, who runs Ocha Records alongside his friend Osunlade. The winner of the poll is Osunlade. And Carlos Mena is even in the poll himself, positioned at number 41.
The DJ Mag Top 100 DJs poll of 2020 was won by David Guetta. Imagine it then transpired that David Guetta was in charge of the poll at DJ Mag and he just happened to have won it. You simply wouldn’t be able to move for shouts that the poll was rigged.
If the best that Bembe DJ Awards can seriously manage is to essentially be yet another bro fest, then they might as well not bother again…