Leave it to a preacher’s kid to find the similarities between a nightclub and a church. According to Atlanta-based spoken word artist and music and cultural events promoter Kemi Bennings, a sanctuary filled with shouting, joy-filled worshippers isn’t much different from a nightspot packed with jumping, dancing partygoers.
The fact that a Sunday service is usually led by an ordained minister is a matter of semantics, because as far as she’s concerned, the way a DJ rocks a party is no different from a pastor inspiring his flock.
“In parallel to a spiritual leader or preacher, DJs are ministers in music … Empowering and inspiring loyal congregations,” Bennings says. “The power they have, the power it exudes can sadden you, and it can lift your mood.”
Bennings’ philosophy holds special significance in Atlanta, a city where nightlife plays a vital economic, social, and cultural role, and where DJs often bypass promoters and traditional nightclubs to create and produce their own highly-trafficked brand of events. Look no further than DJ Kemit’s Spread Love, DJ Stan Zeff’s Tambor, and Salah Ananse’s Sunday School, for starters.
Which brings us to Bennings’ latest project, Ministers of Sound. This one-night photography exhibition, slated to take place at the Sound Table on Feb. 24, is a visual celebration of Atlanta’s DJ culture. The images on display depict more than 30 of Atlanta’s most well-known turntable maestros, including Apple Jac, Cha Cha Jones, Rasta Root, Mafioso, Tabone, Kai Alce, Mike Zarin, and more, posed in a variety of costumes, including monk frocks, pope-style hats, and choir robes, each reflecting the spiritual nature of spinning sounds that keep the dance floor moving.
Bennings says her late father, the Rev. Hardy S. Bennings Jr., who served as the associate pastor at Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta until he passed away in 2008, sparked her original idea for the exhibit. “Through the healing process, after his death, I started to think: If DJs were ministers and the pulpit was the DJ booth, and the playlist was the message, how do you move the crowd?” Bennings asks.
Read more: CreativeLoafing