DJ Rahfee Zahkee Makes a Living Controlling the Dance Floor Like a Video Game
It's 6 p.m. on a Tuesday, and frenzied beats emanate from a tiny shop on Long Beach's Fourth Street. Inside Top Sekoms--a clothing and urban lifestyle store hidden among the dive bars on Alamitos and Orange avenues--a whirlwind of dreadlocks is spastically maneuvering around a DJ rig propped in the center of the room.
Jon Killz Photography Tapping into his potential
Roberta Flack is blaring from two Rok It speakers as hands inside that rig twist knobs, push levers and begin to tap-tap on a beat pad as though the buttons are piano keys, making the song more complex. The hands wave over a Leap Motion sensor placed atop one of the speakers, and the notes bend as if on a Theremin. A video-game joystick becomes another tool for sound, repeating sampled notes and beat refrains with every tweak.
This is how DJ Rahfee Zahkee performs, his matted hair flailing in all directions as he uses unconventional equipment to remix songs, layer live beats and combine G-funk era samples to create an ever-changing dreamscape of highs and lows, beats, and boom bips, slamming you into the floor with expert timing.
"I don't even think about it; it's just second nature," Zahkee says of the improvisational art form that often finds him soloing for the duration of an entire set. "I dream about music and always have songs running through my head. Using electronic instruments is the closest I can come to getting the sounds I hear."
Four years ago, Zahkee nearly severed his thumb trying to open a bottle of "two-buck Chuck," ending his budding career as a professional bassist. Not one to sit idle, the Long Beach-born musician and pre-law major took up "regular style" deejaying--playing songs for crowds and feeding faster beats over them--but that never satisfied him. At his first real gig as Rahfee Zahkee (a homophone of his Egyptian birth name), he easily got the crowd at the Prospector dancing.