By Alex Rickert
DJ FIJI doesn’t carry himself like a disc jockey who spent the last nine years spinning tracks for thousands of people all over the globe. He’s warm, humble, and, most importantly, truly eager to share the details of his passion with others.
DJ FIJI’s story began while bartending on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. He describes the first DJ to truly impress him as a man who could, “control who would come to the dance floor, and who would leave. He would tell me, ‘Watch this. I’m going to get this group of people or that group of people to come dancing,’ and it would always happen.” From this point on, he was hooked. “I was fascinated by that. I wanted to have that power where I could control groups of people through music. At the end of the night, everyone knows your name and wants to know when you’re playing next.”
Breaking into the industry that captivated him was no easy task. The cruise line DJ initially refused to teach him the necessary skills, but DJ FIJI’s persistence knew no bounds. In his own words, “I think he realized the only way he could get rid of me was to start showing me stuff.” After leaving Royal Caribbean, DJ FIJI began playing in bars, clubs, and private events, but his dream was to return to a cruise ship. This chance came courtesy of Rob Nadigel, a connection he established while DJing a wedding in the Keys. Two months later he was boarding a Carnival Cruise Line ship. His time spent on voyages throughout the world allowed him to learn varying styles of music from a multitude of cultures.
Carnival served as an avenue for professional development (and a good deal of fun), but DJ FIJI eventually decided that, “it was time to start setting some roots down for something more permanent.” This idea drew him back to Marathon, where he spends most days helping to open Causeway Pizza, a new restaurant coming soon to Key Colony Beach. “We’ve rebuilt it from the ground up, and we should be open before the New Year,” he said.
Full Name? Dez Smith.
What was the best part of working on a cruise ship? The people. I met people from countries I’d never heard of while traveling the world.
How did you wind up in Marathon? At the end of 2014, I needed a change. I was working in oil fields and hated my job. I was looking for Jeep parts on Craigslist when I saw an ad that said, “Move to the Florida Keys and become a diver. Dive during the day, eat chicken wings and drink beer at night. Live your best life.” I packed up my Jeep with whatever could fit in it, drove 19 hours trusting my GPS, and here I am.
What is the defining feature of a DJ FIJI set? My sets have an open format, which means that I don’t stick to one specific style. I was originally a progressive and electro-house DJ, but my time on the cruise ship showed me what people listen to in other cultures. I try to adapt to all types of music and integrate it into my own style.
What has been the biggest challenge as you’ve progressed as a DJ? Learning to take criticism from others. I once put up a YouTube video of myself practicing transitions between songs. It racked up 22,000 views, but had tons of negative comments. A few were encouraging, but some said I was awful at what I did, and those really got to me. I ended up deleting the video, but now I wish I could look at it and say, “I went from that to where I am now, and I’ve vastly improved.”
If a crowd is a little too low-key, what’s your solution? I have “sing-along songs” that can usually energize the crowd. Songs like “Sweet Caroline,” “Friends in Low Places,” “Piano Man,” and a few line dances are always good choices. For older crowds I might use some doo-wop or swing music, and if it’s a younger crowd I’ll use pretty much anything by Drake.
Are there any songs you always include in your sets? “People Everyday” by Arrested Development has a powerful message, and I use “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey to tell people about my story.
What about the opposite? Any songs you hate to play? “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi. I hate that song so much. I enjoyed it at first, but it got overplayed. It’s the most requested song, and now I can’t stand it.
Is DJing your long term plan? I’ve always loved DJing, and I’m passionate about it. If I could, I would do it full-time.
Want DJ FIJI to spin tracks at your next event? Contact him at 305-343-8446 or use @DJFIJI01 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
What’s the best meal you ate on a cruise ship? Guy Fieri’s burger.
Guilty pleasure song or movie? For a song, “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton. It’s so overplayed but I still love it. For a movie, “Apocalypto.” I must have watched it a hundred times.
If you could collaborate with any DJ/Artist who would it be? The Canadian DJ Scratch Bastard.
Do you have a secret talent? When I was young I could touch my nose with my tongue.