Photo exhibition celebrates link between preachers and DJs

An innovative one-day photographic exhibition that explores the analogy between DJs and ministers took place in Atlanta on Sunday night.

The Ministers of Sound exhibit and installation explores parallels between deejays and spiritual leaders or preachers.

The underlying theme is that DJs are ministers in music; they preach from their respective “pulpits,” empowering and inspiring the loyal “congregations” that support them.

The thought-provoking images are the vision of Atlanta-based artist Kemi Bennings, who was inspired to create the project in tribute to her late father, Hardy Bennings Jr., who passed on February 3, 2008. Bennings was a well-respected Augusta, Georgia, based Baptist church minister.

“After my father passed the analogy became crystal clear,” says Ministers of Sound curator Bennings. “If DJs are the ministers, then the pulpit is the DJ booth, the playlist is the message or sermon and the DJ following is the congregation.”

Bennings says she sees absolutely no contradiction between the church and music culture.

“DJs have a responsibility to use their following to evoke change,” she says. “The exhibition poses a provocative question, ‘how do DJs move a crowd to create harmony or even disharmony?’”

She wants DJs to take responsibility and ask the question, “What is my message, where do I go from here, and how am I moving the crowd in an effort to uplift and unify humanity?”

The project, which was five years in the making, features mainly, although not predominately, African-American DJs. Some of the photos taken by photographer Annette Brown where while the DJs were on the job. Other images at The Sound Table venue represent how the disc jockeys perceive their spirituality.

“In this day and age a lot of people spend more time in the clubs than in church,” says DJ Kemet, an established Atlanta-based DJ, who is featured in the exhibition. “Music has a lot of influence over people from the way we dress to the way we think. Music can give out positive vibes and degrading and derogatory lyrics can spread out negative energy.”

Kemet says his photograph was taken in a record store because, he says, “he spends a lot of time digging.”

DJ Ramon Rawsoul, another artist in the exhibition, says he plays a genre of music – deep soulful house – that doesn’t discriminate against anyone. “A lot of people go to clubs to let their hair down. We conduct a sermon every time we play.”

Bennings has plans to reinstall the exhibit and installation at other venues in the near future.

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