RadioandMusic
| 14 Jun 2021
Luke Kenny: "VJs are cassette tapes of their times"

9XO programming head Luke Kenny who came on-board as a special ‘Guest Editor' at Radioandmusic.com's (RnM) office shared his experiences on ‘The role of VJs in current times’ and contributed to the fifth anniversary celebrations.

It has been quite a varied journey for me as an individual who has been a part of the music, film and media industry at large. I began my journey as a chorus dancer on stage, graduated to DJ-ing in discos and pubs and began a television career at a time when the music television phenomenon was yet to explode. My exposure to the television world was via being a Video Jockey (VJ) for one of India’s then premier music channels (Channel V). VJ-ing was a new concept and to a nation that was just beginning to get used to cable television it soon became a phenomenon. So much so that to this day, I get asked in interviews from time to time about the role of VJs in the present scenario of television as it stands.

I remained a VJ for exactly two and a half years. And in that short time I witnessed the devolution of what it meant to be a video jockey. On one hand the concept of VJ was to introduce a music video using a personal knowledge of the content, be it the artist or the song. Reliance was completely on the individual VJ’s music aptitude and sensibilities. But with the advent of the internet that requirement was slowly being edged out. It then became that all you needed was a pretty face to read off a teleprompter, thus making the VJ just a mere ‘presenter’, ‘anchor’, ‘host’.

In those years that the VJ-ing phenomenon hit the country’s youth, the response was monumental. Because at that time there were no youth icons as such, Cricket had not got so commercialized, Bollywood was as crass as ever, and reality TV had yet to rear its ugly head. So as a result, wherever the VJ went, be it on television or out to college campuses and public events that engaged the youth, an unexpected frenzy was generated by the sheer novelty of the concept.

What the youth saw in the VJ was themselves… a personification of a human being that spoke their language, dressed aspirational and had set a trend entirely unique to the VJ’s persona. Hairstyles were copied, body language was imitated, posters were put up; it was all round idol worship.

But it was also very boring. Personally having been a bit prescient to the whole process, I began to ease out of the game, applying my knowledge and sensibilities to more challenging aspects behind the scenes of the whole music television tapestry. Meanwhile I watched my contemporaries become film stars, icons in their own right, models, and music artists and so on. And as for the newbies with stars in their eyes… well let’s just say that the disillusionment set in sooner than expected.

But this was all in the 20th century; the 21st century has brought on new and exciting monsters. The VJ is today reborn as a glamorous mutation of itself. A participant in reality TV, a perpetrator of imbecilic humour, a conspirator in relationship fabrications and sometimes a harmless referee in talent competitions, all in the name of national and NRI-tional fame and exposure that is instantly lost in the clutter of millions of horizontal pixels moving at the speed of light in a tiny rectangular frame called television.

VJs are the cassette tapes of their times, an obsolete piece of communication that had their time, it had their power… and even its finest hour. And god forbid any new, young, struggling-to-be-in-the-limelight thing decides to start his or her career as a Video Jockey on music television. And for those who remember and might recall the iconic VJ’s of the past, I salute your memory.