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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A day in the life of a DJ

A day in the life of a DJ

A room which consists of technical stuff such as mixers, computers, earphones, microphones, CD players and a lot of CDs is known as a studio in a radio station. Hem Sopheaktra, who has worked both and a DJ, or disc jockey, and operator for almost 10 years at the Women Media’s center of Cambodia, was talking to a caller when I arrived.

At the beginning, Sopheaktra said he felt a bit nervous after I introduced myself. “It is fine for guests to visit here, but I honestly just feel a bit anxious getting interviewed,” he said with a smile. He talked to me while he played songs for the listeners and I watched him when he spoke with callers and found discs to play. I noticed that Sopheaktra could remember all the songs on every CD and was able to find where the CD was filed away.

“Being a DJ is not that difficult, but being a popular one is the point. It depends on how flexible and how fast you are,” he said. “I am ranked first among other DJs when it comes to who is the most popular. The judges are the audience, donors and people who work in the broadcasting field.”

The big difference from other occupations that require staff to work eight hours a day is that Sopheaktra generally only takes responsibility for about five hours a day at his workplace. Nonetheless, during that time he hardly has any breaks unless he already prepares a record or someone comes in to replace him. “I cannot get out of the studio because my listeners are listening, also my boss and her networks. I would get complaints if there is a problem on air.

“However, I can call my colleague to stand by for me, or else I might set up some songs to play when I take a toilet break or have a snack, but I must carry a radio along with me in case there are any changes or errors in the studio.”  

Sopheaktra claimed this job required him to think a lot. At the same, I saw him chatting with callers, finding songs and managing the mixer. Amazingly, he could remember almost all his callers even if they came from different locations around the country. Though I am younger than Sopheaktra, it is impossible for me to remember every name.

Some people expect that being either a DJ or an operator was enjoyable since they always look very happy. However, sometimes this DJ did not get any fun from his job at all. “It was actually boring when I had personal matters or got blamed for something by my boss. So I wanted to be alone and get no noise, but this work forced me to talk and talk. It is my basic job anyway.”

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