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Young DJ finds his niche at BBC

PUBLISHED: 07:15 22 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:03 22 October 2010

RICHARD BALLS

Less than two years ago he did his first tentative broadcast on a community radio station in Norwich. Now 17-year-old DJ Jamie Wallace – known to listeners as J. Swift – is presenting his own two-hour shows on 1Xtra, in what is his third stint on the BBC’s digital black music station.

Less than two years ago he did his first tentative broadcast on a community radio station in Norwich.

Now 17-year-old DJ Jamie Wallace - known to listeners as J. Swift - is presenting his own two-hour shows on 1Xtra, in what is his third stint on the BBC's digital black music station.

The teenager got his dream break after winning a competition with BBC Blast, a project to get young people involved in the arts.

Showing initiative and drive to match his DJ-ing skills, he sent in a one-minute demo tape for a mock-up 1Xtra show on which he wound down one track and introduced another.

By the time he had started college, he had forgotten about it, but then he got a call asking him to attend an audition in front of a panel in London, and the City of Norwich School student has made such an impression that he was asked to do a run of shows in March and is now filling the Xtra Talent slot each Monday this month, playing and talking about the music which has been his passion from a young age.

It is just as well for the youngster that his shows are pre-recorded: they are broadcast between 4am and 6am and he is currently doing A levels in English, psychology, media and theatre.

"Digital radio is giving more choice to listeners," he said, referring to the sea-change in the way popular music is accessed, enjoyed and bought.

"People don't have to stay up until a stupid time of day to listen to their favourite track. But that is also why stuff is getting pirated and is starting to lose some of its art."

His grounding in music was a good one. His father worked as a DJ in pubs and clubs when he was a youngster growing up in east London and his collection of vinyl albums, containing classic funk and soul from greats such as Grover Washington, James Brown and Marvin Gaye, provided a rich seam of music for an impressionable Jamie to mine.

At middle school, Jamie displayed a talent for music, playing the trumpet and violin, and by high school he had started to teach himself piano and drums. He also began to discover his own idols like Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur, though it was not as a musician but as a DJ that he was to find his niche.

Drawn to the turntable by his cousin, he eventually knocked on the door of the NR5 Project in Earlham, a youth-based education, creative arts and music group, and it was there that he was taught production and did his first ever show on its Future Radio station.

Project manager Dawn Jackson said: "He picked up our leaflet and just came in, which takes quite a lot of courage.

"He is a really good role model for other youngsters: he aspires to learn and he puts a lot of time into what he is doing."

Since then, the teenager has learned to produce his own samples in his studio at home, but he believes he can make his mark by incorporating some of the originals into his digital radio shows.

"I am trying to get a slot every week," said Jamie. "To make myself unique, I want to do more old stuff. The hip-hop scene is samples and riffs taken from jazz, funk and soul and I want to take it back and find original samples."

Sensibly, he is keen not to let his newfound fame distract him from his studies, and after completing his A

levels he is considering making the University of Westminster's commercial music course his next move.

"I want to do my exams and get decent grades. If I don't do down the music route, then I always have something to go back to."

But with his slick presenting skills gracing 1Xtra and digital radio destined for a boom, J. Swift could be here to stay.


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