DJ FUMO: From High School DJ to International Turntablist

DJ FUMO: From High School DJ to International Turntablist

He sang along to the tunes of Luciano Pavarotti at three-years-old and was shaking the streets of downtown Tokyo to the sound of his irresistible beat by the age of sixteen

– only four years before starting up his own sound production agency.

With roots in both Italy and Japan, twenty-one-year-old Leonardo Murata grew up in Tokyo and moved to Toronto straight after school to study music and sound engineering at Recording Arts in Canada. He travelled to Florence last year to join Italian rapper Zana and his group All In, and has since become known as the exuberant DJ Fumo, opening for major international acts including DJ Kayper on BBC Radio One and Big Fish on Universal Music.

However, Mr. Murata's dreams began when he was just a child, surrounded by the songs of the radio and his mother’s passion for classical, opera and bossa nova.

“I discovered hip-hop at the age of twelve and I have to say this was a turning point in my life in terms of music, as I had never connected to it as much as I did when I was an adolescent,” he said. “Through hip-hop I discovered funk, jazz, reggae and a variety of different genres that continue to influence my music today.”

Mr. Murata knew he wanted to become a DJ from the day he saw a group of turntablists perform in front of him. He thought the sounds they were making were so new and unreal that he wanted to be able to learn the craft himself and master it one day.

When he was fourteen he was lucky enough to meet DJ Gruff (Sandro Orrù), a member of Italian hip-hop group Sangue Misto, who was living in Tokyo at the time.

Mr. Murata said: “He gave me one of his records as a gift, and told me that if I didn’t start my career at that moment, I would never be good enough as a DJ. Soon after I bought my first turntables and mixer, and began scratching away!”

The first time Mr. Murata played to a crowd larger than his group of close friends was at a high school dance in 2005. It was then that he realised it was exactly what he wanted to do.

I played some songs for fun but they were terrible,” he confessed, “since at the time I had no idea what mixing or“ beat-matching really was.”

“Later I put on a show with my best friend Matthew Berg who plays the bass, and by the end of the night we had a large crowd in front of us cheering us on, which was the best feeling in the world.”

He won his first official show when a friend introduced him to British-Korean-Japanese hip-hop group Sky-Fu, who asked him to play with them at an underground club in downtown Tokyo.

Mr. Murata said: “I was sixteen and had to sneak out of the house at 2am to play the show. Needless to say my parents were highly unimpressed when I arrived home the next morning!”

Despite the cold weather, Toronto turned out to be the perfect place to kick-start a career. Mr. Murata described the city as “bustling with music everywhere you turn”, and he learnt how to record and prepare professional CDs for the public. After graduating from Recording Arts in Canada, Leonardo decided to stay in Toronto for another year to live with a friend who worked as a drum and bass DJ.

“Through him I learnt what drum and bass and dubstep music was all about, which are both now a staple in my DJ set,” Mr. Murata said.

It was not until he moved back to Florence, however, that his career seriously took off. He met with Florentine rapper Leopoldo Zanuccoli, also known as Zana, who asked him whether he was interested in joining his group, the All In.

Mr. Murata said: “Zana, Narchetti, Frammento and I really hit it off and I instantly became part of the crew. We have opened concerts for big Italian acts including Nesli, Mondo Marcio and Amir - not to mention we've become as close as brothers in the process!”

Despite his passion for the job, Mr. Murata admitted there are a few “trials and tribulations” a young DJ has to go through at some point in his career.

“Being a club DJ and coming from an underground state of mind often clashes,” he explained.

“I like listening to music that makes me think, that opens my mind and that is challenging to make, but people who come to mainstream clubs like to listen to mainstream music, which for the most part is easy to make and easy to listen to. At such clubs, if I played the music I really wanted to, I would probably get booed off the stage!”

None of this, however, compares to the joy of making people smile and dance, and Leonardo knows this all too well.

He said: “I like making people party, and when I hear people cheer and scream when I play a song they love it is the most exhilarating feeling in the world. After all, life should be about having fun!”

With the help of his old friends from All In, Mr. Murata recently set up his own sound production and events agency in Florence – offering master classes and technique advice in editing, production, live mixing and recording. He also offers an exclusive events service through which he plays at private parties, weddings, corporate events and birthdays.

As a piece of advice to young DJ hopefuls, Leonardo said the earlier a person starts to learn about the job the better - it's important to get out there and immerse yourself in whatever you are passionate about.

He added, with a smirk on his face: “As long as you love what you do, you will be great at what you do.”

When it comes to DJ Fumo, however, the word ‘great’ would be an understatement of his enthusiasm and passion for the music world. From the Tuscan hills to Tokyo’s underground world, we are bound to hear more from this talented young artist – whose promising career has only just begun.

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