Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews in the San Francisco Bay Area by Oliver Wang (review)
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Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews in the San Francisco Bay Area. By Oliver Wang. (Refiguring American Music.) Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015. [xiii, 218 p. ISBN 9780822359043 (hardcover), $89.95; ISBN 9780822358909 (paperback), $24.95; ISBN 9780822375487 (e-book), various.] Illustrations, bibliography index.

Oliver Wang’s Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews in the San Francisco Bay Area chronicles the historical trajectory of Filipino American DJs—from the mobile crews to the scratch DJ—through the lived experiences of practitioners and patrons. The book’s title (a play on Legions of Doom, the DC Comics evil superheroes) was inspired by an allegiance between five different DJ crews in northern California’s Bay Area (including South San Francisco, Daly City, Fremont, and Union City): Sound Sequence, Images Incorporated, Creative Madness, Midstar Productions, and Styles Beyond Compare (p. 27). In the first chapter, Wang notes that many of the DJs descended from the third wave of Filipino migrants to the United States: the professionals. Under U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson’s Third Preference Act, Filipino doctors, engineers, nurses, entrepreneurs, and businessmen established themselves primarily in coastal areas. Second-generation Filipino Americans, the children of the migrants who settled in a metropolis, became exposed to American popular music in the discotheque nightclubs.

In the second chapter, Wang documents the formation of the earliest Filipino American mobile DJ crews and their efforts to bring the discotheque experience to their community. His first informants, Sound Explosion, were the pioneers of the technique of nonstop mixing by Filipino American DJs. These three DJs—Rafael and Ricky Restauro and Sam Beltran—subsequently developed a grass-roots movement for Filipino American mobile DJs that was both self-funded and financed by their parents (what the author calls “soft infrastructure”; p. 57). With the success of Sound Explosion, other Filipino Americans formulated similar mobile crews. The Electric Sounds and the Gogos (the only female mobile DJ crew at the time) began DJing in their own communities and generated what the author terms “psychic income,” which entails both monetary and “social currency” (pp. 57, 86).

Wang’s concept of garage parties as liminal spaces for social interaction also lends to the perceived generation gap between most Filipino American youths and their parents. The DJs reminisced about incognito interactions between the opposite sexes, unbeknownst to parents, when they sometimes used their reputations as opportunities to mingle and find potential partners. Others treated the scene as a professional opportunity. Chapter 3 addresses sanctioned events, such as hometown association parties, weddings, and baptisms; these gradually led to the overriding popularity of the mobile Filipino American DJ in San Francisco. Concerning race, Wang’s informants never asserted their ethnic identity when promoting themselves and, unlike their East Asian counterparts, rarely made references to cultural icons from their ethnicity. Therefore, most of Filipino American DJs apparently viewed themselves foremost as Americans who occasionally DJed cultural events given by their families, the only ones who were fully aware of their Filipino ethnicity.

In chapter 4, Wang describes how the mobile DJs began to venture away from local events. As the mobile DJs gained recognition within their communities, event producers from San Francisco began selecting DJs from these mobile crews to work at professional nightclubs. An intriguing study from this chapter is the case of Mark Bradford, an aggressive promoter of these “showcases.” Bradford was a complex character. Some hold negative views of his reputation because of his alleged solicitations of sexual favors from young male DJs in exchange for covering expenses for equipment and transportation. Yet with Bradford’s help, many of the mobile DJs quickly infiltrated the nightclub scenes that ostracized Asian American DJs in general. According to Wang, the cultural upbringing [End Page 740] of many of the DJs was a contributing factor to the male dominance of the genre during its formative years. Allyson Tintiangco Cubales, a professor at San Francisco State University, and DJ Robert “Qbert” Quitevis candidly reveal how most Filipino American families adhered to strict familial obligations that nonetheless allowed men to pursue extracurricular activities in the evening, while young women resorted to subterfuge. As a result, male DJs...