Shan Tambat is trying to bring the Campus DJ crown back to UCLA.
Three years after UCLA’s last win in the competition, the graduate mechanical engineering student will be playing in the Campus DJ national championship Saturday at the Lane Events Center in Eugene, Oregon.
The championship will feature four DJs selected from a pool of more than a thousand student DJs nationally.
“It’s an adrenaline rush really,” he said. “(I’m) going against the best college DJs in the U.S.”
Tambat will represent UCLA against three other DJs from Arizona State University, Texas State University and Indiana University Bloomington. In the first round, all four DJs will play eight-minute sets, and in the final round, the two remaining DJs will perform five-minute sets. The winner will receive several prizes, including a $2,500 music scholarship and a $2,500 donation to the charity of their choice.
“It’s a pretty competitive competition,” Tambat said. “You’re seeking out DJs from all over the country, so it’s kind of cool being able to battle against a different school, and I’m pretty proud to represent the Bruins in the nationals.”
Tambat said he first began DJing about six years ago at house parties because he enjoyed sharing his music with other people. At one party, Tambat met Justin Edge, a fellow DJ who has performed at events including Coachella and who eventually became Tambat’s mentor.
Edge said Tambat’s diverse music tastes – which span from electronic dance music to pop music – help set him apart from other DJs who might rely on a narrower palette of genres.
“He’ll play a song that you wouldn’t necessarily think is something that would appear at a dance music show, EDM show,” Edge said. “He’ll play a rock song and turn it into something else.”
One mashup Tambat often plays at live shows consists of Alice Deejay’s older EDM song “Better Off Alone” and Galantis’ song “Runaway (U & I),” which he feels is more emblematic of newer EDM styles. He added he plans on playing the mashup during his set Saturday because he finds the contrast between the older and newer styles fun for the audience.
However, Tambat said he didn’t start to gain confidence in his DJing skills until after he began competing. Tambat’s first competition performances were at localized UCLA competitions before he moved on to more advanced regional rounds of the Campus DJ competition, eventually making it to the Campus DJ national semifinals last year. When he first tried out for the Campus DJ competition in 2015, he said he was hesitant because he wasn’t sure if he was talented enough to succeed.
“I think the big thing with me was trying to work on that self-doubt,” he said. “I kept giving a great performance for people and they responded well so that sort of catalyzed my love for this.”
Evan Shapiro, the Campus DJ competition’s co-founder and executive producer, said he started the competition back in 2012 after working as an executive producer on College Battle of the Bands, another intercollegiate music contest. College Battle of the Bands began receiving submissions from DJs and other music producers, so its organizers decided to pilot a new format for a competition that could showcase electronically produced music rather than bands.
“Being a DJ has really evolved over the years – it’s overall really an artistic form now,” he said. “It’s not just about playing records.”
This year, Shapiro said the competition’s judges will score DJs based on their originality, live performance and overall potential.
“(Tambat brings) a great energy; I think it’s really representative of the UCLA culture,” Shapiro said. “Just that school pride, and energy around electronic dance music.”
As the competition approaches, Tambat said he feels a bit overwhelmed trying to balance his music with his work as an engineer, but is ultimately excited to perform for the crowd.
“I think it’s important to really make time for things that you also love and that’s what I’m trying to do,” he said. “It’s important to push yourself and that’s what really builds someone.”