Portablism is the practice of DJing with easily transportable gear. It was born out of a combination of curiosity and the desire to take Turntablism anywhere at any time. Its exponential growth is the reason why some are already calling it the 'rebirth of Turntablism' as more and more users and developers are joining the community everyday. A key factor to the scene's growth is the low barrier of entry – there's not a lot of gear or cost necessary to get up and running.
Originally, artists were limited to using their setups at home when performing. The idea to take Turntablism out of the house and onto the road offers a lot of flexibility and fun to users. This takes a predominantly solo indoor art form into more outdoor, social and communal environments supported by the aspect of exchanging knowledge and meeting new people.
Portablism tries to reduce the overall DJ setup to a minimum, keeping it to the essentials. Therefore, it is an inexpensive way to get started with Turntablism and to learning how to scratch. As competition and battles have been a big part of Turntablism culture, the same spirit is now crossing over into the Portablism scene. More and more events and competitions are taking place worldwide by organizations such as Portablist Lounge and the DMC World Championship, which is now hosting a dedicated battle for portable artists.
As a culture, Portablism is a breath of fresh air in the DJ scene, as the technology and movement still has a lot of room for growth and it is mostly the practitioners themselves who are in the driving seat of its development. The scene is driven by the aspect of modding, which leads to a 'DIY' culture that offers sheer endless possibilities of customization to the users.
Although the official inventor of the term 'Portablism' is not clear, it is a culture that has been developing organically even as early as 2003, with a noticeable steep progression since 2015. Historically speaking, it could be argued that Vestax and DJ Qbert/Thud Rumble are the original pioneers of this new sub-culture with their collaborative and ambitious portable turntable instrument, the QFO. Although it was a breakthrough in many ways by including an internal battery and further professional features, the QFO wasn't easily accessible for the mass market due to its limited availability and cost. Furthermore, it wasn't truly a portable solution as the device itself is not light and still requires an external speaker.
Further official and make-shift attempts of taking Turntablism into new portable realms began emerging, including wearable guitar-shaped and even a djembe-shaped turntable instrument. However, they mostly failed to gain widespread traction and thus remained in a prototype stage. On the plus side, this experimental spirit sparked a new era of DIY products and cottage industries outside of the major manufacturing forces.
In the 10 years that followed, there were few notable developments until the introduction of portable crossfaders designed for use with smart devices and the type of portable turntables originally intended for record diggers and collectors to listen to vinyl on the go. Noticing a trend, other companies came on board with further mobile crossfader models. It became common to see these paired by cable, adhesives or even wirelessly with such portable turntables, DJ apps and additional portable speakers, which gave rise to a demand for 7'' scratch records.
Since the total number of releases and sales of records has increased considerably over the last years, portable vinyl listening pleasure is once again playing a greater role too.
While Turntablism relies heavily on premium quality DJ gear and the best conditions possible for optimum performances, Portablism focuses more on accessibility, cost-effectiveness, and a spirit of contributory innovation and could be described as another path on designing turntables. Its technological advancements are happening frequently by the hand of small and independent product developers, many of whom are also the practitioners and hobbyists of the craft itself. Being able to scratch and perform Turntablism anywhere requires the following:
■ A light-weight portable turntable, battery-powered with a stable platter, tone arm and needle
■ An integrated or external crossfader with a sharp cut-in for scratching
■ A 7'' scratch vinyl with samples for scratching and beats for juggling
■ Headphones or a battery-powered speaker
As it's still a young movement, specific products for Portablism are still growing. The modular attempt leads to a lot of niche products that are trying to fulfil a specific purpose on a portable turntable as its best.
The SPIN is a portable turntable which is made for scratch artists and vinyl lovers alike and features bluetooth streaming, versatile connection possibilities as well as optional battery operation. Out of the box it already comes with everything you need to get started, including a 7'' scratch vinyl, pre-installed 45-mm crossfader & cartridge, an integrated speaker and USB recording functionality.
Some of its core features are:
With a purchased SPIN, you will also get a free copy of the Super Spin Duck Looper app by Dj Babu and the Beat Junkies Institue of Sound, which can be used ideally as your backing beat while scratching and cutting.
Together with Dj Babu, DJ IKU, DJ VaZee and DJ BYTE we created an 'Around the World' performance to showcase what SPIN is in terms of Portablism capable of and what it means as a lifestyle:
Portablism is a breath of fresh air in the DJ scene, as the technology and movement still has a lot of room for growth. Uniquely, it is mostly the practitioners themselves who are in the driving seat of its development. The scene is driven by the aspect of modding, which leads to a 'DIY' culture that offers sheer endless possibilities of customization to the users.
Its technological advancements are happening frequently by the hand of small and independent product developers, many of whom are also the practitioners and hobbyists of the craft itself. As it's still a young movement, specific products for Portablism are still growing. The modular approach leads to a lot of niche products that aim to fulfil a specific purpose on a portable turntable in the best way possible.
DJs and turntablists jamming together isn't necessarily new but now thanks to the rise of Portablism, its "scratch anywhere" culture is encouraging even more connections, more dialogue, and more collaborations between like-minded individuals. At the forefront, fellow enthusiasts often arrange informal gatherings to scratch together, and others are taking advantage of the freedom to capture Portablism content in all manner of different locations. Meanwhile, those with the know-how are busy developing and engineering the tools and products that the scene demands. It's very much a DIY community growing fast due to active members taking the responsibility in their own hands to advance the culture.
Portablist Lounge is a community for international scratch portablists, organising battles and meet-ups. Judges and competitors from all over the world gather for the ultimate prize in Portablism. Since 2019, Reloop have teamed up with Portablist Lounge and supports the event by equipping all contests with the Reloop SPIN portable turntable system.
Here at Reloop, we are participating in the emerging culture of Portablism and offer an all-in-one solution for extensive portable needs:
Reloop SPIN the Portable Turntable System - Did You Know? (Tutorial)
Reloop TAPE 2 – The digital Mixtape for DJs (Introduction)
Reloop TAPE 2 digital Mixtape for DJs - Did You Know? (Tutorial)