Surrey on the Loop: Baselines, Crossfades, and Everything In Between. Part 2.
“Music has always been a platform for communication and self expression. Sounds travel long distances therefore allowing the lines of communication to be delivered. Music has also been a platform for expression whether it be social awareness or just plain fun. In my opinion, music is its own language that bridges people of all cultures together through rhythms and harmony.”
Meet Albert Earl Lamons Jr. Better known as DJ Alibaba. Household name in the local community, self-taught DJ, philanthropist, and self-claimed “Ameri-Canadian” living in Surrey, BC. Originally from Vallejo, California (in the San Francisco Bay Area), Alibaba was raised in a gospel church which provided him with his first exposure to music from an early age. From there the rest was history. He started playing the piano at age seven, and then continued on to the clarinet and saxophone in the school band. Outside of church and the band room, he was too, exposed to a multitude of music in the California scene. I “listened to some of the best DJ’s in North America who produced mixed music shows for stations such as KDIA AM, KSOL FM, and KMEL FM.” And when asked what his first album ever bought? “Songs, In the Key of Life” by Earth, Wind & Fire in 1976. “It’s still one of my all time favourite albums.” “I have a very eclectic taste in music. I love Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Parliment, Bootsy, Michael Jackson, Prince, Janet Jackson, ACDC, Bon Jovi, Garth Brooks, Chuck Berry, Elvis, Aretha Franklin, Shania Twain, so some might say I’m confused!” “Music has been in my blood from day one!”
DJ Alibaba enlisted into the military as a young adult and was stationed in Grand Forks, North Dakota. It was here that he first made contact with Canada, when he and his fellow airmen in the Air Force would drive up to Winnipeg, Manitoba to go to Social events. It was at these events where he quickly realized that the current DJ’s of the time did not know how to beatmatch and mix songs together properly. “[It was this and] my previous experiences from California [that] inspired me to become a DJ, which was the catalyst in developing the DJ skills I have today.”
Upon numerous visits to and from Winnipeg, he later chose to make the move up north after leaving the US Air Force, and he officially received his landed immigrant status in 1985. It was there in Winnipeg that he started his DJ career with the prominent DJ Promoter, Grand Master Funk – whom he originally met at an After Party, but then later, formally met through his wife, who happened to be good friends with him and his inner circle at the time. The Grand Master himself dubbed him the DJ name “DJ Alibaba”. As Alibaba says, “Al Lamons was born in the States and DJ Alibaba was born in Canada.”
Let’s remember that at the time when he began DJing in 1985, there were no DJ schools, no music streaming platforms, and the internet was not the main source for learning new skills. DJ Alibaba had to learn hands on. After a few years establishing his craft, and quickly reaching a pinnacle of DJing in the Winnipeg scene, DJ Alibaba wanted to break into a major market. This is where Surrey becomes a part of his story, when in 1992 he made the move out West, and Surrey has been his home ever since.
Flash forward a few years/decades later, and DJ Alibaba considers himself as a “well-rounded entertainer” more so than solely a “turntablist”. “I pride myself on connecting with the crowd, playing the right song at the right time in the mix, and being able to hype a crowd on the microphone. Some people say my microphone skills is my strongest suit.” For equipment and software, he uses Technics 1200’s Raine Mixer, a MacBook Pro and Video Serato, and although he had accumulated over 25,000 records over the years, due to modern technology, he’s decided to “trim down” the collection to a “small” but mighty 3,000. When asked which DJ’s inspire him and his work, he’s quick to recite DJ Jazzy Jeff as being his favourite in the scene.
Giving credit where credit is due, he also mentioned his like and appreciation for Grand Master Flash, Red Alert, Kool Herc, Kid Capri, Funk Master Flex and Jam Master Jay. “One of the things I am most proud of, outside of being the first black “On-Air” radio personality on a mainstream, commercialised radio station, is people know me as the first DJ to ever have a Hip Hop night in Surrey.”
Although a proud Surrey resident, DJ Alibaba states the facts that unfortunately, “the night clubs and bar scene has been run out of Surrey and channelled to the Granville Strip, with all the other night clubs, which has really hurt the nightlife scene in Surrey. Surrey is the fastest growing region in the Lower Mainland so clearly there is enormous opportunity to provide entertainment on this side of the Fraser Valley. One thing the City Council Members have not taken into consideration is providing people an opportunity to have a thriving nightlife in Surrey without having to drive across bridges to Vancouver after consuming alcohol. Surrey needs much improvement in that area.”
Nowadays, you can find DJ Alibaba playing at the The Flying Beaver in Richmond and at The Park Bar in Downtown on weekends. He also frequently DJ’s corporate events with Vancouver International Airport (YVR), various hospitals, and other various corporate entities. And when he is not DJ’ing it up, DJ Alibaba engages in meaningful philanthropic initiatives in the community with his organization “Friends United Beyond All Race.” The organization hosts fundraising events such as their famous “Roller Jam” at Robson Square, “Golf Classic” tournament at Guildford Golf & Country Club and their “Glow Party” at The Park Bar, in support of Make-A-Wish BC & Yukon.
Whatever DJ Alibaba is doing, it is clear that he is doing it with a whole lot of soul and care. A lover of all things music, a household name in the Canadian DJ scene, and a proud Surrey resident…. DJ Alibaba is it. And we are grateful to have him as a part of our thriving community.
To find out more about DJ Alibaba’s services you can find him at…