DJ Counsel

DJ Counsel

Coppershot selector called to the Bar

Observer senior reporter

Sunday, December 29, 2019

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Ten years ago Sanjay Smith, known to the entertainment fraternity as DJ Sanjay of the local sound system Coppershot, embarked on move to fulfil his lifelong dream to become an attorney. It is a profession he had aspired to since childhood having having been inspired by a father and sister who both studied law. But the road to being called to the Bar was not easy for the now 35-year-old.

For Smith, just like law, music was always part of his life. From his earliest days studying the piano to first trying his hand at scratching records with his mother's Kenny G's Greatest Hits album, after watching one of the House Party movies as a teenager.

"I was that nerd in high school (St George's College). Always loved music, but definitely not the cool dude people wanted to hang out with. But I always had the latest dancehall cassette. When we had a sound clash among my schoolmates I always won... I never lost a clash. That resulted in me wanting to start a sound system when I was in fourth form," he shared with the Jamaica Observer.

It would take some time but by he reached sixth form, Smith, along with friends Pierre Gobault and Matthew Samuda, would start Blood Lines. This was a sound system which played the uptown party scene and he slowly made a name for himself.

"In those early days it was hard, as we were just using our lunch money to buy records. So there were days when we had to decide if we were buying records or eating, and as growing boys eating would win many days. I then started secretly packing lunch from home, as there was no way I could tell my parents I was using my lunch money to buy music."

Blood Lines would continue through Smith's high school years and on to The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona where he read for a first degree in language and communication. In 2004 that aggregation dissolved and he moved on to join the selectors on the more established Coppershot.

Always determined to make more of himself and expand his boundaries, Smith added radio to his portfolio,and stints at Nationwide News Network and Fame FM were to follow, while always keeping his Coppershot ties.

However, law always beckoned.

When the University of Technology (UTech), Jamaica opened its law faculty he saw this as a prime opportunity to make his dream come true. It was less expensive to enrol in that programme compared to the more established UWI, and in 2009 he signed up for the UTech law degree. However, after completing the course of study, there is one hiccup to becoming a practising attorney. The Legal Education Certificate, which all lawyers must attain before being called to the Bar, is only offered at The Norman Manley Law School located at the UWI, and it is extremely competitive to get in based on the number of physical spaces allotted to non-UWI law graduates.

"When I sat that entrance exam for the second time and realised that they only accepted five persons from outside, it was my father who suggested that I apply to UWI and do a second law degree. He said, 'Let's just do this. It doesn't matter how expensive it is, we are with you.'"

Completing the degree and still playing gigs was easy the second time round for Smith. However, once he got to law school it became a little tricky balancing the demands of both, and he vividly recalls attending classes at 8:00 am and then heading straight to the airport to play at an overseas engagement, or coming back into Kingston from out of town just in time for classes.

"There is a radical shift in the approach to what is done in the faculty, compared to law school. Law school demanded so much of you, and what is being imparted is more to do with procedure. So should you be absent from a class you could miss out on something critical."

Smith has no plans to give up the music any time soon and recalls a conversation he had with Chief Justice Bryan Sykes which has given him the conviction to carry on with both careers.

"I was leaving law school one day and I saw Justice Sykes, a man I have a lot of respect for. He asked me if I would be following in the footsteps of my father and going into criminal law. I told him that was likely, and I am thinking of putting the music aside. He said to me, 'Do not stop playing the music. If you can balance both, there is no rule that says you have to drop the music'."

Smith has taken this piece of advice to heart and continues his mastery of the entertainment circles while building his career in the legal fraternity.

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