- Associated Press - Saturday, April 12, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Music has always been his life, but Dusty MacDonald had no idea that it would eventually lead him to a successful career, and a new wife, halfway around the world.

MacDonald grew up in Montgomery and spent years learning music and honing his skills as a musician; he plays multiple instruments and was a student in the music programs at Baldwin Arts and Academics Magnet and Booker T. Washington Magnet High.

Now, at 28, he’s an in-demand DJ and music producer in China, and has DJ’d at shows in other countries. He recently played a show at what he said is one of the top three nightclubs in Asia, and has worked as the DJ in China for the multinational companies Heineken and Pioneer.

He lives in Foshan, a financial hub in China, and recently married. And for the first time in about three years, he got to come home to Montgomery, visit with family and introduce them to his new wife, Veena Lee.


His mom, Susan Gill, couldn’t be more proud of her only child. She recalls when he took off for China, with little more than a guitar on his shoulder and a backpack.

A former teacher, Gill hopes that his story will inspire other kids to think beyond the Montgomery city limits.

“I don’t think a lot of kids in Montgomery dream big. They don’t think about doing cool things with their lives, you know?” she said.

After high school, MacDonald attended Auburn University. He helped some Chinese students with their class assignments, and dated a Chinese exchange student. He bought several Chinese language books, and learned to speak both Cantonese and Mandarin.

He was a student of martial arts for years, and was recommended to attend a seminar in China. He was excited to go there and further his study of a form of Chinese kung fu known as wing chun. And to make a little money, he arranged for a job teaching English to Chinese students. He thought he’d stay there a few months, tops.

But soon after, he met a Dutch businessman at a bar, and the two struck up a conversation. The businessman, who was a millionaire in the recycling industry, told MacDonald that he wanted to open a bar. Impressed with the young man - that he spoke Chinese didn’t hurt - he offered to hire MacDonald to help run it, and to help set him up with an apartment.

MacDonald took him up on the offer. In addition to working at the bar, he was able to use his skills as a musician to start doing DJ work at clubs and parties. That he was a good-looking American, and knew how to read a crowd, gave him some attention. He started working with other DJs, who aren’t familiar to most Americans but are wildly popular internationally among the young, club-going set.

The term “DJ” has multiple meanings in America, but some think of them as either radio hosts, or those who play records, like karaoke hosts. What MacDonald does is far from either.

A DJ creates a playlist, blending multiple songs into one continuous song, allowing partygoers to dance without pausing between songs. He can adjust the speed of the tracks to match the tempos of different songs.

The creative DJs, and the successful ones, enhance the performance by finding unusual ways of mixing tracks, utilizing anything from sound effects to music samples. They also figure out, quickly, what the crowd wants to hear, and play to the vibe in the room. Empty dance floors are taboo.

MacDonald has several of his own creations, or mixes, on the online site Soundcloud. His mixes pull from different musical genres, and even different generations: One of his creations mixes Icona Pop’s 2012 smash hit “I Don’t Care” with the opening riffs of Van Halen’s 1978 classic “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.”

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