Q&A with Utah Jazz Music Man, DJ Joune
Music and basketball are notions that, at first glance, seem about as disparate as night and day. But if you’ve ever sat in downtown Salt Lake’s Vivint Smart Home Arena to watch the Utah Jazz play, then you know how much music enhances the experience. (In fact, the NBA is one of the few national sports leagues that allows music during active play.) THE BLOCKS recently sat down with Utah Jazz house DJ, Clermont Dossous, aka DJ Joune, to discuss how he landed in Utah, his approach to enriching what happens on the court—for both spectators and players—with music, and his thoughts on infusing downtown Salt Lake City with more music and art.
THE BLOCKS: So, let’s start at the beginning. How did you get into DJing?
DJ Joune: Thanks to my parents, I’ve been around music my entire life. I started by playing piano and then guitar, which really helped me understand sound. But then when I was about 15 or 16, I wanted to switch to something more creative, that would allow people to not only listen but to get up and dance as well. And so I moved to DJing. By the time I was a senior in high school, I was playing a lot of school dances and private events on the weekends. My stage, name, DJ Joune, actually comes from the nickname my mother gave me, Joune, because I’m a junior, named after my dad.
THE BLOCKS: Why Utah?
DJ Joune: I grew up in Haiti and my brother was the first to come to the U.S. when he moved to Florida to attend University. In high school I started considering doing the same, but needed to study for and take the SAT first. My brother’s college advisor in Florida actually recommended that I take the SAT prep and test in Utah. I had never even heard of Utah, but decided ‘why not?’ And so I moved to Provo to study for the SAT and then applied and was accepted to Weber State University. I’ve lived in Ogden, Park City and now Salt Lake City, which I love.
THE BLOCKS: Did you continue to DJ as soon as you moved to the U.S.?
DJ Joune: Well, when I moved to Utah my DJ career made a pretty abrupt stop. And so, after starting school at Weber State, I decided that I needed to discover how I could become valuable to my new community. I asked myself, ‘how can I help?’ I started wearing my DJ Joune t-shirts around campus and to school dances. Pretty soon, I was asked to DJ an international student dance and then a local prom, and I made it a goal to deliver my best with every gig. Then I started DJing mainstream college dance events and eventually corporate events. Nothing happened overnight, but that experience taught me to have the discipline to keep going, even when I didn’t see immediate results.
THE BLOCKS: So, how did this lead to you becoming DJ for one of Utah’s most beloved institutions, the Utah Jazz?
DJ Joune: I had built up my business with corporate work for companies like Jet Blue, the Sundance Film Festival and the AMC Network, as well as DJing at a lot of local bars and weddings, when I was approached to DJ for the team’s 2019 Salt Lake City Summer League. (A round-robin summer showcase game series event highlighting new players as well as veteran NBA team members that, due to the pandemic, was last held in 2019.) I showed up thinking ‘this is my big shot’ and gave it my all every day of the event. After Summer League was over, Jazz management called me in for a meeting and explained that they wanted me, through music, to help rebrand the Jazz, give the games a more national feel while firmly establishing the Vivint Arena as the Jazz’s home. I started DJing regular home games at the Vivint that fall.
THE BLOCKS: What’s your philosophy behind enhancing what happens on the court?
DJ Joune: My approach to all the events I play is about understanding the goal. For Jazz games, much of that is about energizing the crowd and allowing them to feel more connected to the players while highlighting the team in the best way possible. Emotions are such a big part of music. I consider myself a ‘vibe curator’ and ultimately use music to make people feel good and have fun.
THE BLOCKS: As has been true for many artists, the pandemic curtailed your work, particularly the freelance gigs you DJ outside of your work with the Jazz. How have you not only kept busy but also filled the creative void created by this weird time?
DJ Joune: I drew on how I basically had to start over right after I moved to Utah, and again asked myself ‘how can I help my community?’ The answer became weekly DJing and artist interviews on Instagram Live. I’ve also tried to take advantage of opportunities every time they arise, like creating this video with Reginald Ellison, a South Florida-based saxophonist the Jazz hired to come to Salt Lake City to play the National Anthem at a game. I even DJed a prom over Zoom. And then I’ve been thinking a lot about different ways to make downtown Salt Lake City more of an outdoor destination. I think the key to that is collaborations, like the one between Reginald and I. We have a lot of great talent right here in Salt Lake City, like Doumie and Bri Ray. It would be fantastic to create something like a vocalist or drummer paired with a DJ for a street performance. And it would be great to have these activations on a regular basis through the spring, summer and fall so that people would know that every time they came downtown there would be something to experience, no pre-planning or ticket pre-purchase required. How I’m contributing to that is by working on a downtown Afro-beat event, highlighting Afro art, music and dance. I’m all about telling a story through music and art. I think that the more we can tell different stories, the more interesting place Salt Lake City will be to live.
THE BLOCKS: Finally, what are the top five tracks on your current favorite playlist?
DJ Joune: 1. Solid by Young Thug and Gunna featuring Drake 2. Te Vueno by J Balvin 3. Fire by Blackboy 4. PEACHES (KOMPATRONIC REMIX) by Bantou and 5. LA NOCHE DE ANOCHE by Bad Bunny Y Rosalia.
Learn more about DJ Joune at djjoune.com.
Written by Melissa Fields