This past weekend....
We had a great time last Saturday night at Starbar for another installment of La Choloteca. Thank you very much to all that came. Stay tuned for the next one!
Last Saturday I was invited to play a DJ Set during a private birthday celebration at the High Museum in Atlanta, GA. We all had a great time and the folks at the High are always a pleasure to work with.
Pictures courtesy of Harmony Blackwell Photography
La Choloteca team is putting together another great celebration of the LatinX community here in Atlanta, GA. Don't miss it! See you all at Starbar on October 22.
Last night DJ Florista, Anónima and myself were surrounded by beautiful energy emanating from a diverse and ecstatic crowd which danced all night long to a wide variety of Latin music. If you missed it, make sure follow La Choloteca for a next edition of this party, which celebrates the LatinX community in Atlanta, GA.
Here is what Monica Campana said about this joyful night:
"Words cannot express how incredibly magical last night was. Never ever, ever in my wildest dreams would I have expected to see so many LatinX people together in Little Five Points at Star Bar dancing their life away all night to Celia, Selena, Osca D'Leon, J Balvin, Tego, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, etc.
It was an amazing feeling to dance the way we were taught when kids, it was amazing to sing to old salsa, to speak in Spanglish, and to not feel any weirdness doing it. It was freeing, healing and the most fun I have had in forever.
I could not stop smiling last night. I could compare this to the first Living Walls opening, the time I met Anthony Bourdain or even the last time I fell in love.
Last night the LatinX community in Atlanta took space and had our voices heard. Last night was everything and we will make sure it happens again!"
Thank you Choloteca team. This was truly special and I am grateful for being a part of it!
Mark your calendars people! This will be a great opportunity to celebrate the LatinX culture in Atlanta, GA.
See you all on the dance floor.
On June 29th I was invited by my good friends of WonderRoot to play a DJ Set as we celebrated the unveiling of King Memorial's MARTA train station NEW MURAL. Here are some pictures of the event and the process of this beautiful community based project. It was truly an honor to be considered for it and being among artists Fahamu Pecou, Joe King and Fabian Williams. Make sure you follow WonderRoot and stay tuned for the next unveiling of another MARTA train station Mural(s) in Atlanta, GA. More info about this project here.
From May 5th to the 13th I was invited to play a wide variety of South African music for an eclectic audience, which gathered each night to experience Nando's cuisine and the culture around it . It was truly a great experience during which I had the pleasure of meeting wonderful people from all corners of the world who came to these series of events.
Pictures courtesy of Amy Pursifull Photography and Patrick Fagan
Hello friends! Here is a beautiful and humbling article that was written about my journey as an artist, and the work I've done in collaboration with Moving in the Spirit; a youth development program that uses the art of Dance to positively transform the lives of children and teens in Atlanta, Georgia. Enjoy!
This past March the 19th I was invited to play a social justice inspired DJ set at the historic Martin Luther King Jr. district in Atlanta, GA. The reason for this was the celebration of three gorgeous murals that came to life as part of Education is not a crime; a street art campaign that engages in advocation for educational rights all over the world. We had a great time celebrating these murals and the message behind each one of them. I hope we continue advocating for what is right and starting conversations about issues like this using art as an agent for social change. What a time to be alive and the new friendships community based projects create. Simply a beautiful experience to be a part of. You can learn more about these murals, their creators and the people behind this initiative via this article published on IranWire or visiting Notacrime.
Pictures courtesy of Amy Pursifull Photography and Malika DeShon
Good day friends, I wanted to share with you this very well-written and important article that Randy Hoaxter, a former teacher of mine, published yesterday. Not only it is key that we think about this issue, but also that we come up with better strategies that work for US, in order for the arts to be a sustainable practice. Please click here to read the full article and then, if you want, take a look at my own reflections about the subject down below. I would love to hear what you have to say about it, so please comment on it.
"Randy, another great article. Thank you. I agree with most of your reasoning, however I would like to say a few words based on my short-lived experience as a music and art enthusiast.
First of all, I believe that it is up to us, the individual artists, to STOP giving away our creations for free. This practice not only disincentives people from acquiring the content at a later time (if that ever even happens), but also implies and sends the message that our song, album or performance have no intrinsic value on the market, other than an intangible one. Solo acts and bands alike believe that exposure is what's best and therefore make their music available on spotify, bandcamp, pandora, etc, in hopes that this will lead to future monetary gains that will come from music sales or live performances. Not true. This might work for a handful of people, but the vast majority will not see a dime from these efforts and the only beneficiaries are the companies that provide the service at the artist expense. What I believe we need to do when it comes to selling our music, is to create strong foundational niche markets. There are many people out there that truly care for music and want to support it financially (myself included) every way they can, because we just simply understand and appreciate the amount of effort and cost associated with any creative endeavor. As a professional Disc Jockey, I am constantly buying music in all formats, but specially on vinyl, when available. I go to as many live shows as I can, because I know that the best sounding record will never get close enough to the sound experience of a live performance. In my opinion, part of our "failure" resides, not in the fact that we are not good artists, but perhaps that we are terrible communicators when it comes to educating our audience. This in one hand, on the other hand, the reality is that in order to thrive financially, we must rely on versatility, which in our world can be translated to: playing live, working as studio musicians, as teachers, arrangers, composers, booking agents, etc, etc.
Artistry will never cease to exist, but in order for it to live a healthy life, it needs to be constantly evolving and adapting, just like everything else. As much as we work hard on the pursuit of becoming better musicians, we also need to become better story tellers of our craft, about its relevance and the "real cost" of not feeding it properly. WE are the industry and we should demand it works under our terms, not the other way around. As someone once said, "A doctor might save your life, but it is art what makes worth living it"
Last Saturday night I was asked to step away from the DJ Booth at Fado’s (an Irish pub and Dance Club in Atlanta, GA) for not playing exactly what was written on a scripted playlist that the general manager handed me ten minutes after I started my DJ Set.
Ring a bell? To some of you this episode might remind you of a recent case that took place in Miami Beach last December, when DJ Shadow was asked to leave the DJ booth for playing music that was “too future”. After the incident DJ Shadow tweeted: “I don't care if I get kicked out of every rich kid club on the planet. I will never sacrifice my integrity as a DJ...ever”. These words resonate with me today as I write this trivial note about the incident that I went through, in hopes that I can expel some demons out of my system.
I cannot think of a more diminishing thing for a DJ than asking him or her to play off a scripted playlist. What’s the point of having them there? If all you want to hear is a predetermined playlist, don’t go through the trouble of booking a DJ. Just hit play on your computer or IPod, and let the machine do the job.
After thirteen plus years of experience as a Disc Jockey, I've learned the importance of reading the crowd as the night progresses and being mindful of the type of venue you are playing at, and this time this was no different. Two months ago I was invited to play at this same place, and after the night was over, my set and style was highly praised both by the managers and the public. This is exactly why they asked me to come back. What was different this time was that Brian Russell (Fado’s general manager) was present, and he clearly did not like the music I was playing. Ten minutes into my set he approached me and handed me a two-sheet playlist broken down by the hour. He asked me to play exactly what was on the list without deviating its particular order, to which I politely explained that I was not going to do. “With all due respect” – I said, “I am not a juke box. I am a Disk Jockey. I will accommodate as many songs as I can from your list into my set to please you and your costumers, whenever I think those songs feel right, but I will not play your list as is. That’s just not what I do.” “Don’t be so damned arrogant” – He said. “People didn't come here to hear you play, so just do as I say and play the list.”
Why was professionalism and standing up for what you love and believe in, mistaken for arrogance? Club owners and managers know their business well, and they are key for us as entertainers to know what’s happening beyond our range of view in a club. As a DJ I've learned it’s very important to listen to them, as they can provide us with valuable insight about our surroundings, but demanding a DJ you hired to play off a list is just simply ridiculous.
Twenty minutes after I refused to play by the general manager’s rules, he approached me one more time claiming that the song I was currently playing wasn't part of the list, and therefore I had to stop playing, collect my things and leave. With forty plus people dancing on the dance floor, and many others having a good time around it, I got on the microphone and addressed them, saying that I was very sorry to inform them that I could no longer continue playing. “I have been asked by the management to stop because they do not like the music I am playing, and they want me out” - I said. I thanked them for coming and started collecting my gear. For a brief fifteen seconds, people around me started cheering “DJ, DJ, DJ, DJ”; Fado’s house music kicked in, and almost everyone inside the building left shortly afterwards when the none directional, boring and predictable playlist they pray upon, filled the space.
When approached by my girlfriend to talk about what just had happened, Brian Russell simply said: “Here at Fado’s we don’t really need a DJ. We just need someone to push a button and pretend like they are DJing. People here don’t care.”
In the end, I believe that both Brian Russell and myself stood up for what we believe in. Neither of us had to sacrifice our professional integrity. He did what he considered best for his establishment and I did the same for one of the things in life I have a huge respect and gratitude for: Great Music.
If the rules of the game had been clear since the moment they contacted me with a job offer, all of this would not have happened. If all they needed was someone willing to play their list, I would have clearly declined their offer, and spared all of us from a very unpleasant experience.
Djing is in itself an art form, and as such, it requires a great deal of research, practice, love and devotion. You decide to become a DJ, not because it is trendy, but because you honestly love and respect music, and because you want to share it with others in a very unique way. Good DJs understand the crowd they are playing for, and the venue where they are playing; they are constantly feeding from it, and reinventing themselves in the moment to create a very distinctive experience for their listeners. They take risks by pushing the boundaries of their public as they play familiar and unfamiliar songs, challenging the audience to explore new sonic territories. They tell a story with the music they are sharing, create a unique and cohesive atmosphere that lifts peoples hearts by summoning the collective sound-consciousness of an era. They make you smile and dance.
There is no playlist in this world that can achieve all of this. Every single night is different, unique, and has it’s own particular energy; It demands the human soul intervention. Assuming that a repetitive scripted playlist is what your clients want to hear, is not only an act of arrogance, but also an insult to your costumer’s intelligence. Although we all like to hear our favorite songs when we are having a good time on the dance floor, we also like to be surprised, challenged, and introduced to new sounds.
If you are reading this and you are a musician, a DJ, or any other type of creative individual, I highly encourage you to stay true to your art and stand up for what you believe in. Although many doors could shut in front of you, know that many others will open, ones that will respect your work, integrity and professionalism. Do your homework and find out beforehand where you are playing, and what’s expected from you. Always do your best. If things go south despite your efforts, stand tall, stay true to your craft, learn from the experience and move forward. How you treat your art is going to make club managers, promoters, and such, respect and value the music culture and business as a whole.
Now, if you are looking for the easiest money ever earned in your life, there is a job opening at Fado’s on Friday nights, and all they expect from you is to simply push play.