Cuban Electric Nights
By Ivet González Lemes Photos: Yander Zamora
The flashing strobes light up the young people dancing to the rhythm of house, breaks, and techno. Still, within the pumping beat you can hear the rhythms of authentic Cuban music.
"That is their sound", says Stefan Kunze, a 23-vearold German student who considers himself one of the "old" followers of the most famous Cuban deejay producers; DJoy de Cuba, Wichy de Vedado, and DJ Dark.
These artists combine genres played by deejays around the world with popular Cuban songs from bands like Los Van Van and lrakere (which was led by the renowned jazz pianist Chucho Valdés).
"Cuban deejays are distinguished by the Latin elements included in their music. A japanese deejay can have a Latin identity as well", says joyvan Guevara, a.k.a. Djoy de Cuba. "The influences come from all over the world. If you want to have a Latin party, you look for music with Latin elements and you mix it in."
Nevertheless, "what the audience wants most is music with a Cuban flavour", Mildrev Maturell, a literature graduate fresh out of school, tells us." They are very committed to promoting a national deejay movement and updating their fans with the international beats that are presently in vogue."
Joel Dieguez, a.k.a. Wichy del Vedado, uses all types of genres and produces the music of Cuban hip hop singers. Alain Medina, a.k.a. DJ Dark, also mixes hip hop but is more defined by break beats and drum n' bass. 30 year old Djoy de Cuba likes mixing techno and house.
The events put on by these Havana deejays include ﬁre jugglers and images created by veejays to the beat of the improvised music.
They can also organize raves anywhere in the city, like at the beach, lasting through the night or over several days. "We are a team and we rent the transportation, the lights, and the sound gear", says Wichy. "Our parties have a more hippie style and last until people get tired."
How it Got Started in Cuba
The “more alternative" deejay movement, as Djoy de Cuba calls it, started in Havana in the late 1990's. He started mixing as a hobby and learned the main techniques during visits to the island by DJ Tyni and DJ Hell from Germany and DJ Hagen from Austria. "They taught us about the whole DJ culture", says DJoy de Cuba.
There is no school to learn these techniques and there is no way to work with samplers or the software needed to create the music.
"Cuban deejays learn on the street. They, Alain and Wichy, were always going to my gigs and I taught them the technical and conceptual parts," adds DJoy de Cuba who has been performing for It years. There are now around 10 deejay artists around the country combining and creating music. Joyvan, Wichy and Alain have also been influenced by colleagues from other countries and by information they have found and incorporated into their styles.
"We were not acknowledged as artists for many years," says 26 year old Wichy", but some months ago we became members of the Cuban Laboratory of Electro Acoustic Music as deejays."
DJ Dark, who is about to tum 25, is quite happy: "Now we have to fill out some forms at the Laboratory to manage royalties."
For the past few years, Cuban deejays have been playing to audiences attending the Havana Electro Acoustic Music Festival.
In 2004, a group of German filmmakers made a documentary, Danceﬂoor Caballeros, about a tour that several deejays from the Cuban capital, including DJoy de Cuba, Wichy de Vedado, and DJ Dark, made to the provinces promoting deejay music and culture.
"The capital has the greatest number deejays although in Santiago de Cuba there are already two boys creating their stuff at parties as well as in Holguín and Camagüey. Anyway, we have to start up again and bring the paraphernalia out to the provinces and leave some records," says Joyvan with the approval of the other tour members.
The party keeps roaring as the deejays start their shifts, making the night even more eletric for the young crowd that is constatly moving.