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DJOY de Cuba: Mixing it up

DJOY de Cuba: Mixing it up

DJOY has been very encouraged by Pablo Milanés – one of Cuba´s most cherished New Trova singer/songwriters – and they have worked together on a mix of two of Pablo´s songs. PRO-ELECTRICA (part of a project by Milanés to support young, emerging artists) is also providing an important platform for Cuban Dj´s /Vj´s and they are very keen to take full advantage of these new possibilities.

Whilst many other Cuban Dj´s have tended towards the Italian, commercial dance model, Joyvan – along, now, with Cuban Dj´s such as Kike Wolf, Wichy del Vedado, Dj Obi, Diemen Duff – has been the radical exception. He has been more drawn to French, German and British Dj styles, and also heavily influenced by ambient, trip-hop, drum ´n bass, house, techno and dubstep. Joyvan began by studying art (in Havana’s prestigious San Alejandro School of Art) but was thrown out:

´´…because I had too much music in my head! I couldn’t concentrate on anything else! ´´ He now considers this a lucky breakas his real passion at the time was to form a rock band and ´´…sing or drum, whatever! ´´

Then one day he was invited to play for a friend´s party and so- ingeniously using his double cassette tape deck (with 2 motors!) to mix the music (no mixer!) – began his passion and career.
1997/8 saw Joy play residencies in a number of the city´s smaller clubs; the first time large numbers of young people had heard him and the new styles he was playing – rock, grunge, industrial stylesand techo-house. That period also saw the first collaboration between electronic music, painters and performing artists.

In 1998 he and other cultural soul mates formed the excellent, radical performing arts collective, MATRAKA. They also taught video edition and mixing, and produced some important and searching social documentaries. That same year MATRAKA´S Dj´s/Vj´s got together and put on a three day non-stop music event (Rotilla) on the beach – attracting around 200 people.

But it wasn’t until 2004 that things began to get much bigger and much better. Joyvan – along with D and Vj´ friends – toured the island (8 provinces). The result was an astounding success – the first time that young people in these parts of the country had ever experienced this party style – and the trip was hilariously documented (Dance Floor Caballeros/Dance Floor Gentlemen) by a young German filmmaker.

The following year Joy and Dj Wichy played the first of larger concerts in the capital which attracted much larger crowds. And one year on (2006) a very important boost was given to Dj´s when Havana´s Laboratorio de Música Electroacústica (founded by luminary Juan Blanco) opened its doors to them, providing an institutional home as well as national/international workshops and venue support.

Then came Rotilla.
The 2008 Rotilla Festival (still Cuba´s only electronic/dance festival – – on East Havana´s beautiful Rotilla beach – saw 200 fans grow to 2, 000. Supported by Serbia´s EXIT festival (but that year, also with Cuban government backing), live music was added for the first time and young people from all over the island flocked – with tents and sleeping bags – to immerse themselves in three wonderful days of sun, sea and dance, dance, dance. Joy smiles, remembering:

It was magic. Despite running out of water, no toilets and little food (that, luckily, changed the following year!) we, and Cuban youth, had an absolute ball. People still talk about that first festival.

The following year – 2009 – numbered 10,000 youth, and in 2010 figures rose to a remarkable 15,000. The festival was cancelled last year but this year (2012) there are high hopes that Rotilla will be allowed to surface again, much to the delight of thousands of young people who heavily identify with its message and its personalities.

DJOY has continued developing and expanding his own work throughout. He´s played solo concerts to more than 2,000 people, written soundtracks for shorts, documentaries and TV and played at numerous national events. He´s shared the stage with such talents as Yassek Manzano, Roberto Fonseca, José Luis Cortes, David Blanco, Haydeé Milanés and William Richard, and has travelled – working clubs and festivals in Brazil, Germany, Turkey, Colombia, Ecuador and Serbia.

To top off an excellent, rather breathless, decade, DJOY became the very first Dj on the island (and the only one, so far) to be accepted by the prestigious UNEAC (Writers and Artists Union), and also appeared on the latest HAVANA CULTURA compilation – The Search Continues; British producer Giles Peterson´s successful music project.

A few other projects are cooking nicely for 2012. His recent PAYASOS (clowns) project – dressed in full regalia, plus very scary mask – is adding a further, interesting level of performance art to his work. He will also probably collaborate with a new Canadian initiative (Brandon Hocura/ Polyphasic Recordings) to digitalise and release the work of composer Juan Blanco.

What more can I say? DJOY is a lovely man, a loyal friend, an excellent musician, dedicated artist and cultural groundbreaker who deserves all the many accolades that are regularly heaped upon him. So many musicians have travelled abroad never to return, but this young man has stayed; genuinely committed to his country and its youth – to the musical future of Cuba.

DJOY presently plays great sets at Havana´s Bar Gitana (Saturdays) and is resident Dj at El Turf (Thursdays). A don´t miss.

February 2012

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