DJ rAt’s Spin on Latin Dance Music Inspires Cultural Awareness
August 1, 2016 @ 12:00am
When she throws parties and gets behind the turntable as DJ rAt, the most important notion that Peruvian-born, DC-based Kristy Chavez-Fernandez considers is “music that tells a story.”
“I try to weave together sets that illuminate cultural stories highlighting different backgrounds and experiences that are bound together by [cross-cultural] love and friendship,” she says.
In telling On Tap that she “wants people to be able to talk to each other via the dance floor,” it’s evident that there’s a much larger goal happening in her DJ career than just holding heavily Latin and South American-flavored dance parties like Maracuyeah and Anthology of Booty in the nation’s capital.
“The stories within Latin history and of the Latin diaspora have migrated to America,” she continues. “The vastness of brown, black and Latino stories is endless, and highlighting experiences with music makes creating a community on the dance floor easier.”
Pop music’s surge of Latin and South American influences can be seen via artists like Diplo’s Major Lazer collective’s heavy draw on reggaeton-adjacent and Jamaican dancehall riddims, and Sri Lankan global pop darling M.I.A.’s dabbles in Brazilian baile funk. But even though these genres can be found in rAt’s sets, you’re not likely to hear the aforementioned artists.
“I like playing the artists who are long established in those genres. I try to lift up the folks with whom you may not be familiar. There’s always a conversation happening between the mainstream and the underground, but in concentrating on underground sounds and sounds that aren’t necessarily [popular in the United States], I have so much more material to work with.”
The Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this month could easily result in a spike of American interest in Brazil’s favela-driven baile funk genre. DJ rAt’s definitely aware of what’s likely to come, and approaches the potential future for the electro-bass-meets-rap sound with guarded optimism.
“[Baile funk] has a strong history, and it’s actually extracted from a really violent place within Brazil. There’s a ton of very talented artists whom I respect that make that music. The Olympics being in Brazil will highlight the genre, and I can only hope that we hear more voices of the young Brazilian artists who are setting that standard and describing the conditions of what’s happening down there.”
Overall, her work as a DJ is best described as a case of spreading a type of love and community that’s radical and change-oriented.
“I get to tell black, brown, queer, proud and uplifting global stories with music. I want to create space and visibility for people and cultures that deserve credit for shaping who we are and what we listen to.”
DJ rAt is proving the old adage true that the best work comes from synergy between who you are and what you do.
Follow DJ rAt on Twitter: @ratatomica
Photo: Tracy Conoboy