Saturday, April 13, 2013

Presenting the Vibe Diva, DJ Mahealani!

Craftbox Agency had the pleasure of meeting DJ Mahealani many moons ago, when we were mere babes in the moonlit woods.

We've always been a big fan of her talent, her work ethic and most of all, her most lovely and nurturing spirit.

Please enjoy our interview of one the most awesome FEMALE deejays in Austin!!

photo by John Leach

How long have you been a Deejay?

The first time I deejayed live in front of people with 2 turntables was in 1999. I was selling home made mixtapes before that when I lived in Maui. And the first time I ever played with a dj set up, I was 16 - goofing around with 3rd Bass & Art of Noise records. I have been collecting records since I was a kid growin’ up all over Texas. My family moved a lot & records were friends I didn’t have to leave behind. 

You are one of a few female DJs in Austin. What’s that like?

I love playing records & I am always grateful to be able to work doing what I love. That feels amazing! - But I know if I was a guy I’m pretty sure I’d feel the same way! ...Although, I will say that things have been man-splained to me more times than I can count, and it is hilarious when my husband is with me at a gig - folks will look at him & talk to him like he’s the deejay even though he is not behind the turntables. Usually when I play, though, all that goes away pretty fast!

I am definitely not the only female dj in town, & I have had the pleasure of meeting & working with several of them. I like to stay away from being a token female in the dj scene & it makes me happy to see women reppin’ their dj styles here in town. Shout outs to Shani, Katrina, Blend*E, FaithGay, YoungBreezy, LoveCat, WannaBe, Kate, Chantal, & the other ATX lady deejays out there!

You’ve done a lot of women and child advocacy work before. Tell us about that experience and what it means to you.

I have a background answering domestic violence hotline calls & being a children’s advocate at Women Helping Women Maui, & I have been a children’s advocate at SafePlace here in Austin. I have also been working part time as the Evening Care Coordinator at the ACC Children’s Lab School for almost 10 years now, helping to support families when parents go back to school at night. This kind of work means the world to me. 

It’s honestly a grounding reason I love to dj. Music is a bridge between & within people- it makes cultural, emotional, & somatic connections that words by themselves cannot create. I have seen first-hand how music heals: the right song at the right time can sometimes be what one needs literally to survive the day. The skills I have learned building relationships with diverse families, children, & folks in stress & crisis are many of the same skills I use to feel the crowd and choose my selections. I also can feel the subtlety in vibe in terms of how friendly & safe it feels for women on the dance floor. I feel a responsibility & a joy playing records that set an uplifting, protective, & powerful tone. I also love the authenticity of kids- and that is what I tune into & see in people every time I play records. I want folks to have that innocent & healing playfulness when they dance & listen to the records I play - even when they are feeling grown & sexy on the dance floor!

Tell us about being a teacher at Girls Rock Camp.

It's the coolest things ever! I am so inspired being a part of this diverse group of musicians & future musicians! As a teacher, I get to help set a tone of safety & risk for these girls & young women. I give the girls space to dig in my crates & choose records they like- some have never even played a record before. We talk about music styles- I learn what they like & introduce them to older sounds that relate to the newer stuff they like. They get to learn how to hook up a deejay set up & feel confident about it! We talk about feelings- how they feel when they dance & feel good- & using that to feel the audience when choosing selections. Girls can have so much empathy & we talk about tuning in with that when selecting too. We also talk about math! I teach them about beats per minute & how to beat match. I let the girls experiment with scratching & using the mixer faders. I get to share with them that I didn’t get better deejaying until I wasn’t afraid to mess up & sound bad. Some of the smartest women I know have made mistakes & then learned from those mistakes- that’s what made them so smart. That’s probably the most important thing to me that I get to share with them.

What are your five top favorite songs to get people dancing? 

Hmmm... let’s see what pops in my head right now:

It’s extremely difficult to name only five, & it really depends on the listeners & dancers.  It can be surreal seeing how the same song can work differently depending on the crowd.

Is it true you only spin vinyl? Why?

I mainly spin only wax. I say mainly because there are some occasions that I may be hired to play a specially created track for a special event- that is not on vinyl. Ninety nine point nine percent of the time, though, it’s all wax! The reason(S)? I love records. I have collected them before I ever thought I would become a dj. I am also a kinesthetic & visual person so my brain works well physically flippin’ thru big square pictures to find the songs I want to play. Records & record players remind me of a time when music didn’t seem so disposable, & I love that! Many of my records are older than me- and their feel & meaning is just as relevant & important today. There are spirits & stories in those records that i feel drawn to play- the better I dj the more i trust that, and the more i trust that, the better I dj. Also, I loved surfing in Maui, & the feel of dropping the needle in the record groove at just the right time in the rhythm of the mix is the same as catching a good wave to me.

This isn't your first time DJ'ing Studio 54klift -- why have you chosen to return this year?

I love any chance I can be a part of something supporting the vision Allison Orr! She showcases what many might find as “ordinary” to show us the truly extraordinary. That is very special to me. For example, her work in Trash Dance aligned with MLK’s work at the end of his life. I think we the viewers all felt more dignified after clearly seeing the humanity, art, & dignity of our own sanitation workers in that piece of her work. Our city is so lucky to have that gift. I admire her ability to tune into & share the beautiful rhythm of people being human.

What’s your favorite thing about Studio 54klift?

Getting to play all those classic jams for some of the best & most fun dancers in town! Are you kidding?! - It is one of the best crowds to get to play records for! A deejay’s dream!

Check out this foto: Can't you just feel the mood??

photo by John Leach

Make sure to check out DJ Mahealani on Saturday, May 18th 
for Forklift Danceworks' STUDIO 54klift!! 

PS: Craftbox Agency couldn't be more honored to produce Studio 54klift... stay tuned for the deets!

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