Exclusive Interview with DJ MIKA on GT CARIBBEAN NETWORK
Enjoy the exclusive interview with GT CARIBBEAN NETWORK and DJ MIKA RAGUAA
Exclusive Interview with DJ MIKA on GT CARIBBEAN NETWORK
Enjoy the exclusive interview with GT CARIBBEAN NETWORK and DJ MIKA RAGUAA
A musical love story…taking soca to the world
Peter Ray Blood
Published: Trinidad Guardian Newspaper – Saturday, October 28, 2017
In Trinidad for just over a year, DJ Mika Raguaa (Dominika Tux) has been making quite a name for herself, especially for her mixtape productions and recent weekend gigs at the popular Club 63 on Ariapita Avenue. Though born in Poland, Raguaa has familiarised with not just the music but the vibe and lifestyle of T&T and Caribbean people.
Having mastered reggae, dancehall, calypso and soca genres, Raguaa has launched “a new music concept” which she has branded as The Bride, customised music for weddings, music she has defined as “passionate music selections.”
“The Bride is my second DJ project,” said Raguaa. “It was very popular in Germany and I believe it can catch on here. This past year I have been doing more with in clubs and fetes, the urban stuff. But, The Bride is more classy and creates your individual, personalised sound tracks. When a couple is getting married, I interview them to get their history, learn their tastes and what kind of special music they would like played at their wedding. Beside being customised music The Bride comprises exclusive selections that are designed in a unique way.”
Having recently cut ties with the Woodbrook club, Raguaa has her sights set on getting into radio and is in the process of recruiting with a popular urban station to do a show which she has christened Caribbean Music World Wide. “What I will be presenting is the development of Caribbean music globally,” said the female disc jockey. “It would involve everything, including what’s going on with Trinidad and Caribbean music in Africa, Europe, North America etc. I have to do a test show and they will eventually tell me if I am successful.”
Raguaa believes that local and Caribbean music can have a bigger profile on the European and global front. She said: “When you look on how big the European continent is and how big its international and historical influences are, you can understand a little better why the soca or the general reggae dancehall music could spread its wings all over the continent.
“In the 80s, DJs and tourists brought the music of this region, including Trinidad’s calypso, to the continent. Through international travels and export strategies the music genres of the region could find even more millions of followers. Of course also DJs could get influenced by the records of their parents. Compared to the Caribbean, Europe today is highly connected online, which makes the distribution and the promotion of the music easier.
“When I started to DJ, Facebook was not even yet invented and MySpace was the way of promotion for events, as well as new mixtape productions. The European market is mainly influenced by different types of music genres, yet soca, reggae and dancehall are still just known as underground music.
“In Germany you nearly can’t hear the music of the Caribbean on radio stations and often, through television, pictures of the Caribbean are spread in a more touristic aspect, not as a music destination. The Caribbean is marketed and branded as a paradise—a huge hotel resort—or an area where most people cannot afford to go to.”
Raguaa contends it takes time and money for a “foreign” DJ to get to the Caribbean, far less make an impact once here. She said: “Not every DJ who plays Caribbean music, can afford it. Take a look on how the reality is; it took me seven years to hit the Caribbean for the first time. But of course it is possible to find plenty information and also music online.
“In one of my projects—Blaze a Trail Across Countries—I started to research on what happened after soca music left the Caribbean and reached the European continent. I did a three-month research project through all my contacts and professionals that I know and documented it in the article titled The European Soca Movement (www.mikaraguaa.com/articles). I presented the results, also with a related large scale mixtape production with soca music from 11 different countries in seven different languages. The result showed exactly what is going on.
“Europe is a multilingual area of this world—I was born in Poland; grew up in Germany; and, up to today, I believe that the cultural and language borders between Poland and Germany make it hard to understand each other. Polish and German and two different languages that have nearly nothing in common but music can unite in the same way as it can separate.
“There is a soca movement in Europe and it is growing and growing, though maybe not so quickly as reggae and dancehall. Soca music has its fans and they have realised for themselves, that the T&T music is nicer to bring those fans officially together.
“You see soca music fans all over waving their national flags at soca events under the names of the ‘Dutch Soca Lovers’, ‘German Soca Junkies’ or the ‘Swedish Soca Vikings.’ To team up and fete together is a great idea to entice the fans to be active in the distribution of the soca music. Even finally, France understood the attraction of the music, enough to translate information about soca into French to grow the understanding. Out of this drive has emerged the ‘French Soca Lovers’ and ‘French Kiss and Wine,’ two of the more vibrant French soca fan groups.”
Continuing Raguaa revealed: “The events around Carnival time are rising in Germany to more than a hundred hours of feting and even in Switzerland, the first three-day soca festival was held in June / July this year. For 50 years the United Kingdom has celebrated its Notting Hill Carnival. This is a carnival organised by people from the Caribbean for people from the Caribbean. The Netherlands has its ‘Zomer Carnival’ which is celebrated in Rotterdam and Berlin’s Carnival is more a multicultural happening focusing on all cultural diversity of the German capital city. However, for the past ten years you can find at least two soca trucks are on the road in Berlin. Reggae and dancehall are also represented on other trucks.
“Beside the Carnival happening there are many soca events out there in Europe. Most often you can party in London nearly every weekend with soca music being played and even soca artistes getting invited regularly to perform. In Germany, the festivities go on for two weeks in Berlin and sometimes events are also going on in South Germany or Switzerland. In Arnhem and Amsterdam you have several clubs pushing soca music. I give a shout to all DJs, promoters and of course soca fans out there that help to uplift the culture of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Raguaa said that beside the distribution of soca music in Europe over online radio stations and the internet, artistes and producers are also working from Europe on music productions and riddims. “I know remixers and producers in Norway, Sweden and Finland,” said Raguaa, “and, the highest amount of soca artistes could be found in London (UK). There are also many reggae and dancehall artistes that would love to do more on soca beats too. In my opinion those artistes deserve a little more respect for what they do, especially being so far away from the Caribbean. Those artistes still decide to represent their origin culture, no matter if they were born in the Caribbean or in Europe.
“There are plenty productions that never make their way back to the Caribbean and those I would like to present, based right here in the Caribbean. When I play the productions here people recognise the artistes, but often they are overwhelmed that they didn’t hear the songs before. Of course I would love all of Trinidad and Tobago to be encouraged to listen and enjoy my mixtape productions—all of them are online available on my website (www.mikaraguaa.com).
DJ Mika Raguaa is booked right into Carnival 2018 and some of her coming gigs are Neon-Time to Shine (December 2), Jumanji Safari Fete (January 1) and, Love in the House (February 2). She also plans to have a big celebration for her tenth anniversary as a disc jockey with a charity event for the children of Belmont on Carnival Sunday.
Interview for Carnevale Network – by Zoe Reeve (published 3.10.2015)
Zoe Reeve recently caught up with DJ Mika Raguaa, a multi-talented European female DJ who has shared her passion for Caribbean music with crowds from all over the world. Hear what she has to say about deejaying on a Notting Hill Carnival truck, experiencing Trinidad Carnival for the first time and more…
Zoe: Hi Mika, thanks for taking the time to chat today. Can you quickly introduce yourself to our readers?
Mika: My name’s Mika and I’ve been a DJ for Caribbean music since more than 7 years, which includes reggae, dancehall and Soca. I discovered all those three types of music at the same time. I play worldwide and my heart is beating for Caribbean music. I have a Bachelor’sdegree in media science and communication and I’m self-employed with my own projects.
Zoe: Ok cool. I heard that you recently went to Trinidad and deejayed there… It must have been amazing for you to experience the Carnival and everything in a place where Caribbean music is so important?
Mika: It was awesome. I wanted to go to Trinidad since the time when I first started listening to Soca, but I was studying for a long time so I didn’t have the money for it. This year I finally had the opportunity to buy a plane ticket to Trinidad, so that’s what I did!
I went there with nearly no contacts, and everything developed when I was out there. One thing lead to another, and I got the opportunity to DJ on 104.7 More FM which is a well-known Radio station based in the capital city, Port of Spain.
Trinidad is actually quite small – It’s only got around 1.3 million inhabitants (the same amount of people that live in Berlin) so a lot of people listen to that Radio station. In Trinidad there’s a lot of traffic so people sit in the car for a long time with Radio on, so I got the chance to reach some people. I had the chance to play some sets before and one after the Carnival season, and I was able to give the people some information about the European Soca scene.
I also played at Flash Fete at Pier One in Chaguaramas and on a boat party down the islands. It was awesome for me to be playing on a boat in the Caribbean Sea! I really feel like it changed my life – It was such a great experience, especially being a female DJ because in Trinidad there are almost no ladies doing that, so in the beginning it was really hard to be taken seriously, but now I feel like I’m in a position where I’m so strong that nothing can bring me down and I will be taken more seriously every time.
Zoe: It must have been like a dream come true for you! Aside from your great experiences deejaying in Trinidad, would you recommend their Carnival to people reading this? Was it as great as people say it is?
Mika: Definitely! It’s a huge event and you will see in the faces of the people how much everybody is loving the music and the Carnival culture. It is more than just a cultural experience. It’s like you’re on another planet – a crazy party that nobody wants to be done. One thing I would say is that it’s better to go there when you know somebody there, because (like in any country) there are bad things that can happen so you’re safer when you’re with the right people.
Zoe: So do you think you’ll go back next year?
Mika: Yeah, I will play on the truck on Carnival Monday and Carnival Tuesday for Legacy Mas Band. Since the moment I reached back to Germany I’ve been thinking about going back. I am missing my friends there, and they often message me saying that they miss me too. I really met some great people there. Some of them even visit me in Germany from time to time.
It also helped me to get a deeper understanding of Soca. I started to understand that people growing up in the Caribbean have different cultural conventions to do with behavior and receiving information as well. I went there to understand culture and the music industry. Before, I played the music and had an image of Trinidad Carnival in my head, but I hadn’t experienced a real J’ouvert [event to celebrate the opening of Carnival], and I hadn’t been toa real fete [Soca party]. Now I can present it in a different way ‘coz I have experienced it!
I was amazed by the fetes in Trinidad! In Germany, a Soca fete is just somebody renting a club and doing a party there. In Trinidad, it’s a HUGE event – with sometimes like 2 or 3 thousand people! I was amazed by how they celebrate Soca music. I made a mixtape when I got back of the Soca songs from that year, and I really feel like the songs sound best when you’re there at the fetes and on the road at Carnival. I wanted to give that feeling to other people when they listen to the mixtape.
Zoe: I’ll have to listen to it. Do you have plans for your next mixtape?
Mika: Yeah I’m hoping to release my next one in a few weeks. It’s actually in collaboration with Carnevale Network. It will be a mixtape presenting the European influences of Soca music.
When I was in Trinidad I noticed that Soca from Europe doesn’t reach there and they don’t really know too much about what is happening with Soca outside of the Caribbean. A lot of people were curious about what I showed them. I played some UK reggae and Soca and nobody knew it but they still said it was really good.
I want to give the European Soca artists the opportunity to present themselves on the Carnevale Network website as well as on the Mixtape, and at the same time show them that they’re important and give them more motivation to continue.
I hope that I’ll be able to influence the European Soca scene in a positive way, and then inform people in the Caribbean about it too. I’d also like to get the artists to connect with each other more because I think that can help them improve. Through all the research and networking I am doing, I am getting in touch with a lot of professionals in music industry and event management as well. Artists that are still in their own musical development shall be able to get in touch with them to continue and get on. I’d like to show a sign of unity. For sure I am also curious about how the Caribbean will react to the artists – some of them are singing in their foreign language.
There is another difference to show. Soca in Europe is played a bit different from what’s played in Trinidad. In Trinidad, the music is seasonal, so during one year, they’ll just play the songs from that season again and again, so you’ll hear mostly the same songs at all the different parties and on the road. In Europe, it doesn’t really matter about the season.
For sure I know the music politics of Trinidad. What I want is add something new to it and not to replace. But I am already working on a production coming up.
Zoe: That sounds like a great idea. Talking of mixing and mixtapes, I heard that you only DJ with CDs! That’s kind of rare nowadays. What’s the reason for it?
Mika: Well, I started with CDs seven years ago. In those days, people would say “are they really DJs?! They play with CDs?!” because CD players were kind of new. From when I started, I always had a connection to each and every CD because I burn them myself and make my own collections, but I never play from just one CD or anything like that.
For me, it’s not just a medium of storing music – it’s more than that. When I play, I interact with the crowd a lot and I also want to show them that I’m doing something with my hands – to show them that this is a real job. I wouldn’t like to be standing in the DJ booth at a club staring at a laptop screen.
Of course, it’s hard to carry all those CDs around, but I manage. I’ve carried it around loads of countries already – from Port of Spain to Paris from Switzerland to Sweden or even to Ibiza.
I’m always very proud to present my final CD collections. Every CD costs me money (to buy the blank ones) so I preselect properly when I burn them. When I play, I play in a spontaneous way – I look at the people and I look at the song, and I don’t start thinking about the second song until the first song is playing, and so on. My method might not be as quick as the DJs who play with a laptop, but the people hear the difference.
Zoe: Yeah that makes sense. Was it hard to learn to DJ at the beginning? How did you get into it?
Mika: I think you have it in your heart, really. I started when I was about 16 and I wanted to make mixtapes for boys I liked, or to have some nice music in the car later on. Cassettes were really important to me. I put a lot of effort into it because I always had a passion for music.
After I continued with CD-Compilations for friends (always made with love) until I found a computer program (CoolEdit) to arrange sounds digitally. From that time MP3-Files were starting to get big. This let me combine more than one MP3, cut them down and things like that, so I just did some experiments with it and made some mixtapes. For me, I see mixtapes as a form of artwork. Nowadays I record the Mixtapes live and edit them with similar programs. At the end of the day, deejaying is passion, an art form and a practice all at the same time.
Zoe: Cool… So you’ve come a long way since then and you’ve got a lot of experience within the European Soca scene. Would you say Caribbean music is getting bigger and more popular in Europe?
Mika: I would say it’s definitely grown a lot. A good example is the Berlin Carnival in Germany. It has developed a lot within the last 6 or 7 years – There are enormous crowds of people coming to celebrate now. During those days Berlin is packed with Soca fans.
By the way, for anyone who hasn’t been to Berlin Carnival, I just want to explain that it’s very different from Notting Hill Carnival. The Notting Hill Carnival is made by Caribbean people so it’s centered around Caribbean music, but Berlin Carnival is made to present the cultures that are present in and around Berlin, and there are even trucks for organizations, for example to promote vegan food!
Of course, two bands is nothing compared to Notting Hill. This year was my first time there and I was truly amazed by it and I had the chance to play on the truck of Arawak Carnivals mas band which made it to the best birthday I ever had.
Personally I would wish for myself that some more unity and knowledge about the European Soca scene would come up – so I try to do my best to represent it properly and worldwide. I feel I am on a mission.
Zoe: Awesome! Are there any last words of advice you’d give for anyone looking to become a DJ?
Mika: Don’t follow the hype – Stick to the songs that come from your heart. The songs that are hyped aren’t always the best songs for the moment.