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.
|By Kieran Khan (Trinidad Newsday – Sunday Women Weekly), March 1 – 2015|
What’s Carnival in Berlin, Germany like? There’s definitely one person to ask. Mika Raguaa has been a soca DJ for Seven Years in Germany, Promoting the music across large swathes of the continent – from Macedonia to Ibiza with a growing fan base. And this is her very first Carnival at the epicenter of the global soca movement. WMN magazine caught up with her at Hotel Normandie this weekend.
Mika Raguaa (think of saying Nicaragua and you will get it) aka DJ Mika landed in Trinidad in early February to trace the roots of soca and experience first-hand the party republic That is TT. Sporting a newly tattooed on her left wrist Hummingbird, a testament to her love of TT and a cassette tattoo on her left shoulder, it is clear thatthere are few people in the world who love soca music morethan ago. Born in Poland but spending most of her life in Germany, she began her career with a partner as deejaying Sunny Friday sounds. “In Germany, we have selectors so in a sense I prefer to refer to myself as a Selectress! I literally started cutting Songs Onto cassettes back then and used to make mix tapes to impress a boyfriend or whatnot. I would make tapes of all kinds , “she says.
Her deejaying began with a mix of music but That Changed SoonAfter. “The first time I heard soca music, it was this positive Happy Feeling That I knew I wanted to only play that type of music.” The very first soca song she recalls is Rupee’s ‘Jump’. “Soca is so so collaborative – you have all thesis different artistes on one rhythm – and you have artistes collaborating on the same track and then to come here and see Bunji share the stage with Fay Ann; it’s like this King and Queen together – it’s just about love and good times. You can listen to soca When you wake up, you can listen to it When You’re going to bed, “she adds. Splitting from the Sunny Friday Partnership, she went single-handedly into soca, collecting as much music as She Could and playing at venues around Germany where soca, though niche, is growing. Will the genre ever go mainstream? She answers, “There are so many groups across Europe who hype the music – They share it passionately And They rent places and have soca parties, but I do not think we Should be waiting for soca to ‘reach’ Somewhere – It’s already out there. Maybe it can be like salsa music -. everyone knows salsa but it’s not in your face It’s okay for mainstream soca to be like that, “She Believes. Sitting on the table as we chat is a copy of ‘Governing Sound: The Cultural Politics of Trinidad’s Carnival Music’ by Jocelyne Guilbault did she just purchased at the bookshop at the hotel.
It’s clear That She studies her craft and knows it inside and out – her educational background being Media and Communication Sciences too. But yet here, she noted, she what often left to play last on some sets or what not even allowed to perform at all at a venue on Valentine’s Night in particular. “It was a little disappointing to be Given the load set. Being a female DJ I would think did all the promoters would want me in the fete! DJs here Need to THEREFORE not just stick to the popular songs. You hear ‘Like a Boss ‘six times in one set, then same from the next DJ. You have to pick the music, you have to decide and you THEREFORE have to feel the crowd, read the crowd and know what They Want. Nothing’s wrong with throwing a little chutney music in there too, “she says with a laugh! She’s been Constantly Promoting her skills downhere – running out of business cards and writing paper business cards Her Own as she taxied around TT. She even did noted in one maxi-taxi, the driver asked her where she what going with all her bags (with her CD’s and sound engineers) and she said, “I’m a DJ!” And he immediately Responded, “Are you DJ Mika!?” He had heard her set on 104.7 FM MORE earlier that week. “My maxi what pumping DJ Mika!” He Explained to her.
All good kudos for someone who hauled more CDs than clothes for her first Carnival experience. As for Carnival itself, she says, “You guys party hard in TT And the bodies – men and women are so beautiful and fit,” she notes. “For Berlin Carnival there are about ninety-six trucks totally on the road and two of Those are Exclusively soca trucks – the one at the back is always a soca truck and you find all the vibe there” Carnival is a similar but noticeably different experience there – whereby you can come in costume or simply join in the Carnival parade with your sports club etc via a tee-shirt of the same color. “It is a big parade though she adds – with Russians and Turkish and all mixes of thesis people and African music on some trucks too Mind you, some people have literally broken Their legs palancing at home!” For her first Trinidad Carnival Experience HOWEVER , she chose to play on Monday for a short time but not to play in a band for either Jouvert or Tuesday ‘pretty’ mas, “I was a vagabond!” she says excitedly, “I went for band to band, and I was on cloud nine” When not pumping soca tunes out to the European market, as Mika has another side to her DJ persona – The Bride Project.
Set apart from her Caribbean music mixes, you can find more at www.die-braut.net and even hire her for your weddings. She’s a prolific wedding DJ and she says a lot of wedding planners love that she brings a feminine edge to receptions and wedding parties – even performing in a wedding dress herself -. Cropped short though For the rest of her time in TT, she’s making contacts, soaking up the sun and living everyday here as if it’s an adventure. She’s even doing a spot of photography for something that’s coming up but we can not just yet say what it is (she swears us to secrecy!) If you would like to catch Mika on air, you have one more chance: This Monday at 1 -3 pm on 104.7 MOR FM! Tune in!
Tux’s career as a deejay has afforded her the opportunity to play not just in her home country, Poland but Switzerland, Macedonia, Netherlands and Germany to name a few. She also looks forward to deejaying at Nottinghill carnival later this year. Determine to reach out to people from various countries that have never even heard of soca music, she hopes they would also get hooked on the happy music that brings feel-good vibes, she said.“ I was first exposed to soca music in South Germany,” Tux said.
She said: “After school I wanted to escape South Germany because I wanted to find out and experience what this soca music is all about. I then went to North Germany and I found another club that played Caribbean music (reggae) but it was empty. It was not like how it was in the south which was a big thing. This was more like nothing. There were about 40 people inside a club that could hold about 600 people. I was wondering what’s going on here…it was the same music playing and yet not the same response.”
She said, “I am still impressed by nature but it is not really my talent to be an ecologist.” Tux switched her major and obtained her bachelor’s degree in media and communications instead. While doing her degree, she realised her talent as a deejay, she said. She also found love with another aspiring deejay and the couple called themselves, Sunny Friday.
She admits though her parents were concern initially they eventually supported her decision. After a few years, they broke up and Tux focused on her solo career as a deejay in 2009. She said: “I have learned several languages such as English, French, Spanish and German to name a few. I just take all the things I have learned and bring music to the people. I don’t do it because I want to be a VIP, I just want to influence people with music and give them a good feeling.”
“Soca parties in Germany are a lot smaller compared to Trinidad. We don’t have endless possibilities to bring soca artistes to Germany because it is so expensive. Of course we do have something like carnival in Germany called Berlin carnival which is a carnival of cultures. Everybody can take part and there are many people from different countries in Germany such as Turkish, Russia and Polish people — and everybody shows their own culture, their own costume with their own customs and traditions. For many years there were two big trucks spreading soca and it is developing more and more,” she said.
“Last year we had Machel Montano there; and the year before Shurwayne Winchester was there, we also had Fay-Ann Lyons and Bunji Garlin,” she said. “The first time I saw a person pertaining to soca was Maximus Dan and that was years ago. It was amazing to see the music you only just heard about,” she added. Sharing some of her top soca songs for 2015, Tux said, “I love ‘Lucy’ by Destra and ‘Respect Your Elders’ by Crazy.”
The Polish native is due back home in a few days and says she will treasure the memories she has of the island, music, food and the people. She plans to come back next year and hopefully have a longer vacation so she could visit Tobago. Though she admits one of the challenges of being a female deejay is being taken seriously, she says her talents as a deejay and strong work ethic has her booked for the next six months when she goes home.
DJ MIKA / MIKA RAGUAA – ON A JOURNEY TO TRINIDAD
… made with love for the caribbean music, culture and lifestyle
Special thanks to:
Akeem, Dave, Terrance, Timothy, D’Young Boss, Jevvon, Didi, Melanie, Glen, Zola, Darren,
Junior, Mayers Jay and Selector G Assassinz and all people i met backstage, on fetes or as a vagabond on d’road!
Sharon & Robert Amar, Mr Voice, DJ Miquel, Chest & Sen Sammy from 104.7 More FM
Kimoy Leon Sing (Trinidad & Tobago Express Newspaper) & Kieran Can (Trinidad Newsday)
Family Julien & Johnson: Sunshine, Pinkey, Dianne, Tony & the sweetest Kids Kenya and Kaleb
A very Special Thanks to Curt Johnson…
Music (SOCA) by:
Fayeann Lyons – break the world (2015)
Ravi B / Machel Montano – fettin like a boss (2015)
Machel Montano & Angela Hunte – party done (2015)
Ricardo Drue – vagabond (live + mix) (2015)
Mr Legs & Yung Image – no worries (2013)
Rajiv Samaroo – ola (Olatunji acoustic cover) (2015)
Machel Montano & Destra Garcia – come back (2015)
Machel Montano & Kerwin Dubois – possessed (2013)
Film (visiual & musicially) made by Mika
DJ MIKA RAGUAASpecialized DJ for Reggae, Dancehall and Soca music. Known for high quality selections including latest remixes, acoustic influences and new developements of Caribbean music produced worldwide.