A Conversation with DJ Soul Sister: Part 2


DJ Soul Sister has performed at festivals like the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and clubs around the city like Tipitina’s, Mimi’s in the Marigny and Hi Ho Lounge.

Sam Ergina, Online Arcade Editor, Jonathan Harvey

When did you first get into DJ-ing? Was it starting with WWOZ years ago, or were you doing something else beforehand?

I was a crate-digger first. I was six years old and wanting to buy the kind of music that I love now on vinyl. My dad would take me to record stores. That went all throughout my high school and elementary school. I will say that Tulane played a part in that because when I was in middle school I used to listen to WTUL religiously. In fact I used to say when I was in 8th grade “I want to go to Tulane so I can be on WTUL one day.” And then, also in 8th grade, on MTV when they used to play videos, the show “Yo! MTV Raps” debuted and it was a huge deal. You got to watch rap videos one hour a week on a Saturday night. They played a Salt-n-Pepa video and Spinderella was the DJ. I looked at her and it was the first time I’d ever seen a woman with records DJ-ing. I said “Oh my god, I love music and records. That’s what I want to do.” So to make a really long story short, that put the idea in my head. I didn’t actually start DJ-ing live until ’97. That was the first party I did. This was when I was in college. I had already been on OZ for a couple of years and this friend of mine said, “you need to do that live” and I said, “I’ve always really wanted to, but I don’t know how.” So she had a boyfriend who DJ-ed and had equipment and they just set up a little party. I never had any real lessons, I just got on it and just rolled from there and never stopped.

How did it go?

It was a huge success. It was a huge success. We called those “On the One Wednesdays.” I’d been watching and listening to DJ heroes like Slick Leo of New Orleans and I was a big fan of DJ Jam Master J of Run-DMC and had already had the concept of how live DJ’s are supposed to mix. I didn’t know how to do it. When I got behind the turntables, all I was literally shown that first night was how to turn on the mixer and power up the turntables. Everything else I just sort of did it. It was instinctive to me. Again at that time, as a young woman, you know, there were no women DJ’s in New Orleans. Who would I ask? I didn’t know any male DJ’s. I was like 19, or 20 years old, so I just did it because it was fun.

Do you think New Orleans is an integral part of how you developed into DJ Soul Sister?

Absolutely. I’m influenced by all the of the New Orleans styles of music and I love it. I also listen to many other different things like Washington, D.C. Go-Go, which interestingly enough, was played on the radio when I was growing up. It’s weird how that happens. That would be like a DJ in Chicago playing music by the Rebirth Brass Band on commercial radio. It’s a strange thing.

The fact that we love music and that music is a part of life, not just something to listen to, it’s just a part of our everyday life, especially in my family. That’s how New Orleans is; we just love our music. I remember being in pre-school and my parents taking me out early on Friday so that they could take me to Jazz Fest.

You were talking about your involvement at Tulane. What are you studying? How did you get here?

Well I am studying Musicology. I’m also on staff here in the Newcomb-Tulane College Office of Co-Curricular Programs. I’m the manager and I love it. I’ve been here for five years on staff. As a grad school student, I’m in my second semester now. It’s challenging, but I signed up for it. I love every minute. I love learning about music. In fact, before I came in to speak with you I was in the library reading my assignment on early New Orleans jazz and involvement of Italian Americans and Jewish immigrants in the early formation of New Orleans styles. I want to learn about all of it so that I can do the work and contribute to research and scholarship and just live it all the time.

What do you think constitutes a good DJ?

A lot of people ask me for lessons and how to become a DJ and I ask one question: I say, and someone else, another DJ, might have a different answer, but this is mine. I ask the person “What kind of music do you love?” Nine times out of 10 they can’t answer me because a lot of times people want to “be a DJ” for that, to be a DJ. They forget that it has to do with music first. You have to love music and you have to know music. You have to know it inside and out and if you can’t tell me what kind of music you love, meaning you’re just going to be behind, whatever you choose: computer, turntables, whatever, just playing songs at me that you don’t like or know just to say you are a DJ, I can’t really teach you anything if that’s all you’re about. You have to know the music and love the music. From there, I can work with somebody. So to me a good DJ’s somebody that loves music and you’re probably thinking “Well gosh, don’t all DJs love music?” You’d be really surprised.

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