DJ el G Talks Moving to Argentinia, Electrocumbia, and Playing at Fall For the Arts This Sunday
Enamored by what he discovered in Buenos Aires, he took to the scene like a fish to water, first creating the culture website WhatsUpBuenosAires.com, then becoming a club promoter and a DJ, adopting the moniker DJ el G.
He linked up with DJs Nim and Villa Diamante, and the foundation for everything that is Zizek today was laid, from Zizek Club to Zizek DJs to ZZK Records. And thanks his impetuous move, the world is a richer place, exposed to digital cumbia fusions and Andean hybrids the likes of which were previously only heard in the underground clubs of Buenos Aires, and which are like religion to el G. And the tracks he'll spin for Miami this weekend are his gospel.
New Times recently got a chance to chat with DJ el G about his decidedly hippy-like transition to Argentina, and all things Zizek.
New Times: Tell us about the transformation that came about for you in Argentina.
DJ el G: The last semester of college I kind of got inspired by some Argentine elements of literature and music. And I went down there originally to kind of explore and live what I'd studied for a while, culture. Basically, I just wanted to see the world. I ended up going down there three more times, and the last time I went back, I started a website about the culture. And it all came full circle, you know, wanting to go to Argentina because I was inspired by culture, and then ending up working with culture. And that just grew into what I'm doing now.
Zizek Club and Zizek DJs both played a prominent role in your personal evolution, right?
Sure. I had been promoting parties for two and a half, three years before Zizek Club just kind of fell in my lap. Another DJ and record label guy in Buenos Aires, I had booked him a couple of times. I really liked his music, and he came to me with the idea of starting a new club in Buenos Aires, and he wanted me to be the main promoter. And I was into it. And then I was really into it when we decided to get involved with the third guy, which is Villa Diamante. And him and I and DJ Nim, the third guy in Zizek, were all very into the local experimental cumbia scene, so we decided to do a party that had a real focus on local sounds. And so I had been doing parties and promoting for some three years before Zizek, and I'd gotten pretty good at it. So I just think it was meant to happen, you know?
You've been credited with bringing digital cumbia, or electrocumbia, out of Argentina. Describe it for those that aren't familiar.
Argentina's a big cumbia country. It came down there last century and just took flight, took form, and became popular all over Argentina, and became reinterpreted in different regions into different variations. And so cumbia is a big Argentine rhythm, and people we were working with, either passively or actively, were big fans of it. And then in the 90s you had this whole cumbia villera thing come along that was just harder, more psychedelic, raw, urban that was coming out of the ghetto in Buenos Aires. And right around 2000 you had this experimental cumbia come out of Buenos Aires. And a lot of the producers we worked with were making electronic music before, but I think kind of got inspired by this whole cumbia scene that they thought they could manipulate and rework.
So Zizek producers certainly have predecessors that were experimenting with cumbia way before us. We certainly didn't invent that. What we did was we built a scene altogether through club nights and got everyone communicating and collaborating, and feeding off of each other. And there was very little in fighting and very little ego, and everybody just really enjoyed what was coming out of the club. And we've been able to kind of maintain and kind of keep it positive.
And why did you think it was important to show the rest of the world this scene that was flourishing in Buenos Aires?
Honestly it just happened really organically. We started putting a lot of stuff online in 2006 and 2007, when we started the party. As a part of promoting the club in Buenos Aires, we wanted people to be able to access information that was coming out of the club at school, or in the office or whatever, so they would come the next week. And next thing you know, after a few months the night started getting really big and we moved to the premier club in Buenos Aires, and then from their back room to their front room. And we had 600-700 people coming in on a Wednesday night. So we just took the momentum and kind of rolled with that, just kind of seeing how big it could get.
I'm from the States, and I went down to Argentina in the first place to get connected with the new, fresh, underground Buenos Aires culture, and so it's just kind of a natural evolution of mine to want to take it abroad.
Finally, what can you tell us about your upcoming gig here in Miami for Fall For The Arts?
What I've been told is I'm going to not only be doing a DJ set, but also playing between bands with Mr. Pauer, who I met in New York last year and is a fan of the label [ZZK Records]. And basically what I'm going to do is play a lot of new Zizek tracks, and even some classics, and just get people listening to what the label sounds like. Hopefully get people moving, which is always the idea with the music that we make, people get moving and shake a little bit, have fun. And I actually might do some more gigs while I'm in Miami. I think I'm going to play this place called BAR on Monday night. And I might play a last minute show sometime this weekend, as well.
DJ el G plays Fall For the Arts along with Ozomatli, Palo!, Jahfe and more, this Sunday, Sept. 12 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. There's no cover. He also plays Cafeina tonight.