Exclusive Interview with DJ Sarasa
DJ Sarasa is an internationally acclaimed Turntablist, DJ and producer – born in Japan, but raised in New York. She has performed along artists such as The Roots, Talib Kweli, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Boys Noize, Showtek, Above & Beyond and she has been featured in music videos of Ghostface Killah and Talib Kweli. She distinct sound is a mix of Funk, Disco, Soul, Breakbeats and House music.
Siam2nite had the opportunity to have an exclusive interview with DJ Sarasa, shortly before her performance at Wine Bibber Sangria on 26th September.
Where are you answering these questions?
Shibuya, Tokyo… as I roll out of my nap that I took at 7pm. It’s 1 in the morning now.
You are an internationally acclaimed Turntablist, DJ and producer – born in Japan, but raised in New York. You have performed along artists such as The Roots, Talib Kweli, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Boys Noize, Showtek, Above & Beyond and you have also been featured in several music videos including "Rise of the Ghostface Killah" by Ghostface Killah and "Turnt Up" by Talib Kweli. How did you get in touch with DJing and music production in the first place?
Before I even knew that I could make a career from it, in my teens I was obsessed with Hip Hop culture and the strong sense of community it brought. I was breakin’ (break dancing) and was stoked about how it brought like-minded people together, where I realized how important real friends are to me. I used to contribute to my community by providing music… At this time I would just compile songs into cassette tapes for different occasions for the boom box when we all hung out. Then years later when I entered university, there was an open radio spot where started spinning all the underground music that no one knew.
My passion was always to introduce music to people and open their minds in a musical way. It was a natural progression for me to become a DJ.
Your sound is a diverse mix of Funk, Disco, Soul, Breakbeats and House music. How would you describe your own sound in just a few words, what is distinct about it?
Because I come from a Hip Hop background, everything that I play happens to be all under the similar baseline. I am about originality and realness. And I am a strong believer in keeping your thoughts positive in any circumstances so the lyrics must be of good intent.
So to make it in just a few words, GROOVY, TRUE and ACTIVISTIC.
What tracks, remixes or mix-sets would you recommend to someone that is not yet familiar with your music?
Well, I have some mixes on my soundcloud. You can check the different things I play here: www.soundcloud.com/djsarasa
I have also released an official mix CD of all Salsoul Records. That can be checked out on my shop site www.mynorityclassics.com
What are you currently working and focusing on and what’s on your agenda for the near future?
By the time I reach to Bangkok I would have finished throwing my big rooftop party with DJ SCRATCH of EPMD out here in Tokyo and also have performed the main stage of ULTRA JAPAN.
Music is very important to me but it is as important to me to chill and take in what I learned, work on my human side and appreciate and spend time with my family and friends.
How is it to be an attractive female in this mainly male dominated business?
Thanks for the compliment about my appearance, but there is a way that I always carried myself that never let my gender interfere with what I wanted to do or be. I strongly believe that you have to practice this on and off work to get the full result though.
I don’t accept anything that comes my way just because of my gender, even if it's a socially nice gesture. A simple and obvious example would be, don’t let guys hold your belongings, or hold the door just because “you are a lady and they are men”, but only accept it if makes sense in that circumstance (you are trying to go through the door with full hands or there is no way you can hold all the bags yourself). Even if it is a high paying job, I reject an offer if I realize that they are simply “looking for a female DJ”. The “lady treatment” life may be easier for you at times but accepting that means you accept being discriminated for your gender.
Also when someone treats me with less respect, I never think it is because of my gender. It could well be because of my inexperienced-ness (is that even a word?) compared to them, or my personality. If you easily blame it on your gender, you are not trying to make the situation any better. So yeah, I actually don’t know how it is to be a female in a male dominated business. To me it was no different.
You have performed all over the world including Japan, Canada, USA, Australia, Germany, Dubai, Korea, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India and many other countries. What were the best and the worst gigs you ever played and what were the funniest things that occurred during any of your performances?
The worst gig was when I was booked but called and cancelled only my performance on that day because they realized they overbooked casts. I was furious since it also was my last night of being in that country so I could have been doing all these other things. In the end I had to drag him to basically force him to pay me and it is hard to understand how these people manage to survive in this industry with that kind of attitude towards artists.
The best gigs happen when the crowd gets so hype that they start taking their clothes off. One guy that was known to be like the rich guy that treats everyone drinks was dancing without his shirt because it was so hot. During my performance I looked up and saw that people took a permanent marker and wrote ATM all over his forehead and body. He was happily dancing.
You live in Tokyo - the capital of Japan and the most populous metropolitan area in the world. What can you tell us about clubbing and nightlife there? Do you have any nightlife related suggestions for first-time visitors?
Tokyo nightlife is a bit unique. There are not so many clubs that you could just go on a night and expect the same thing to happen last week. If you are going out for the music, I would suggest finding a DJ that you like, and then check their schedule to see where they are playing, rather than trying to see what the schedule is of the night club.
On 26th September you will perform live in Bangkok at Wine Bibber Sangria. You have performed in Bangkok several times already – the most recent performance was at the Flavor Food Fest at K Village this February. Did you keep your previous Bangkok performances – and Thailand in general – in good memory? What can the Bangkok crowd expect of your upcoming performance?
Yes! It’s always been a pleasure to go out to Bangkok. The Flavor Food Festat was dope, I never got to play where there are doing shows of which dogs look like their owners the most! I am really exited to come to Wine Bibber Sangria, as I AM one… I will be doing an all vinyl set of disco and funk and maybe a bit of Hip Hop. Let’s get loose!