It’s time for the second highlight of my DJ Series. These are the people behind the music. I was so happy I got to speak with DJ Jel, also known by his handle Jelinthemix , on some social media platforms. He is one of the youngest DJs on the Caribbean scene, impressing the masses with mix after mix as the years go by.
This is his story.
What influenced you to become a DJ?
Growing up, my mom played a lot of soca and calypso, my grand-mom played a lot of music as well and sometimes they would bring me to fetes with them. My mom promoted parties and would take me; which exposed me to a lot of music. I would always stand near the DJ while music was playing.
After years of seeing others play, I put out my first mix in 2009. Travis World and myself hosted an online radio station and wanted to push forward soca music and West-Indian culture. My first gig I ever had was a sweet 16. When I was younger, I shied away from soca because I felt forced to be more American and listen to only American music.
What do you love most about your career?
The culture. I have a burning passion to ensure that Soca music becomes more recognized in the global space and that our culture is positively showcased in the global space. My ambitions are driven by that
What is the first Soca song you remember hearing as a child?
Real Unity by Machel Montano and Drupatee also Come beta By Shurwayne Wincester & Destra Garcia
When working during Carnival season, what is your favorite part of the road?
My favorite part would be last lap. By then, everyone is drunk, no one cares about maintaining their costume and they are ready to let loose. As someone who played the role as both a road DJ and masquerader, it is an opportunity to give the people a great set and enjoyable time.
What inspires the way you play on the road during Carnival vs. a fete?
The road is a different kind of beast, you cannot play on the road like how you play the club. The road requires a lot of sounds that have percussion, riddim section and beats. There is a wide range of songs that have a fast beat pattern and some of the cool down points; all songs on the road cannot be fast paced. For example when masqueraders come from lunch, you don’t start with a power song.
I pay attention to a couple of things, I also show up for my scheduled time to avoid replaying songs. It is my job to ensure masqueraders have a good time. Also when I’m in the crowd, I interact with people.
Where would you like to take Caribbean music?
I would like to assist with the distribution and access of music. Outside of carnival, I think there should be soca music festivals and conferences etc. We don’t have an industry, we have producers, but there is no industry and we need to be contributing to the growth of Caribbean music.
What is your creative process like?
Many of the ideas I have, they come in the shower. Similar to Iwer George, there is something about me and water. When I’m showering that is where I get the strangest ideas to do what I do. I might have the idea to play “Savannah Grass” in a certain way or the parts that make my pores raise, and those ideas come in the shower.
For a mix for example, I would research and see what songs are playing. I am locked into radio stations, YouTube or VINCYPOWA pages. I pay attention to which songs I like, which have potential, I am also on email lists. However, I do thorough research. As DJs, we are the gatekeepers of the music. We are the ones who play what people hear. Our responsibility is to introduce new music, in doing that you have to have a good ear for music and you have to do your homework.
How do you learn new music? Do you practice?
Yes I practice, almost 2-3 times a week. I create practice mixes as well and listen back for mistakes. The soca gym series was inspired by a practice mix I made and a lack of motivation to go to the gym. I practice scratching; when I hear a song for the first time, the bpm is important when mixing. I test how I want to lay the foundation of a mix and go from there.
The Soca Takeover mix gives me the most anxiety. Being that it is a two hour+ mix, I messed up a couple of times and re-record because I want it to be perfect.
Where would you like to be in 5 years?
I would like to be the number one soca DJ in the world while traveling to different carnivals, known and unknown. When you think of soca music, I want people to think of DJ Jel as the DJ that does his research and knows the music. I also want to grow a soca media company, [platform that positively reflects soca music and the culture and grows the music and industry]
So, the Ladies want to know if you’re single
[Laughs] Yes, I am single, but not actively looking; my lifestyle as an entertainer requires commitment and understanding. I need a partner/girlfriend who is just as driven or who will be supportive. This lifestyle isn’t easy and a lot of people don’t understand it.
Check out Jel’s latest mixes
Yours in Mas,