It was such a pleasure to find out first hand from Ricky Campanelli what makes a good DJ. He was so down to earth and approachable, and I loved his enthusiasm towards sharing his thoughts. Find out in this interview what this grammy nominated producer and DJ is working on next, and why Vancouver is one of Ricky’s favorite cities!
[Note: This is the 5th and final part to a series of 5 brief interviews under the title Reminisce on VIS (Vancouver International Salsafestival). To start at the beginning, at interview #1, and to learn why and where these interviews were conducted, click here: Reminisce on VIS- a series of five brief interviews)]
I think there is this initial assumption that what makes a good DJ is their choice of music or their playlist, because that’s what we hear as dancers or an audience- is the music. But there is so much more to it I’m sure. What do you think makes a good DJ?
What helps a lot is that before DJing at salsa events, I was a House DJ. And so I would mix a lot and this experience helped me to read the crowd much better. When you’re mixing songs just to keep the crowd at a hype, you learn what works and what doesn’t.
What many DJs do is create a playlist. And they just stick to that playlist. But I think what makes a good DJ is when they get to the point where feeling out what works comes by ear. Sometimes, there are thirty seconds left before the end of a song, and I still don’t have the next song ready (smiles). And it’s not that I’m not prepared. But I’m still reading the crowd, and I like to let it happen spontaneously. It’s just something I feel.
That’s interesting because it reminds me of what makes a good dancer or artist in general- feeling the art, rather than just sticking to regimented steps. So which came first for you- dancing or DJing?
I was a Dj first, and then I became a dancer. My sister was a dance teacher. She showed me how to dance. I didn’t like salsa at first (laughs).
So what changed that for you? Is there a song or an artist that really inspired you?
There are a lot. But the one band that I really look up to is Sonora Poncena. That’s the first album that my sister gave me when I started salsa, and I hated it back then. I was used to club salsa back in the day and when I heard that album, it was kind of weird to me at first. But the more I learned and listened, the more I got into it. And that band ended up being the one that really got me into Salsa Dura.
You travel a lot with your DJing. Is there a particular place that you….
Haha! I didn’t even finish the question (laughs), but I love your enthusiasm (smiles).
I thought you were going to say is there a particular place that is my favorite (laughs). And actually, it is Vancouver.
Really? That’s awesome! Why is that?
Yes, YES! Out of all the congresses, Vancouver is my favorite, because the people are so nice. They treat you like you’re a movie star here. And it’s a party in so many ways. It’s not only about salsa, it’s about meeting people and having fun.
That’s so great to hear. And we love having you here. It’s an honour for us to have you share your talent and passion with us.
If YOU could choose anyone in the world, who would you be honored to work with and/or meet, and why?
Papo Luca- the pianist from Sonora Poncena. Actually, my goal, for my next next album is to have a featuring with him playing in one of my songs.
Nice! And speaking of albums, you have a new album coming out this year, right?
Yes, I’m hoping to launch it in a few months. The album is going to be called Alma de Rumbero. The translation is… well, ‘alma’ means soul, and ‘rumbero’ is not as easy to translate in English. It is someone that feels the music from deep within, and he or she kind of lives for that feeling. And yeah, it’s going to be my third album. It will be out soon.
Congratulations! Can’t wait to hear it! All the best to you with your music. Thanks for continuing to inspire us to get out onto the dance floor and for making this final VIS Festival all the more memorable.