Q & A with DJ Alex “El Maestro”
Photo by Franklin Liranzo Photography
When you get bitten by the Salsa dancing bug you pretty much become a salsa dancing addict. You start off taking a few lessons here and there. Then you continue to take even more lessons. You begin to see your dancing improve and you just become crazed trying to get as much dancing in as possible. Some people go on to become performers, instructors or DJs while the rest of us become social dancing junkies; attending as many salsa socials as we can. If you’re lucky enough to live in the New York City area you can find a place to dance almost every single night of the week.
Once you’re in the salsa scene in New York you have your “Can’t Miss” salsa socials. What makes these socials “Can’t Miss” is the venue they’re being held in, the DJ playing the music and of course the broad range of dancers that attend on a consistent basis.
Nearly every dance school in the NYC area has their own social, but the short-list of “Can’t Miss” socials is what it’s all about. It’s at these socials you go to really give your dance skills a jolt and have fun dancing with a range of dancers from beginners to professionals. The “Can’t Miss” socials are so popular that you have people that attend from places all over the world.
At the top of the list is Jimmy Anton’s Salsa social which is the longest running salsa social now nearing 19 years and it happens 2-3 times a month on Sundays. Next on the list is Choco Knight’s Mambo Fateegz (MF). Started in 2000, MF is also a well-attended NYC Social held on Friday nights 2-3 times a month. Rounding out the top 3 is La Vieja Guardia (LVG) social run by DJ Antonio “La Conga” and instructor / performer Joel Dominguez. LVG, held on alternate Sunday’s from Jimmy Anton’s, has just been running a few years now but has become well-liked social for the NYC crowd. The top 3 need to make room on the list for a social that has become a favorite for the salseros and salseras in NYC, Salsamania Saturday’s.
Salsamania Saturday’s was started by Peruvian DJ Alex “El Maestro.” DJ “El Maestro” is no stranger to the NYC Salsa scene as he also DJs at Mambo Fateegz and has DJ’d at the Texas and New York Salsa Congresses. Coming up this Saturday he will be celebrating Salsamania’s 1 year anniversary. I still remember walking into his social at DanceSport Studios on 34th Street last year and noticing the wide-open wooden dance floor, the dim lighting, feeling the nice cool air conditioner blasting and great music being played. I hadn’t even had a dance yet and I thought to myself “This is going to be a great social.” Since then I’ve attended Salsamania Saturday’s numerous times and thought it would be great to do a Q+A with the veteran NYC Salsa social DJ.
[SP]: How long have you been salsa Djing for?
[El Maestro]: It’s been 4 years of Fun making Bailadores Gozar La Musica Latina, great experience all the way.
[SP]: What made you start DJing?
[El Maestro]: Well I started on the On2 Salsa Scene as a Dancer and I frequently went out Social Dancing but I couldn’t connect with the Djs music selection, so I decided to start something new for Los Salseros de NYC… se lo merecen!
[SP]: Who is your inspiration when it comes to DJing?
[El Maestro]: My brother is a huge inspiration to me when I DJ. He is a well known and respected DJ in Texas, “Dj Gonzo”. I always wanted to get close to his level of knowledge regarding music and timing, I think I did but only he could judge that…lol…
We are going to have the pleasure to hear him play for the first time in NYC at my first year anniversary April 28th, alongside another of my inspirations as a Dj “Dj Antonio La Conga” El hombre del guaguanco!
[SP]: What was your first DJing gig like?
[El Maestro]: LOL, a mess, lol… I didn’t know much about audio set up or how to tune it, I had the music but not the experience so I was on the phone with my brother most of the gig time and he did helped me through the night…lol… a mess! Hahaha
[SP]: What made you want to DJ salsa socials?
[El Maestro]: I think that Bailadores spend a huge amount of money and time getting better in their salsa moves and social dancing skills; it’s only fair for them to get the best Salsa music.
We are so lucky to have such an amazing history in Salsa, amazing musicians from all Latino America that never made it big, salsa socials are the best fit for this kind of music…
[SP]: I first heard you DJ at Mambo Fateegz…can you tell how that all happened?
[El Maestro]: Hahaha, Yes. My better half Michelle made that gig happen. My hermano Choco Knight couldn’t say no to a very persistent Michelle…lol after the first time that Choco heard me play he offered me the gig. And now we are part of the Mambo Fateegz and The NYISC family… Nice experience!
[SP]: You started hosting your own socials Salsamania Saturday’s…What made you want to branch out and start your own social?
[El Maestro]: El Amor a la Salsa! Hahaha I was always looking for the opportunity to make my own gig and I been bless to find that at Salsamania y Gracias a Dios to have the support of los Bailadores of NYC make it Priceless!
[SP]: DanceSport Studio the venue where you hold your social is one of my
favorite in NYC. Did you search long to find the venue?
[El Maestro]: Not really, I had the luck to work at Dancesport before Salsamania and I knew that with the right kick it will shoot faster than a speeding bullet.
Salsamania is now one of NYC’s favorites for Salsa Dura Socials!
[SP]: Are there any other places that you DJ at besides Mambo Fateegz and Salsamania?
[El Maestro]: Well I did had the pleasure to be Club Cache’s DJ for a few months but now I’m just concentrating to make Mambo Fateegz and my baby Salsamania the best Salsa dura socials in the city.
[SP]: How do you decide what your going to play at the socials? What’s your
[El Maestro]: Hahahaha it’s not easy as many would think, there are many factors that come into play. I like to play always with the right tempo for the dancers that I have in the dance floor, beginners require a different tempo than advance or pros.
Making everyone happy is my main goal, my personal playlist go out the window when I spin… hope that makes sense…lol
[SP]: Do you salsa dance yourself? And if so who did you learn from?
[El Maestro]: Yes I do, I took classes at many different locations. I started at Lorenz Latin Dance Studio in Queens then to Salsa Salsa in Brooklyn; in the city I did Eddie Torres, Frankie Martinez, On 2 Dance studio and Karisma. Great experience with all of them!
[SP]: Who are your top 3 favorite salsa ARTISTS and why?
[El Maestro]: Well as a DJ we have more than 3 but I guess in top of my list will be my Peruvian artists.
1. Alfredito Linares
3. Coco Lagos
I love to support el Talento Peruano siempre!
[SP]: Who are your top 3 favorite salsa DANCERS and why?
[El Maestro]: Hahaha… I knew that you were going to ask that… well as a DJ I think that everyone (Beginner to Pro) that comes out to social dance is my favorite dancers! I have lots of respect for the pros and their work but in the end without the bailadores we will be out of business…lol Love Mi Gente!
[SP]: What’s your favorite memory so far in your DJing career?
[El Maestro]: Well I have a quite a few, having the pleasure to DJ alongside my brother at the Houston Salsa Congress or the first time I DJ’d at the New York International Salsa Congress. But the most favorite memory is the one I get each time I DJ… watching the positive reaction, the happiness, the joy of the dancers… that my friend is priceless!
[SP]: What are the top 3 mistakes you made starting out as a DJ?
[El Maestro]: First, and most important “Not Listening to constructive criticism.” DJs will get much better if they just listen and analyze a good advice.
Second, “Not looking at the dancers while spinning.” DJs will feel the reaction of the dancers to each tune if they just look up.
Third, “Learn to play with the right tempo.” Sometimes you can play the right song but do you play it at the right tempo?? Learn that and you will be better my friend.
[SP]: What tips can you give to new and aspiring DJs?
[El Maestro]: Do it cause you love it and want to make a difference. You will have a better outcome if it just done with pure Corazon!
[SP]: Where would you like your DJ career to go?
[El Maestro]: I don’t see it as a career; I see it as a magnificent hobby that gives me a greatest satisfaction!
Amo la salsa my friend and I will go as far as los bailadores want me to go. Amen!
[SP]: Where do you see salsa going in years from now?
[El Maestro]: Hopefully in the right direction, but all depends on us… I concentrate in my beginners most of the time because they are the future of salsa, if we make them feel uncomfortable because they don’t know all your fancy moves it’s ok … come back to them in 2 more years and they will show you moves my friend…lol…we got to pass this love from generation to generation.
Anyone interested in social dancing with us can visit us every second and fourth Saturday of each month at My Baby Salsamania Saturdays or at Mambo Fateegz every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Friday of the month with Me or La unica DJ Marysol.
[SP]: Thank you for taking the time to do this and giving the readers/dancers from around the world a peek into your life as a salsa DJ and dancer in NYC.
[El Maestro]: I want to thank you for the opportunity to be part of your salsa blog,
Que Viva la Salsa and see you in the dance floor bailadores!
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