September 23, 2021
Hispanic artists have played a prominent role in dance music since its inception. Their contributions to the culture can’t be understated. Dance music history is synonymous with the rise of Latinx producers in mainstream music. And as music has evolved, those artists have continued to be the backbone of the culture growing into global superstars.
Hispanic DJs played a vital role in developing dance, hip hop, and pop acts. People like DJ Charlie Chase paved the way for the DJs of today. He was a member of the Bronx hip hop crew The Furious Five. Led by legendary DJ Grandmaster Flash, they were architects of the hip hop movement in the late 70s and early 80s.
David Morales, the DJ turned super-producer, helped change the face of remix culture with his multiple credits for Mariah Carrey. His work on "Fantasy" earned him a GRAMMY. He was one of the first producers to work in parallel with an artist on a remix, completely reworking their music. Before Morales, it was unheard of to have the remixer in the studio with the original artist.
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we'd like to shine a light on the icons who continue to influence house and techno.
Bronx-born Luis Ferdinand Vega Jr. was born into a musical family. His dad was a jazz saxophonist, and his uncle was a singer in a salsa band. “Little” Louie started DJing at 13, and over three decades changed the face of dance music countless times. He held residencies at New York institutions like the Sound Factory and Studio 54. Vega was also one-half of three-time Grammy-award-winning duo Masters At Work with Kenny Dope. They became sought-after remixers when dance music was still in its infancy and worked with Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, Earth Wind & Fire, and Madonna. He continues to etch his mark on global dance music culture today. His 2020 release, “Let It Go,” is the perfect example of the Nuyorican Soul sound he established with Kenny Dope in the mid-90s. A masterful blend of classic soul, Latin sensibilities, and house music.
Award-winning DJ and producer Oscar G’s sonic footprint has endured for over three decades. The Cuban-American artist kicked off his career as one-half of the group Liberty City. Tracks like "Some Lovin,'" and Interceptor's, "Together," on their label Murk quickly found their way into the sets of Danny Tenaglia and Junior Vasquez. The four-time ASCAP songwriting award winner has officially remixed pop icons like Madonna and Jennifer Lopez. He continues to educate dance floors on the intersection of Latin American music and dance with residencies at Space Miami and Pacha, where he regularly transports dancers on 12-hour marathon journeys.
Mexican-born, multimedium artist Rebolledo is noted as a forward-thinking artist and self-described Experience Creator. His creativity expands beyond his bass-forward psychedelic beats. As one of the creative minds behind the Burning Man art car, the Mayan Warrior, he exhibits how music, visual art, and cross-continental collaboration coalesces in one epic ode to movement and sound. He also brings a unique slant on music as part of Pachanga Boys with German producer Superpitcher. Their lilting tribal beats are the perfect engine for sunrises over the Playa. In 2014, FORBES Magazine named him one of 50 Mexican creatives with the most worldwide influence.
The Martinez Brothers were born for a life of performance. Their father instilled a love for a diverse set of influences early on. He put Steven and Chris in church bands and encouraged them to collaborate with older musicians. Growing up inspired by house, disco, salsa, and soul, their musical selection is always ahead of the curve and versatile. They were noticed early on by New York legend Dennis Ferrer, who became a mentor and signed them to his label Objektivity. In 2011 they began their decade-long residency at DC-10 in Ibiza. They have become fashion icons, producing music for Givenchy and starting their own line with Seth Troxler, Tuskegee. In 2014 they did percussion for the Nile Rodgers album, It’s About Time. They were the only artists not associated with Rodgers band Chic invited to contribute.
Luciano was born in Switzerland but moved to Chile when his parents divorced at age 11. He carved the path for dance music to flourish in Chile. When Luciano began DJing in the late 90s at 16 years old, rock music was the sound of the clubs. He worked tirelessly to legitimatize techno in Santiago. In 1999 he moved to Europe, just after he DJed for Chile’s installment of Love Parade, proving his years of hard work paid off. His work is heavily influenced by his Hispanic heritage. He incorporates the rhythmic sensibilities of traditional Chilean music into his music, be it minimal techno or tech house.
Dj Sneak may be a polarizing figure in house music, but the Puerto Rican artists’ contributions to the culture are clear. Sneak was one of the many Chicago legends who worked the counter at Gramophone Records. He met Cajmere—aka Green Velvet— while working there. He helped launch his career as part of the second wave of house music makers in the Windy City. Sneak has released over 10 albums since 1996. He was name-checked on Daft Punk’s 1997 record, “Teachers.” And went on to write the lyrics for their 1997 release, “Digital Love.” His rapid-fire mixing skills continue to make him a crowd favorite around the world. His infamous I’m A House Gangster brand is all about bringing house music back to its roots and drawing the focus away from the sounds of commercial dance music.
Ricardo Villalobos is a Chilean-born DJ and producer who came up in the early 90s in Germany. While he never envisioned himself as a musician, he eventually forged a path that saw him travel the world studying percussion, a skill he applied to his expansive music. Known for his winding compositions, his gorgeously minimal tracks stretch and swell, incorporating influences of his home country and organic worldly soundscapes. His 2006 single “Fizheuer Zieheuer,” is a 37-minute long epic based on a horn sample from a Roma folk song “Pobjednički Čoček" by Serbian group Blehorkestar Bakija Bakić. It’s evidence that Villalobos is one of the few in dance music to push the envelope. Renowned for melting the dancefloor into a mass of liquid minimal bliss, he was selected as Resident Advisor’s top DJ of the year in both 2008 and 2010.
The Colombian-born DJ founded BAUM nightclub in Bogota. Before it closed its doors in 2020, it was Bogota's premiere spot for house and techno. Built in an old home that sat abandoned at the center of the capital city, Cayetano envisioned a nightclub and community building project. The tree growing through the middle of the house became the central focus of the DJ booth. And the community that coalesced around the club was truly unique. Despite the club's closure due to increasing residential complaints, Cayetano continues to produce BAUM Festival, which returns to Bogota on May 21, 2022. As a musician, he blurs the lines between house and techno. He can be found on the exclusive circuit of global festivals captivating dancers with his compelling sound.
Kenny Dope came up in the 80s DJing for block parties in Brooklyn under the name Masters At Work. He famously let Todd Terry borrow the name to record two releases. Todd returned the favor by letting Kenny borrow a drum machine and introducing him to “Little” Louie Vega. It sparked his career as a producer. His 1994 release under the moniker the Bucketheads, “The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall into My Mind),” is an iconic piece of house music. But his career stretches beyond one hit. He was among the first dance music DJs to be commissioned for remix projects from the major labels and helped pave the way for the remix culture that persists today. His expansive catalog includes remixes for Luther Vandross, Daft Punk, Geroge Benson, and Tito Puente.
Ecuadorian artist was born in France and spent his first three years there until he moved home to Quito. His parents encouraged his musical leanings and gave him a drum kit when he was 12. At 25, he collaborated and toured the US with the iconic Nicolas Jaar. His interest in the oral traditions of his ancestors and the rituals of native South Americans inform his explorative music. Highly organic, intensely creative, and strikingly beautiful, Cruz melds the worlds of the traditional with modern sound design masterfully. His blinding creative output saw him release five albums in the last five years while touring regularly. At only 33 years old, Cruz has a lot of musical experimenting ahead of him.