Here is the conversation
We are here with Felipe Martínez. He is a dance instructor, broadcaster and event organizer. Good afternoon, Mr. Martinez, how are you today?
Very good afternoon. Thank you very much for the invitation.
How did you start your way in the world of music? Did you do it in your native Colombia or there in the United States?
It officially started officially here in the United States, but Colombia also played an important role in this process. In my country, I played soccer and many of my football buddies came from the coast or north of Colombia. I am from the center of the country in Bogotá. When it was our turn to meet in the bus that would take us to our place of practice, each one of them carried a cassette tape to listen to salsa or music from the Colombian Caribbean. That is how I was gradually introduced into the world of music and got interested in salsa and Caribbean music, but I grew up listening to rock and pop.
Felipe Martínez in his studio
So, we can say that your taste in music started in Colombia, but you developed professionally in the United States, is that right?
That is correct. When I came to the United States, I started dancing professionally.
You started working as a dance instructor and then as a DJ when you arrived in the United States. Meaning that you had no experience in these things from your country, but you gained it in your new country of residence.
That is right. In the case of locution, I worked as a radio host for about three years in Colombia. I hosted a show with my friends while attending high school, but we were dedicated to rock because it was the genre I listened to the most. When I came to the United States in 1998, I started dancing, working with several dance companies, and studying for a while before I started teaching, so it did not happen immediately. I studied for about four years, and after that, I decided to teach. As for my work as a DJ, that almost happened immediately. In 1999, I started making music in a little club called Café Caracas in Berkley. It was by pure chance because the hired DJ didn’t show up, so the owner of the club asked me to play for a while to cover that space. I replied yes, so I started playing music that night and it all worked out. They proposed me to keep doing it permanently, I accepted and that’s how my career as a DJ began.
Luis Medina told me in his interview that he is sometimes forced to play music he doesn’t really like, but it’s what the public wants. Apart from salsa, what other genres do you play or mix?
Salsa is just a general term for all these rhythms we have. I usually mix salsa with bachata, merengue or cha cha chá. However, I don’t usually include reggaeton in my repertoire despite its popularity.
Felipe Martínez in his work as a DJ
How World Salsa Radio started
How did World Salsa Radio start? What drove you to found it?
Worldsalsaradio.com (www.worldsalsaradio.com) started as an adventure alongside a friend at another radio station. The main idea was to educate listeners about the history of records and what they include such as singers, artists, musicians, etcetera. These days, you buy an MP3, but all you can see is the name of the song and the picture, so you lose all the album information such as credits, recording place, among other details.
In my travels around the world, I have known many DJs, whom I contacted when this project started to get them to this station to do shows. Remember that the main objective was to educate the public, then, the guy with whom we started the station took a different path because we had artistic differences, so we decided to separate.
That’s how World Salsa Radio started. During the pandemic in 2020, I was here at home for about three or four months arranging everything. I invited two other friends from the Bay Area, one of them was DJ Orlando Felix, DJ Boricua, and Ivette Fuentes, DJ La Coqui. The three of us started shaping the idea of World Salsa Radio with the same goal of educating as in the beginning. I take care of all the technical part, invite DJs to play, teach them to use the software and tell them what to say. We are already 27 DJs from all over the world and, at the moment, DJ Boricua and I are the ones who run the station.
Indeed, you have DJs from the five continents. How did you manage to unite them all in the same project?
I think the idea that brings us together is the goal of educating the public that listens to us. We want to play great music, but we also want to educate people about what we play. This is something that attracks music collectors because all that information is being lost due to the digital age. I know many who are on World Salsa Radio in person, but I heard the rest of them by other means such as a Facebook Live or YouTube. I contact the ones I like, we exchange ideas and it is explained to them what they should do.
Cuban singer Omara Portuondo and Felipe Martínez
What have been the most noticeable differences in the team?
Each DJ has a different style. We all have a different style even though we are playing Afro-Latin music. Everything played here in California is very different from everything played in Lithuania. Although we all collect the same music, everyone plays it differently.
How dod the public receive World Salsa Radio?
At first, the audicence reception was very small. The first month, we had barely 300 listeners, but we have a very large group of listeners who stay tuned to us despite the time. There are about 100 listeners who are permanently connected with us. We started the project during the pandemic, which was very good for us because everyone was home. So, people who enjoy this music, dancers or musicians listened to our shows on a recurring basis. Two years later, there are already 16,000 people who tune us in every month.
There are many people supporting us without any profit motive because we do this for free. No one is paying us to move the project forward, so we are financed by donations. We also have great support on the advertising side, which has helped us grow.
World Salsa Radio is now ruled by Felipe Martínez
As a dancer and instructor, what do you think people are most passionate about in your classes? What rhythms do they enjoy the most?
As to how I teach, I use percussion much. Since I play the conga, I use this tool to give my classes. I try not to give so much importance to numbers. Many instructors use counting to teach their students, but I try to keep out of it and use percussion. For example, I use the clave and the tumbao.
I think this method works best. If you go to a club with an orchestra playing, the singer is not going to be counting on you to dance, he’s going to be focused on making his music and providing entertainment. For the same reason, you must learn to follow the music without counting.
What have you done to balance all your activities in music?
My activities are linked, but they are separated at the same time. My personal projects have nothing to do with World Salsa Radio. However, when an event invites several DJs from the station, the World Salsa Radio logo joins that production. However, I try to take things apart most of the time.
Your pages, social networks and links to financially support the station.
You can find all the information through worldsalsaeradio.com. In the main part, there is a button that says Donations, which takes you to the station’s PayPal account. People can donate whatever they want to help us, but nothing happens if they can’t. In that case, they can spread the word about the station. In that case, they can show what we do through their social networks and give us publicity.
Felipe Martínez does not combine his activities
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