SF Station ~ Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

DJ ZitaLast Night a DJ Saved my Life

DJ Zita is a funktress goddess whom has played in places from the Philippines to New York City, and most currently residing in San Francisco. Her classic jams teem with influences from her idols so one can hear how her roots of old school beats blast through the speakers. Spinning all vinyl, this girl DJ rocks it all night long with seamless transitions from funk to R/B to 80s. Having shared the stage with everyone from Mark Farina to Lyrics Born, her eclectic sound and innovative personal style reflect her many talents and abilities. With two monthly residencies at 330 Ritch and Lazslo, it’s no wonder San Francisco has embraced this DJ with the flower in her hair.

SF Station (SFS): How did you get into the DJ Scene, and specifically here in San Francisco?

DJ Zita (Z): In 1999, I learned how to DJ, started a vinyl collection, and spent hours and hours on my turntables and diggin for vinyl. I started to gig in Hawaii in 2002 as a founding member of the Sisters in Sound crew, then moved back to SF in 2003.
I met some dope, inspirational DJs here in the Bay, like Mr.E and Sake One, and they let me guest DJ an opening set at their events. I still had to continue my hustle to get my name, image, and sound out there. I solidified my self-promotion through every marketing strategy possible… my website, business cards, stickers, more mix CDs, email blasts, flyers, and establishing my own events. I found that the DJ hustle is more than one person with an another full-time job to handle (I’m also a high school English teacher), so I picked up some interns who I am so gracious for. There are some super dope DJs in the Bay who don’t hustle, so people rarely get to hear them spin. I learned that to be a DJ in the Bay meant that you got to be on your hustle.
Pretty soon, I found myself DJing every weekend, often twice in the same night! I had 3 residencies plus would guest DJ all over the place. A typical weekend went something like: Friday night opening set at the Shattuck Down Low in Berekely, then over the Bay Bridge to the city to headline Club 6, and then spin again on Saturday night for my new CD Release Party at 111 Minna. DJing so many gigs, I had a revelation. Less than half of these gigs were well-paid and enjoyable, and by the end of 2007, I found that I had spread myself thin. I could foresee that DJ-burnout was ahead at this pace.

Now that I had become a staple in the DJ scene, I had to reevaluate my goals.I decided to set a minimum rate. I figured this would cut down the amount of gigs I had, and I could still made the same amount of money. I also aligned myself with a few DJs who I respect and trust to start producing and promoting my own events. I’m happy with the results: Dmadness, who is also my husband, and I joined forces to form “Golden Soundscapes” crew. Our event, Golden every 3rd Saturday, is going strong now for 2 1/2 years. I also formed B.A.S.S., Bay Area Sistah Sound – The Bay’s Premier Lady DJ Crew – with Pam the Funkstress. My brainchild, Everlasting Bass, is every 1st Saturday at 330 Ritch with guest DJs/live performers. We’ll be celebrating our 1-year anniversary in March 2009.
SFS: Tell us about Everlasting Bass, and what inspired you to create this successful monthly event.

Z: Last year, I was discouraged by the fact that I was DJing either as the only woman on an otherwise all-male bill, or DJing with a line-up of all women at an event promoted by men. I realized that the only reason this was possible is because women DJs in the Bay do not have solidarity. We few women are all doing our own thing, and I feel that we need to come together in sisterhood. These disappointing realities are my inspirations for starting B.A.S.S., short for “Bay Area Sistah Sound.”

I hand picked 2 dope veteran Bay Area lady DJs–Pam the Funkstress and DJ Neta–to join me on my mission to create the only female-DJed and female-promoted event in the Bay. They were down. Us 3, along with my interns, gave birth to my brainchild, B.A.S.S., as The Bay’s Premier Lady DJ Crew, spinning hip hop, funk, soul, reggae, and dancehall. “Everlasting Bass” is the name of our event–a play on our crew name and also a title of Rodney-O and Joe Cooley’s song. Pam and I are still holding it down while DJ Neta finishes up her Ph.D.

We throw down every 1st Saturday at 330 Ritch where we always have a woman guest DJ or live performer join us. Upcoming guests we have are: in December and January we have reggae queens Green B & Daneekah who have been doing Coo-Yah Wednesdays at Bruno’s for over a year. On Feb 7th, I’m excited to have DJ Shortee flying up from LA, who is in my opinion, the best woman DJ in the world ever… she’s siiiiiiick. March 7 marks our 1 Year Anniversary when I plan to have a whole line-up of short sets by ALL the Bay Area’s ladies!
SFS: How did you decide to get into funk, rather than other genres of spinning?

Z: Funk is the kind of music that hits me hard and it feels so good. When I hear the groovy rhythms, the pumping bass lines, and the cracking drums, I just can’t sit still. Through my mix CD, Tooooo Funky: Old School Funk Mix, I pay homage to 70s and 80s funk legends who I have in my vinyl collection, many from which hip-hop sampled. I also spin other genres besides funk, including hip hop, soul, reggae, and dancehall… all on vinyl.

SFS: Who do you think are some of the best artists of the 80s?

Z: Prince because I think he’s more of a King than a Prince. Michael Jackson, I used to have dance contests with my friends to Thriller. Can’t forget Sade, she taught me about love and I wanted to be her when I grew up.

SFS: Growing up, who did you listen to most often that influenced your mixes today?

Z: “Supersonic” by JJ Fad – I used to spin this vinyl single on my Fischer Price turntable, turn up the volume, and dance all around my room. When the record ran out, I’d rewind it again and again. I know every lyric, even the “I saw my llama llama llama” part… just ask me. Criminal Minded by Boogie Down Productions – This was the first hip hop cassette tape I owned and rocked on my boombox. I was hooked. Songs in the Keys of Life by Stevie Wonder – My mama used to play this 8-track cartridge on road trips.

SFS: Best artists presently? Any new music that is currently rockin’ your personal playlist?

Z: I’m bumpin Q-Tip’s new album pretty hard right now. The Rennaissance is what A Tribe Called Quest fans have been waiting for. It’s an expansion of Tribe’s jazzy soulful hip hop sound, and lyrically, it’s on point which is something that mainstream hip hop is lacking these days.

SFS: I heard you wear a signature gardenia in your hair? Any significance behind that?

Z: I love the scent of gardenias. It’s the Hawaii in me and I love wearing flowers in my hair.

SFS: Can you tell me how it’s like DJing in the Bay Area?

Z: DJing in the Bay? Two words: A hustle. It is definitely a hustle being a DJ out here. I started by doing my research and networking. I wanted to know “who’s who” in the scene and which promoters/events I wanted to be involved with, so I did the legwork and attended just about every event in SF and the East Bay that I could to check out a DJ, a venue, an event, a bar manager, a club owner, or a promoter. I made sure my mix CD was tight and that it landed in just the right hands to get me the gigs I wanted. Most of the time it did.

SFS: What are some of your favorite venues in San Francisco?

Z: 330 Ritch for its brick walls, the grown & sexy vibe, its history, and EVERLASTING BASS ladies 1st Saturdays. Also Milk;I’ve heard too many sick DJs rock this spot and you can fee the energy of the back room, and Laszlo Bar for GOLDEN 3rd Saturdays. I can play anything there and the crowd is open to it. Yoshi’s Oakland for their impeccable sound system and live shows, and Shattuck Down Low Berkeley for their intimate live shows
SFS: Who are some of your favorite local DJs/DJs to spin with?
Z: Apollo & Shortkut – These guys are my inspirations for being a DJ, Pam the Funkstress & DJ Neta who are my ladies, and Dmadness; my life partner and we both still spin all vinyl.

SFS: Any advice for aspiring female DJs?

Z: Your sound and skills must come first. Like I said before, it is definitely a hustle here in the Bay, and in that hustle, it doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female. The fact that you’re a woman does matter because that makes you unique in a male-dominated DJ world. That has its challenges, and at the same time, you can use it to your advantage. Even though being a woman in this DJ world is something I’m proud of, there have been situations when it has been a struggle. I’ve been belittled and doubted before because I am a woman DJ. You choose how you are going to present and promote yourself. You choose how much you will accept for a gig. Don’t settle. Make sure your skills are on point. Since there are so few of us, we represent all women when we DJ.
SFS: Any plans for Thanksgiving weekend? Any favorite dishes?

Z: I’m spending Thanksgiving with my family. I’m vegetarian, so no turkey for me. The day after Thanksgiving (the 28th), I’m DJing at Reverse at Levende SF alongside an incredible lineup of deejays who are gonna take it back with old school hip hop and R&B: Vinroc, Platurn, Mr.E, ShredOne, with residents Dmadness & Mpenzi. It’s actually a fundraiser for me and Dmadness to help replace all the dj/home studio equipment and stuff that was stolen last month when our house was burglarized.

DJ Zita can be heard and seen regularly as resident DJ and promoter at her brainchild, BAY AREA SISTAH SOUND (B.A.S.S.), the Bay’s Premier Lady DJ Crew, at their monthly jumpoff EVERLASTING B.A.S.S. 1st Saturdays at 330 Ritch SF.

Show her your flyest moves: djzita.com