Behind the Music featuring DJ Mika Raguaa
Over the years, Soca music (and Carnival) has evolved from being exclusive to the Caribbean to a worldwide phenomenon. From Caribana in Canada to Notting Hill in the UK, the Soca scene continues to break down barriers. With Radial’s goal of taking Soca to the world, we thought that this would be a great opportunity to showcase one of the cultural ambassadors that help make that dream a reality.
In Germany, she is known as a little wonder woman behind the deejay decks. After performing all over Europe (eg. Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, France and even Macedonia) as one of the few female DJs in the region, she came to the Caribbean and proved herself as a DJ. DJ Mika started building a base in the Caribbean and recently returned to Trinidad to educate herself on the culture and music behind the scenes. However, make no mistake, her heart beats with the vibes from all Caribbean islands like Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Lucia, Barbados, and Grenada. Mika is not only a respected DJ, she has established her very own fashion label called LOOK PON MI and organized many events in different parts of Germany. This is behind the music with Dj Mika Raguaa!
Radial: Who is DJ Mika Raguaa? How did you get started on your musical journey?
Mika: My full name is Dominika Justine Tux. I am known as DJ Mika – or better DJ Mika Raguaa – a specialized DJ for Caribbean music for nearly ten years. I always loved putting music compilations together and the tattoo over my heart (a tape cassette) shows how I started to mix music – I was recording music with a cassette recorder for friends, car rides, and even boyfriends. My career started in Oldenburg (North Germany) in 2008. The reason I started was actually a lack of interest in that area. I grew up in South Germany influenced by Sentinel and Supersonic Sound (Germanys most popular sound systems for Reggae and Dancehall selections) and visited a lot of events for Reggae and Dancehall. While I moved from South Germany to North Germany to pursue my first degree in Environmental Science, I realized that the music I loved was not properly represented there yet. We started to throw a series of parties called “Mash up di Place” which exist until today! After that my whole life changed. I realized that I need to study something media relating to continue on my dreams. I moved from North to East Germany to study media science and communications and started to read a lot of books about Caribbean music.
I even focussed my Bachelor’s degree on the “role of a DJ” for Caribbean music in Germany. My knowledge about Caribbean music and the fact that I speak five different languages (Polish, German, English, Spanish, French) helped me to continue an international career with performances all over Europe. I performed numerous times in Switzerland, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Macedonia, Poland and in nearly every big city in Germany. Every weekend I was booked somewhere and I loved transporting my musical treasures all over.
Currently, I am based in Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago) – the heart of Soca and Calypso music. I decided to continue my journey here to get to see a different perspective and to witness the first reception of Caribbean music. I wanted to learn more about the politics played in the background, the lifestyle, the country and all of its history. Additionally, I see myself contributing to the dancehalls, clubs, bars, and festivals with a new musical input. My music selections are diverse, intentional, multilingual and include flavors from Caribbean music produced in many different countries. Some productions (made in Europe for example) never make its way back to the Caribbean, and other hits here in Trinidad never go beyond the region. I am dreaming of my own little radio show here promoting those highly respectable artists and producers – and I even dream bigger. I believe that I’m doing my part to take Caribbean music worldwide.
Radial: What is the Soca scene like in Europe?
Mika: To describe a music scene is not the easiest thing to do. When you look at how big the European continent is and how big the international and historical influences are, you can understand a little better why the Soca or the general Reggae Dancehall scene could spread its wings all over the continent. In the 80s, DJs and tourists brought the music to the continent. And over the years the music genres found a lot of followers. Additionally, DJs may have also gotten influenced by the records of their parents. Compared to the Caribbean, Europe today is highly connected online, which makes the distribution and the promotion of the music relatively easier. When I started to DJ, Facebook was not yet invented and Myspace (and through one’s own website) were ways of promotion for events and new mixtape productions. Since the European market is mainly influenced by different types of music genres, Caribbean music like Soca is still known as underground music. In Germany, you nearly can’t hear it on radio stations and pictures of the Caribbean are getting spread in a more touristic aspect. The Caribbean is presented as a paradise – as a huge hotel resort – or an area, where most people can not afford to go to except in one’s imagination of the region.
It took me seven years to hit the Caribbean for the first time. However, I managed to find quite a bit of information and also music online. In one of my projects “BLAZE A TRAIL ACROSS COUNTRIES” I started to research what happened after Soca music left the Caribbean and reached the European continent. I started a 3-months research project through all my contacts and professionals that I know and documented it in the article “The European Soca Movement” (www.mikaraguaa.com/articles) and presented the results also in a large scale mixtape productions – with Soca music from 11 different countries in seven different languages. The result shows exactly what is going on: Europe is a multilingual area of this world – I was born in Poland – growing up in Germany – and until today I believe that the cultural and language borders between Poland and Germany make it hard to understand each other. Polish and German and two different languages that have nearly nothing in common, but music can unite in the same way as it can separate.
With all that being said, there is a Soca scene in Europe growing and growing – maybe not so quick as Reggae and Dancehall – but Soca music has its fans – and those realized for themselves, that it is nicer to bring those fans officially together. We can see Soca fans all over waving their national flags at Soca events under various names like “Dutch Soca Lovers”, “German Soca Junkies” or the “Swedish Soca Vikings”. To team up and fete together was a great idea to encourage the fans to be active in the distribution of the music. Even finally France understood it to translate information about Soca into French to grow the understanding. And out of this initiative the “French Soca Lovers” and “French Kiss and Wine” were created as fan groups. The events around Carnival time are rising in Germany to more than a hundred hours of fete-ing and even in Switzerland, we have the first three-day Soca Festival happening in June / July this year. For over 50 years the United Kingdom of Great Britain celebrates its Notting Hill Carnival: it is a carnival organized by people from the Caribbean for people from the Caribbean. The costume creations are special and the vibe of the Carnival (always in the end of August) is very great. The Netherlands has its “Zomer Carnival” which is celebrated in Rotterdam and Berlins Carnival is more a multicultural happening – focusing on all cultural diversity of the German capital city. For over ten years, there are two Soca trucks are on the road. Also, Reggae and Dancehall are representing on other trucks. Besides the Carnival, there are many Soca events out there. Most often you can a party in London – nearly every weekend Soca music is playing and even Soca artists are getting invited regularly. The two weeks in Berlin – sometimes events are going on in South Germany or Switzerland. In Arnhem and Amsterdam, you have several clubs pushing Soca music. I try to always give a shout to all DJs, promoters and of course Soca fans out there that help to uplift the culture.
Besides the distribution of Soca music over online radio stations and the internet, artists and producers are also working from Europe on music productions and riddims. I know remixers and producers in Norway, Sweden, and Finland – the highest amount of Soca artists could be found in London (UK). There are also many Reggae and Dancehall artists, that would love to do more on Soca beats too. In my opinion, those artists deserve a little more acknowledgment for what they do, especially being so far away from the Caribbean. Those artists still decide to represent their culture no matter if they are born in the Caribbean or in Europe. There are so many great tracks that have never made its way back to the Caribbean and I would like to bring them here. When I play the productions here people recognize the artists, but often they are overwhelmed that they didn’t hear the songs before. Of course I would love you to encourage to listen and enjoy my mixtape productions – all of them are online available on my website (www.mikaraguaa.com).
Radial: What have been your most memorable experiences on your Journey? What have been some of your biggest challenges?
Mika: Since I am in Trinidad and Tobago it feels like life is like a movie. There have been many days with a non-expectable ending. I am communicating a lot to locals to understand the roots of the music in a better way. Often I realize that there are lacks of information about where I come from or what their own culture is about. To inform and improve are my personal approach, almost daily, I am explaining what Europe is about and what happens after music leaves the Caribbean and reaches the European continent. As a white woman, doing Caribbean music here something quite unusual. My biggest challenge here is (and even half a year later) is convincing people that don’t believe that I can have the same musical background like people that have been grown up here. I try my best to represent the music in a respectful and enjoyable way. To see the result on the faces of the crowd gives me the highest feeling in the world. I love to play music and I see the appreciation of music reception nearly every day here. I love to be a part of it. On my journey nearly everyday something memorable is happening. It can be as simple as somebody recognizing me on the street. Just this morning I got a phone call from a prisoner here in Trinidad. He got my phone number out of a newspaper where I was featured. He told me I am inspiring him with my uniqueness to get back into music. I am glad to give him this power. I don’t play for club owners or promoters – I play for people. Many DJs here do not realize their own role as an entertainer. Many of them copy sets by other DJs or just play the same songs again and again. I want to be the one coming up with new music so this challenge is to be continued…
Radial: When you are not DJing, what are you up to?
Mika: Besides music preparations, the establishment of contacts with the music industry, and the production of new mixtapes, I am working on a project to represent Caribbean music on a worldwide scale. My experience and research as a scientist of media and communication showed me that there are only a few ways where you can inform yourself about the cultural backgrounds of the music. Often promoters of events forget to give some background information about artists, culture and its distribution. Every artist worldwide will be presented in a respectful and reliable way with the appropriate background information – together with information about the origin country and current location. I believe that it will be a great opportunity to entertain and educate at the same time.
One idea that I am working on for about half a year is a triple platform system (check out one of my examples here www.soca-worldwide.org) in a cooperate layout for the Caribbean music genres – including information about artists and producers worldwide, their origins and their current locations. Together with literature recommendations, documentaries about music and culture, I believe that the picture of the music genre(s) will be presented/highlighted in a way it deserves. The information will be translated in all kinds of languages for sure! Feel free to take a look on the website (www.caribbeanmusic-worldwide.org) to get an overview of the features. On the bottom of the page, you will also find a link to my school project I did at Woodbrook Secondary School – here in Port of Spain.
Besides my ideas of how to help to support the Caribbean music scene I am a creative mind and love to express myself through street art, interior design, and fashion.
Radial: Where do you see the future of Caribbean music in the next 5-10 years?
Mika: Caribbean music and its actors deserve more attention. I believe that I achieved a higher understanding through my travels and my experiences here in Trinidad and Tobago. Here the music influences the society in so many ways. People here love lyrics – they love to sing their favorite songs. People here live the music because they live with it! You enter a car – you hear Reggae music. You visit a supermarket and you will probably hear a Dancehall song. You walk through the city and out of shops Soca music is blazing. I love it a lot and I wished for myself that internationally the music would get a little bit more attention. Europe is a great region to export Caribbean music with its music festivals and events known for musical heritage. Europe is also known for its electronic music, its Spanish and Balkan flavors – new developments from Grime, Trap to Electro Swing and Ghettofunk. The diversity of music is higher – which makes you chose probably not the little Reggae or Soca song in between. For many abroad, the Caribbean is a far away paradise that they cannot reach. But I believe that the strength of the music can transport people enough to just close their eyes and jump into this world. To give Caribbean music the same respect like other music genres would be phenomenal. As a DJ hopefully still performing in 10 years I hope to inspire dancehalls, bars, and clubs with my selections.
Radial: What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs that are interested getting started in the Caribbean music industry?
Mika: To create a piece of Caribbean music, go and explore where it comes from! Read some books! Inform yourself and create your own picture of it! Always believe in yourself and never give up!
Radial: Thanks, Mika! It is always great speaking with you. Please keep up the good work taking the culture to the world!
Make sure to check out Dj Mika’s mixes on Radial and follow her on Instagram at www.instagram.com/mikaraguaa.