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DJ Umami

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

A true woman warrior with a down-to-earth personality to match, DJ Umami is making herself known all over the SF hip-hop club scene. With a full-time job, regular DJ gigs, and as a mother of two, she exemplifies the balance between doing what you love, and handling life. A part of the Peaches crew, she shares with SF Station her journey through the DJ world.

SFS (SF Station): How did you get into DJing?

UM (DJ Umami): It really started as a fan. I use to go to Music Machine when it was at Sofa Lounge in San Jose because they were playing something different than the clubs around the corner. I became good friends with the Finger Bangerz crew. Paolo Bello, a.k.a. Cutso, started giving me informal lessons here and there, and I'd go out to drool over DJ’s sets and get inspired to go home and practice.

I use to work the door for Germel Boado’s, a.k.a. Gwrex's (Finger Bangerz), party at Poleng Lounge. One day he asked me if I wanted to DJ the next party! I basically got thrown in the pool and since then I've been swimming like crazy and having the time of my life. It’s funny because a friend of mine recently said, "Dang, you went from stampin' b-words to rockin b-words." Instead of "b-word" he said the actual b-word though.

I never thought this would happen. I thought it would always be a side hobby to DJ. I'm a mother of two, with a full-time, very-demanding job. But sleep is for the dead and caffeine is my best friend. It's really been a dream come true to be able to do what I love and do what I need to do to put food on the table.

SFS: Where do you usually like to DJ?

UM: I like DJing where the crowd has got soul; where rocking a party doesn't necessarily mean playing the top 10 songs on the radio right now; where you could play those classic jams and some girl in the crowd wants to hug you for reminding her of her first boyfriend; where I could play that cutty funk song and people will come up to the booth asking "Who was that?"

I did start an event for just that. It's called FML (Funk My Life). I hold it at Sloane (old Duplex) every first Saturday with Patrick Sweeny of Segue and Mixtape Marketing. I get to book the DJs I love and respect and give them the freedom to play whatever they want. In January, we got DJ Platurn and Teeko. I can't wait to see what they bring to the tables.

SFS: How did the all lady DJ party Peaches at Skylark get started?

UM: Masaye Waugh was the one who brought it all together. She envisioned having an all female hip-hop lineup and chose some of the sickest female DJs you can think of in the Bay Area. She gave me a call one day and asked if I wanted to DJ with Lady Fingaz, Deeandroid, and DJ That Girl. I was like, heck yes! I'm super honored to be rubbing elbows with these amazing women every week. Not only are these girls really talented behind the decks, they're mad real. I learn from them all the time and I see them all as big sisters to me. Big ups to Masaye for not only putting together a really fresh party, but starting a sisterhood. I don't think that the event would be as great as it is if we all didn't have a blast working together.

SFS: Do you think there are any added pressures to being a female DJ?

UM: In any male-dominated industry there's always added pressure being a female. Also, being new adds extra nerves when you're spinning alongside some seasoned vets. But, I stay inspired by the females who have not let that get in their way of truly doing what they love.

SFS: What albums are you looking forward to in 2010?

UM: Erykah Badu's New Amerykah, Part II: Return of the Ankh. There’s also rumors that Outkast might be coming out with something new. Sade's Soldier of Love, and Janet Jackson is said to release something in the first quarter of 2010. 2010 is gonna be a good one for music!

SFS: Lastly, what are your NYE plans?

UM: I'll be at Milk for "This is The Future" with Franky Fresh and DJ Doc.

Find DJ Umami at:
Peaches at Skylark (every 2nd & 4th Thursdays)
FunkMyLife at Sloane (every first Saturday)
Party Mcfly at Poleng (every 3rd Friday)

Find out more at http://djumami.tumblr.com/