Music and Art In Your Backyard

DJ MAHEALANI

The lady who spins vinyl spells

I grew up moving a lot all over Texas and I saw a lot of crazy stuff in my family.   I was very shy, so music was my main friend that I could take with me and could always count on.  I began collecting records when I was around 11 years old.  In high school, I helped my boyfriend become a deejay, but he would always pawn his stuff, and I would stay collecting! 

I consistently made mix-tapes for friends and family who were going through things. I even began selling mix-tapes to a restaurant in Maui after I graduated college and moved there to become a children’s advocate at the local women’s shelter.  A mixtape I made got me my first live DJ gig at a house party hosted by Trey Lopez & Tigre Liu (Trey would eventually become known as Manolo Black, as well asfounding member of Peligrosa. Tigre Liu went on to form Afrofreque, Austin’s longest running live hip hop band, and also later became my husband)  

Healing is my biggest influence music-wise, and I look to kids for inspiration! I believe we all deserve to feel good, safe, and feel like we belong. This is what I want when I use my power behind the turntables!

The name Mahealani was given to me in a dream when I lived on the island.  It means the fullest blossoming of the moon, and my Hawaiian girlfriends explained that is traditionally how names are given.  I had the dream about a month before I was raped at a party by someone I knew.  It felt like the name was a gift to help me navigate that difficult healing process.  Because my lifelong relationship with music has ultimately been about healing, it was a no brainer for Mahealani to become my deejay name when I finally got my own turntables.  

It is difficult to pick the best show I ever play.  I feel lucky to have had some epic and at capacity dance party nights at fine Austin spots like the W Austin & the Container Bar. Those nights are fun because I feel I got unsuspecting folks under a vinyl love spell.  But dead nights have surprises too, for example that one time Dave Chapelle came to the Volstead because he and his crew heard (and dug) what i was playing. That was mind blowing to me! He told me he liked my music and I had to tell him to take his drink off my cords!   I have also had the honor of playing records with some of Austin’s best musicians - Brownout, Grupo Fantasma, Riders Against the Storm, Tameca Jones, Sonia Moore, Bobbie Patterson, Hardproof Afrobeat, Afrofreque, and many others - I love being a musician’s deejay because I totally nerd out more on my track selection. 

But two gigs do stand out.  First, when my new mother in law hired me to deejay the family reunion very early on in my deejay career. It was one of my first paid gigsLater I had the same kind oflovely opportunity when I was hired by his Dad’s church (St.James Episcopal) to open for Thelma Houston!  My mother in law’s parent’s owned Club 21 in Dime box, TX back in the day which was a club on the Chitlin Circuit.  My father in law was a quiet storm deejay on KAZI in the 80s and his father taught music at Huston Tillotson, played for LBJ in the White House, and was in Gordon Parks’ movie Leadbelly.  I am in an interracial marriage. To be taken seriously professionally by folks with this kind of musical heritage, and be welcomed like that into my new family was and is extremely special to me.

I am not what folks expect all the time. It takes patience when dudes talk to me like i don’t know what I am doing, but I just set up, play, and that usually works itself out pretty quickly.

Probably my first two mixtapes I made after I bought my own turntables are the ones I'm most proud of:  Girlbrain and Waxing RevelationNina Simone died on my birthday, the same time I bought my turntables. Her spirit and my healing story are strong on those two mixes. LaCholaGuera was inspired by the cholos that gave me that name in high school in South Texas when I used to wear all black and I was some kind of pre-goth-goth kinda kid. I blend and mash up odd couples like Joy Division & Nina Simone, The Smiths and Ying Yang Twins, Aaliyah and SantiGold, Sonic Youth and Outkast, Prince and Jay Dilla, M.I.A. and the Cure.  Once again, there is a healing story that unfolds in the music.