This week we’re talking to NY-based DJ Belinda Becker about her life as a DJ and the many things that inspire and influence her craft. A soulful Jamaican, Becker is inspired by a myriad of genres of music and has practiced her craft across several continents. Her life as a dancer, actor, and DJ, who once aspired to become a journalist, is one that can inspire many young Jamaican women to pursue both their talents and dreams as a means to a successful and happy life. Belinda can be heard at the world-famous Miss Lily’s restaurant on Wednesdays and at Spur Tree on Fridays.
1. Can you tell us about the first time you heard reggae. What was that experience like?
I was born and spent the first 13 years of my life in Jamaica so I actually don’t remember not hearing reggae music. Both my father and mother were music lovers and I was exposed to a wide range of music at a very young age.
2. When did you decide you wanted to be a DJ? Do you feel that you were born to DJ or did you once have another career goal to which you aspired?
It was after I graduated from the University of Florida and came to New York in the late 80s. I had always listened to and collected music and I kind of fell into the NY nightclub scene and soon started working in one. It was one night when the manager announced that the DJ for the back room had not shown up and wondered if anyone could fill in for him so I volunteered and the rest is history. I have been DJ-ing ever since. Now, I feel as if I am fulfilling my destiny by being in the arts but I graduated from UF with a BA in journalism and had great aspirations to be a writer. But the truth was that I was not a very good writer.
3.What is your daily life like as a DJ?
It varies from day to day. Not only am I a DJ but I am also a mother, a dancer, an actor, and a radio talk show host (The Witching Hours on www.radiolily.com). So my day always starts with me getting my daughter off to school and then it could be having meetings or making playlists for upcoming events, looking for new music, taking a dance class or rehearsing for an upcoming performance, prepping for my talk show and booking guests, working on a show or project with the theater company I belong to — The Brooklyn International Theater Company, and of course playing my weekly residencies at Miss Lily’s on Wednesdays, La Esquina on Thursdays and Spur Tree on Fridays.
4. What’s the hardest thing about being a female DJ?
Getting equal pay for doing the same job as male DJs. There are many female DJs now but very few of us make the kind of money that our male counterparts make.
5. Have you played in other places other than the US? What was that experience like?
Yes, I have played in Paris, Mexico, Japan, Switzerland, Jamaica, Poland, and Italy. They were all wonderful experiences. I was received very warmly by the people and managed to stay in each place long enough to enjoy the culture, food and sights.
6. Who and what are your influences? Why?
In general, good music and good musicians influence me. I have a very wide range and taste in music. I am influenced by rebels, geniuses, boundaries pushers, and social activists so for example: Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Gregory Isaacs, Beres Hammond, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone, Eartha Kitt, Billie Holiday, Mos Def, D’Angelo just to name a few. I like anyone who causes me to think and feel deeply, and that is what I try to convey with my music.
7. Where do you think reggae music will be in ten years?
Going as strong or stronger than it is today. I think because of its depth, rhythms, lyrics, attitude, style, and fashions, it will just keep growing. Of course, there will be more moments of slackness countered by moments of consciousness but overall, it is still the most universal music.
8. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
I think I’d like to either to play the piano fluently (I used to play as a child but stopped in my teen years) or sing. I would always want to stay with something musical. Art, in all its forms, is the link between the ordinary man and the divine.
9. How can people contact you if they’d like to hire you for an event and what’s your next venture?
People can contact my through my email: [email protected]. I have a few things on the horizon, a dance performance in February, some projects with my theater company, and some collaborations with other artists.
10. Thanks for the interview. Do you have any final words? Quote inspiring lyrics from a song that inspires you, for the Jamaican.com audience.
Life is short, live your truth and do what you love.
“Feel it in the one drop;
And we’ll still find time to rap;
We’re makin’ the one stop,
The generation gap;
Now feel this drumbeat
As it beats within,
Playin’ a riddim,
Resisting against the system, ooh-wee!”
— One Drop, Bob Marley