DJ Ambrose (Amber) “Afrodeshiak” Johnson is featured in this edition of DJ Spotlight! Amber is from Nashville, but currently lives in Baltimore and is one of the leading Kizomba DJs on the latin dance scene. She was was nominated by Jessica “DJ Tay” Taylor. Jessica said, “Amber has been killing the Kizomba game for awhile despite how hard it can be for female DJs to gain visibility. She is super active and also works to uplift other female DJs.” Check out some fun facts and information on DJ Afrodeshiak including how she got her DJ name and her favorite moment in her DJ career thus far.
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When did you first get into DJ’ing and what inspired you to enter the profession?
Oh, man. I could drop some names with this story but I’ll keep in simple. Like many things in my life, this started from a Facebook group chat. Me and some friends wanted to bring a TOP lady kizomba teacher from EU, but an organizer on the west coast said he did not want to because she was “old”. He said he would rather bring Sara Lopez because she was young, hot, and had a nice booty. We were upset and decided to do an all lady kizomba event. Well, we searched the whole world and could not find a lady kizomba DJ. So I said I would learn. I had one year to get to the point where others would want to dance to my music (laughs). I did the event, and it was a success!
How did you get the name DJ Afrodeshiak?
My DJ name! I usually have an Afro and when people see my hair they get excited. An aphrodisiac is something that gets people “excited” so that’s where my name came from. My Afro gets people excited (laughs). That’s why I’m DJ Afrodeshiak!
What’s been your favorite moment and/or event in your DJ career? Why?
I would have to say it was the 2019 One Kiz Festival. I did a really experimental set of American music. I was unsure of how it was gonna go, but a lot of people liked it and still talk about it to the day. It was 5:30 in the morning and I played the nastiest, most freaky songs I had (laughs). What can I say…dancers like to be in the mood.
How do you balance the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires and feedback of the dancers?
Hmmm. This is a good question. The two are often not aligned. I think I have a formula. I try to play 3 popular songs for every “new” or “experimental” song that I want to play. That way the dancers can have what they want while I can still try to introduce new things and ideas to them. I have to say though I mostly just do what the dancers want.
What recommendations would you have for those who want to be a professional DJ?
Am I a professional? (laughs). I still think of this as a hobby that blew up. But, if someone wants to be a professional, I recommend they get a nice computer with lots of memory, at least 8gb, preferably 16. A solid state 1TB hard drive. Then, start collecting music. Listen to music constantly. It should take up all your free time the first few years. Listen to other DJs. Buy some equipment and start training and practicing. Also, play for free at your local scene for a year or two; don’t go out and try to get booked after 6 months. You are gonna make a lot of mistakes and better to make them in front of people who support and love you then a crowd of 600 at an event who don’t know you and are comparing you to DJ Soltrix! (laughs).
I read an amusing interaction you shared on Facebook between yourself and a potential promoter who wanted to compensate you with exposure instead of money. (Post here.) As an artist, why is it important for DJs to be compensated appropriately for gigs?
It is important to compensate DJs because we put in a lot of time into making everyone have a great time. A two hour set can take three hours of prep work. If we have a great set, it’s because we put hours and hours into it. With that being said, if you are a new DJ you don’t have to be compensated with money, but at the minimum flight and accommodations should be taken care of.
What are some of the main challenges of being a black woman in the DJ scene? How do you overcome these challenges?
Being a black woman…I don’t think it’s a challenge. I think it is an asset! The kizomba scene is majority black women. Many of the big event organizers are black women (One Kiz, Afro Summer, Sawa Sawa, Gindungo, MBKF). I play for black women. Black women are my biggest supporters. Black women bought me my first DJ controller when I was broke and wanted to start. Black women gave me my first DJ gigs, the forced me to play for people when I thought I was not good enough, and they hyped me up and gave me confidence in the group chat. So I choose to use this as my biggest advantage. The only “challenge” if there was one, was other DJs underestimating me, but this is not an issue anymore. This is all here in America. Maybe if I was in EU I would think differently.
What techniques do you use to keep dancers engaged and energized?
I try to read the crowd. Before my set I’ll walk around and ask dancers how they think the party is going and what music they want to hear they they haven’t heard. Especially if there are other DJs in the crowd.
Where can we find your mixes?