DJ Karaba


DJ Karaba remembers driving through France’s southern region listening to Motown in a camping car with her parents. Listing off names like a musical-must syllabus, Karaba says The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Earth, Wind and Fire, and, of course, Barry White soundtracked her childhood. Born to a Congolese father and a French-Italian mother, Karaba also listened to the music specific to her cultural and regional homes, such as French rap and Congolese artists such as Koffi Olomide, Awilo Longomba, Papa Wemba and Passi .

Music and (literal) movement have defined Karaba’s entire life. Karaba was born in Grenoble, France and, at the age of seven, moved to Montreal. As a child, Karaba was enrolled in dance, which would become the next key step in her artistic journey, and her first love. Self-described as an immigrant all her life, Karaba relocated to key musical markets to pursue dance, like New York when she was 20 years old, and then Los Angeles in 2014.

While she was in Los Angeles, Karaba danced for some of pop music’s heaviest hitters such as Drake, Camila Cabello, and Selena Gomez, as well as appearing in numerous music videos and award shows. When a major tour was cancelled in 2016, Karaba felt helpless about the next step of her career. She then found her way to DJing and music production, a thought that had been bubbling up in the back of her mind for some time. Enrolling in the DJ Scratch Academy in L.A., Karaba says she found a renewed artistic purpose.

“Being able to control the music with my fingers was the closest I ever felt to music. The feeling was just out of this world.”

The foundations of a life defined by pop music, afro house, afro beats, and the ways in which a body can move to those sounds, is so deeply imbued into the mixes she puts together, making them like a complex puzzle. In 2019, just before the world went sideways with the pandemic, Karaba decided to pursue DJing full-time. Karaba spends hours on her mixes, “looking at tracks that I like or that I think will fit well together,” she says. “When I build a mix, not only does it need to tell a story, but it also needs to blend very well. The main message in the music I play, or produce is celebration. Coming from this dance background, the music has to move people the way it moves me.” One of her all-time favourite mixes is “Ah ça c’est Karaba,” which is also her slogan as a DJ. She still listens to this mix daily.

Her attentiveness to using the rich sounds from African countries comes from one her first few times DJing. While playing a house track, Karaba uncovered all the ways in which music from Africa was being incorporated into these works. “The more research I did, the more I saw that there were DJs playing music from my country, and this is where everything changed for me. I discovered music from the whole continent of Africa and knew I found my niche, my purpose as a musician: To share with people the music from my own people, my own country,” she says.

Karaba hopes that, with such dedication to learning about and incorporating music from countries in Africa, her audience will be more curious about the variety and depth of music from all over the continent. “Now, everything is kind of served on a plate, and it’s really your job, as a music listener, to do more research and know what style comes from which country,” she says, “A lot of the sound that is coming to the Western world is very much influenced by Africa, and so the artists behind it are deserving of a space to be seen and heard.”

DJ Karaba is currently working on her own project, an EP that will combine her love of creation and movement for music lovers, and her desire to master production. She’s working with Young Galaxy’s Stephen Ramsay, whom she cites as a key mentor and collaborator during this process. Nearly two years into doing this full-time, Karaba says this project is one of the most personally fulfilling things she has ever done.

DJ Karaba’s music is electric and spicy. There is no moment of pause or slow down. Her intensity, her wish to see people dance and feel the music the way she feels it, is aspirational, all-consuming. There is unmitigated joy to such devotion to sound, and in being enveloped by one’s passion.

“I’m very intense and it’s reflected in everything I do, especially music,” Karaba says enthusiastically. “My goal being on this earth is to inspire people, especially young black girls, that you can literally do whatever you put your mind into. I’ve come from barely anything, but I have an artistic soul that guided me to where I am today.”




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