Photo by Stefan Armijo.
"We can use house music to heal Oakland," said Olga Texidor, also known as DJ Olga T, in her backyard studio with her loyal companion, Anya the laid-back pit bull, beside her.
With songs ranging from trance to tribal styles being transferred from physical vinyl to Serato's newly digitalized time-coded vinyl, house music has been configured and transformed many times since Olga started spinning in 1996.
And despite the change of equipment from vinyl and tape-deck to MacBook and digitalized vinyl turn-tables, for Olga, house music is essentially love.
House is at its most basic level faster beats per minute dance music. This loose definition has allowed it to encompass many different genres, from electronic, techno, progressive, deep and garage to some of Olga's favorite styles: classic, soulful, Latin and tribal house.
"They just fall in love right away," Olga said. "It's a bit slower, it's got real deep, real beautiful chords, nice, solid bass lines, rhythmic bass lines. And it's not overproduced. And it's almost always about love."
The style of house music she is referring to is what Olga describes as "soulful house," where organic texture trumps over-compressed sound bytes and old school sound dominates top 40 hits.
"You know there's other good music, and I want to have an opportunity to expose people to this other music ... that has always been my quest," Olga said. "However, as you actually get into DJing and you get paid to DJ at a club, you'll quickly find that you can't play whatever you want."
Maintaining a sense of musical integrity while keeping her crowd dancing is the dilemma of DJ Olga T's career.
"I try not to sacrifice my musical integrity, but at the same time, what makes me continue to have more gigs is to please the crowd," Olga explained. "My name gets out there, 'Hey that was a great night, that was a great DJ.'"
Machelle Brown, a club goer, entrepreneur, househead and longtime friend of Olga's said that she has observed the struggle DJs face between playing the music they want to hear in syndication, and pleasing their crowd.
"It's very difficult for a DJ to really play what they want and comply with the crowd at the same time, and I think all DJs run into that constantly," Brown said. "There's going to be songs that the DJ doesn't like but they have to play it. It's not something that they are really feeling but they're going to do it anyway."
Oftentimes, the nights that move the crowd to dance do not coincide with Olga's favorite sets because the audience at the clubs she plays generally don't like listening to house.
"It seems to me, in my experience, and specifically lesbians, but also gay men, are really into R&B and hip-hop," Olga said.
Olga only plays music in the queer community and has been reluctant to play music at straight clubs because she has difficulty connecting with the crowd. She said she has been negatively profiled by her appearance when playing straight gigs.
"The times I have done straight gigs, I haven't been able to connect with the crowd, because they're kind of trying to figure out what I am, which sucks," Olga said, adding "I must be projecting the fear, not like scared of them, scared of them, but kind of the uncomfortable feeling of I don't really know you guys, and you don't really know me, and so that's been my experience."
Olga said she is more comfortable playing in the queer community because it allows her to focus more readily on the music, rather than potential sideways glances or airs of judgment from the audience or producers.
"It's just more comfortable, I don't have to worry about anything, I can just concentrate on playing," Olga said, adding as an afterthought, "but I am limiting myself and I need to stop. I need to get out there, and I am going to get out there."
When Olga is able to play sets devoted to soulful house music with an audience of kindred music lovers, demographics and politics stop mattering.
"But when it comes to house music, it doesn't matter, with house music I feel pretty comfortable playing for whoever is out there, regardless."
Brown said that Olga's love for house music is something that translates readily to her crowd.
"Any DJ can spin anything, but I see a greater love that she has for house music overall, that's her signature," Brown said.
Olga said she hopes to start up a party devoted solely to house music again soon and have a lineup of solely female house DJs as her feature.
"Wouldn't it be cool to have everyone here and then you get the experience of house from a woman's perspective?" Olga said. "And that's kind of the draw. Not the theme, the theme is definitely house and love."
As of right now, Olga is busy with a lot of gigs on both sides of the Bay.
In San Francisco, Olga spins at MANGO, an event that happens monthly on every fourth Saturday at Mission and Precita Streets. MANGO's facebook page gave Olga a special shout out after a successful July party.
At home in Oakland, Olga has a lot of gigs to keep her busy. On the first Sunday of every month Olga spins at WETbar, a monthly party that is held at the Bench and Bar on 17 street in Oakland. This month, WETbar is teaming up with the Femme Collective to raise funds for the upcoming Femme Conference, happening in Oakland next month.
Good Times is a weekly party Olga spins that welcomes queer women and friends. It is held each Wednesday at the Den on 19 and Telegraph, in Oakland.
August marks the first time Olga will be spinning at Hella Gay, Oakland's popular party that caters to music lovers of all race, sex and sexual orientation. Learn more about Hella Gay from Oakland Local's article on the monthly party.
Olga said she hopes that people will be open to experiencing music outside the formulaic hits on the radio. She has noticed that crowds will really only dance to music they know the words to, something with a recognizable beat that is catchy, accessible and popular.
With soulful house music, the song is usually unknown to the crowd.
"It's a surprise, it's a journey and you trust your DJ to take you there, and the DJ feeds off the crowd, so there's this beautiful exchange of energy, and excitement, and trust," Olga said. "That happens, and I think that's what makes the house music experience so powerful, it feels spiritual."
The people of Oakland don't always want house music, but there is a movement starting. Listeners are starting to take notice and fall in love with the consciousness and positivity that is steeped in Olga's soulful house.
"I think Oakland is just, you know we have a bad rap, and I think it's time to stop focusing on the negativity so much, and focus on the positive," Olga said. "House music is a positive thing."
Catch DJ Olga T in Oakland and San Francisco events throughout the month and prepare for a journey unmatched in soulful sonic wonder.