Sound Source: DJ Melia Agudelo on mixing music and making people dance

Susanna Kemp

MELIA AGUDELO: I wouldn’t be at Northwestern if I hadn’t joined Streebeat. Finding a weird, unique, little niche part of the campus community where you can just play music and have a good, nice time and there’s a lot less pressure was something that I was really lucky to find freshman year, and I know that’s the sentiment of a lot of people on WNUR. 

SUSANNA KEMP: From the Daily Northwestern, I’m Susanna Kemp, and you’re listening to Sound Source. This episode features Melia Agudelo, a producer for Northwestern radio station WNUR’s show Streetbeat. Before we really start though, I have a small aside. Melia’s wearing a really cool earring right now that I think you should know about. It’s a German Sweeping Lady.

MELIA AGUDELO: My friend got me these while we were at a vintage shop in Portland where my family lives. I have another one, but I’m just wearing one. And it’s a little lady who has a broom, and she’s sweeping. 

SUSANNA KEMP: I love that. 

MELIA AGUDELO: Yeah, it’s a really crazy find.

SUSANNA KEMP: Okay, so now you that you know about Melia’s earring that I’m just a little obsessed with, let’s talk Streetbeat. Usually Melia co-DJs with the show’s music director Amanda Gordon, but Amanda’s in New York this quarter, so Melia’s DJing on her own. The two have been on air all four years of their time at Northwestern, but Streetbeat has been around for much longer.

MELIA AGUDELO: We focus on playing electronic, dance, hip-hop music that has been underrepresented in the music radio world, and we started in the 80s when house music was starting to become popular. House comes from the dissolution of disco at the end of the 70s and into the 80s with new synthesizer equipment coming into play. And house comes from Chicago, so we were one of the first radio stations and shows to play house music. On Streetbeat you learn how to DJ using actual DJ equipment. 

SUSANNA KEMP: If you’re a night owl and listen to Streetbeat during its 10 p.m to 3 a.m. block, you’ll know Melia better by another name. 

MELIA AGUDELO: My Streetbeat DJ name is La Gringa. I’m Colombian, but my family has called me a gringa my whole life. In Latin America, if you’re a white person who’s not from Latin America, you’re referred to as a gringo. But my family has called me gringa, because I didn’t grow up in Colombia. They meant it affectionately, but it always made me feel really crazy and uncomfortable. I thought it’d be kind of funny to reappropriate the name. 

MELIA AGUDELO: The music I play is so all over the place, which is why I think it’s unique. I love techno, but I also love baile funk from Brazil, or I really like grime from the UK. I mix all the genres together every night. And Amanda and I are both on the same page about that. We started out staying to like one or two genres. We really liked UK garage and we would play that all the time. But then we realized we had such a wide variety of tastes that we could just incorporate it all.

SUSANNA KEMP: Do you remember the first time you played something on air? 

MELIA AGUDELO: I was so scared and I barely did anything. I just made sure that the beats matched and I brought it in really slowly, and everybody said I did a good job. I remember being so anxious and then once it was done, I just walked away. I was like I’m not doing this again for two days. It was so stressful. There were times when I didn’t want to go at 11 p.m. and apprentice. Either I was stressed about school or I was intimidated by a lot of the people there just because they had experience, but Amanda and I became very close freshman year. I think the potential of making friends is what keeps you coming back, even if you’re not sure you want to follow through with the actual DJing part. Everybody there’s interested in exploring new music and I think that in itself is something that really drew me to Streetbeat and WNUR, and to keep coming back even if it was hard. Streetbeat really taught me to explore and look for artists that maybe no one else is listening to but deserve a platform. Your perceptions of music can really change when you go through something like college Streetbeat.

SUSANNA KEMP: Melia remembers one presentation that a student on Streetbeat gave her freshman year. 

MELIA AGUDELO: I knew about reggaetón, but he gave a presentation that was the history of reggaetón and what is happening now in reggaetón. I discovered all this new stuff that was based on a genre that I grew up listening to. I think that connection really drew me into the genre, but I realized how experimental and different it had become today. Everyone knows a Shakira song or two so everybody could relate to their presentation, but it was really cool to see weird, creepy new vibes of the genre. 

SUSANNA KEMP: What is so special about DJing? 

MELIA AGUDELO: While I obviously love every artist who produces their own music and that’s their world, I think DJing is fun because even if you do produce songs, you’re still respecting work of other artists, and you’re able to put together and curate a sound that you think is so cool based on other artists’ work. Then also able to provide it to a crowd of people who usually just want to dance. That’s the goal. You want people to move. You want people to enjoy. That’s all I ever want to do is dance. Once we played in this basement and it started off with  three people that were our best friends just dancing in the basement—nobody around—and by the end of the 30-minute set, 45-minute set, it was so crowded you couldn’t see anyone, and it was just insanely packed. And we played our favorite Charli XCX song at the end, and it was long enough that we had enough time to dance in the crowd to it. It was amazing to have such a crowd of people and then be able to dance so the song you played at the end. I’ll never forget that feeling.

SUSANNA KEMP: Thanks for listening. Stay tuned for our next episode on Monday, February 17, featuring the student band The Altars. This episode was reported and produced by me, Susanna Kemp. It was edited by Kalen Luciano and Heena Srivastava. The editor in chief of The Daily Northwestern is Troy Closson.

MELIA AGUDELO: This has been Ay Mami hour. I’m La Gringa. Have a good night everyone.

Email: [email protected]

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