Djoy de Cuba 
DJ and producer

Joyvan Guevara Diaz, a.k.a. DJoy de Cuba, displays none of the disdainful coolness that would seem to come with his lofty status as one of the best-known DJs in Havana and a pioneer of the Cuba's underground rave movement. He is somebody who loves what he does and loves sharing what he does with the public.

Joyvan always wanted to do something with music but he couldn't sing or play an instrument, so he went to art school. But he dropped out before graduating: he couldn't deal with the thesis. Joyvan's first regular paid gigs as a DJ took place on Sunday afternoons at the Atelier on Calle 17 Havana's Vedado district. He was selling clothes for a living, having been kicked out of art school. The deal was he would play rock and roll and alternative rock, but he listened to a lot of music —Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, Laurent Garnier mixes, Josh Wink, industrial rock, Marilyn Manson, Björk, techno —and he would slip any of that in, too, sliding the crowd into the same eclectic mix he embraced at home.

"That's how I formed a culture of electronic music here," Joyvan says. "I changed a public. And I changed too, with that public, because I was just starting out. In the beginning I was doing this DJ thing just as a hobby. But then it became my work, something that I felt responsible about. So now that's what I am. Pure DJ."

A scene developed. Joyvan moved, and his public moved too, from one club to another. "Something was changing," Joyvan observes. "[Before] the DJ was just a place. 'You're the DJ where?' 'I'm the DJ at the Comodoro, I'm the DJ of the Macumba'. It used to be that the public would come for the club. The DJ could change and they would still go to the club just the same. And this is why I called myself DJoy de Cuba—because the DJ isn't just a club. So in this more alternative culture that was beginning, people began to see the DJ as an artist. They came for the DJ."

A group of German travellers — DJ Hell, DJ Tanith, Hagen were among them —left him some music, some equipment, and their memories of the Love Parade in Germany.

Joyvan and a friend decided to start up their own, Cuban electronic festival: Rotilla, named for the beach where they decided to gather near Santa Cruz del Norte, on the coastal road heading east out of Havana. "A friend of mine knew someone who lived there," Joyvan shrugs. "We figured there was electricity, there was a nice beach. We brought one black light, a strobe and one speaker."

That first event gathered about 150 people for three days. "It was primitive," says Joyvan. "But the energy was enormous." Today the Rotilla festival has moved to another, far larger space, Jibacoa, and requires a massive campsite, with 20,000 ravers and serious equipment. "It's grown a lot, and so I guess that means we're doing good cultural work," Joyvan says.

"Commercial electronic music, —commercial house music—, doesn't interest us at all. This is purer, more underground. I feel like I'm not a fashion DJ, I'm an education DJ. I like teaching people, I don't do it because the music is cool right now like in a lot of other countries, where it's like a fashion. Here in Cuba it's a little more cultural, it's not so much about consumption."

Still, it's not easy to conceive of Cuba as a country of electronic music. This is an island of salsa, reggaeton, merengue, the Buena Vista Social Club.

"Thank God, we have a very good musical culture, with strong references," observes Joyvan. "We have the influence of German, French and English music, and of Detroit. We have a musical culture, a dance culture, and a culture of parties and fiesta." He continues, "I make music with Arabic notes, African notes, notes from every kind of music that I've heard. And that's what I advise every DJ: even if he's working with electronic music, he needs to listen to every type of music, from indigenous music to pop, with taste of course, with discernment. I love music, totally, and I think you need to listen to the music of the whole world. "