Wichy de Vedado

Warning: What you're about to read may cause serious damage to the reputation of Wichy de Vedado, who is one of the best young DJ-producers working in Havana. A DJ-producer's reputation is a precious commodity, so please keep what you're about to read to yourself and don't repeat it to anyone who is likely to hear Wichy mixing in nightclubs or at parties.

OK, here goes: Wichy de Vedado is a really nice guy. Yes, you expect him to be dangerous or obsessive or at least to have a giant ego, but he isn't and he doesn't. Wichy is friendly and open-minded and, yes, he's modest when it comes to his mixing skills and to the success he has achieved because of them.

Do you see why such information should never be shared? If people knew what Wichy was like they would no longer be content to admire him from a polite distance. They would rush into the DJ booth and attempt to shake his record-spinning hand. Instead of dancing and looking aloof they'd slap him on his back and tell him how much they enjoy his music. And his reputation as one of the sub-zero-cool pillars of Havana's underground electronic music scene would be damaged beyond repair. And his records might skip.

Wichy de Vedado lives and works in a nice flat in a nice part of Havana's Vedado district. "I used to live on my own but I came back to live here with my mother," Wichy says, smiling warmly. (When's the last time you met a DJ who smiles warmly?) In his room there's a ceiling fan, a Behringer Pro Mixer, two Pioneer CDJ-100s CD decks, an HP laptop computer, and a Technics turntable with a Michael Jackson record on it.

Wichy listened to Michael Jackson and a lot of American pop as a kid. Then he discovered grunge — Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam —and Marilyn Manson. In 1998-99 he started going to clubs, listening to Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers. He became especially fond of Sunday afternoons in the a club called Atelier "where they played a lot of industrial rock." By 2000 he was working Thursday afternoons at Atelier, spinning CDs on a pair of Sony Discmans, for 10 Cuban pesos a day.

"A group of German DJ-producers came through town," Wichy recalls. "They were playing at someone's party, and they brought a lot of electronic music with them, acid house, very different. I got interested. They left some tapes and I started trying to make the same kinds of sounds." Wichy started making the rounds of Havana dance clubs with his home-made electronic loops. "I told them, `Here, put this on, see how people react,' and little by little I ended up in this world."

Around the same time he turned to film, applying his electronic and experimental music to soundtracks for short features. One of the directors he was working with gave him his stage name. "He said, `You live in Vedado, you need a stage name, so you should be Wichy de Vedado.' I didn't really like it, it sounded ugly, but he kept using it in the credits for the films I worked on, so I thought, fine, I'll keep it."

Around 2001 Wichy started doing more live-mixing and wound up touring around Cuba, sometimes with other musicians joining him onstage. "The problem in Cuba is that DJ culture is still very underground. What we do was always misunderstood by record labels, so everything we've done we had to do ourselves. In the beginning we were like a family, about 200 of us making and listening to this music. Now we are 5,000 or 6,000, and DJ-producers are becoming better known as artists, making and performing their own music."

Wichy is in contact with DJs from around the world and they exchange various kinds of music with each other. Lately he has been working with jazz pianist Tony Rodriguez, performing together as "D'Jazz". Wichy says he likes going to concerts and listening to other musicians in Havana. "I like rap," he says, "and certain aspects of Cuban salsa interest me." The interest is mutual, judging from a recent interview with Danay Suarez Fernandez, one of Cuba's hottest singers, who said Wichy is at the top of her list of producers she'd like to work with.

"I have a very nice rapport with all types of musicians," Wichy says. We don't doubt it for a minute.