The Boston Globe

Boston Globe

August 4, 1995


Author: Alisa Valdes, Globe Staff

Edition: THIRD
Page: 61

Index Terms:


Estimated printed pages: 4

Article Text:

[CORRECTION - DATE: Saturday, August 5, 1995: CORRECTION: Because of an editing error, two names in an article on Latin DJs in yesterday's Living/Arts section were misspelled. Antonio Ortiz is the founder of the New England Latin Disc Jockey Association. Hugo Perez is a local promoter who organizes Latin dance nights at area clubs.] He may not admit it at first, but Antonio Ortiz has singlehandedly changed the club scene in Boston. When he's told during a lunchtime interview in Back Bay th at he brought Latin dance music to Boston, he moves his fork around his salad bowl, picks at the pizza, sips his Coke, and says, ''Now I don't know about that.''

Push harder, though, and the truth comes out with a grin: "Yeah, I'd say the clubs started getting into Latin music about two years ago."

That's exactly when Ortiz founded the New England Latin Disc Jockeys Association. Since that time, the record pool has grown from Ortiz alone to 43 disc j! ockeys who now monopolize Latin nights at dozens of dance clubs all over Boston and New England. The list of clubs is impressive: Europa, Jukebox, Club Choices, Coco, the Paradise, Studio 88, Noches Colombianos, Lambados, Cornucopia on the Wharf, Club 25 and Vincent's in Randolph.

Hugo Prez, a local promoter who is in charge of Latin nights at Europa and Jukebox, has worked with NELDJA at the clubs since he started. "In my opinion they're the best DJs in Boston. They're changing the way Boston parties by playing different music that everybody likes."

NELDJA also provides the music and videos for the most popular locally produced Spanish-language TV program, Channel 27's dance show "Pachanga Latina." Many of NELDJA's disc jockeys have their own shows on the Boston area's two biggest Spanish-language radio stations, WMEX-AM (1150) and WRCA- AM (1330).

In addition, the DJs work the festival and party circuit, most recently the Puerto Rican Festival in Boston!.

Ortiz may be shy about the power he holds, but he can't deny it. In the NELDJA headquarters on East Dedham Street in the South End, he shows off two framed platinum records hanging on the wall. Last month, Ortiz was given the awards -- one from Kubanay Records and one from Soho Latino -- for boosting New England sales for both the salsa singer India and the merengue group El Cocoband.

In the middle of the room is a row of 43 mailboxes, each of them filled with new CDs, where the DJs pick up their new music. One of the ground rules for NELDJA is that you pick up your music frequently. Waiting more than 10 days, and playing old music at clubs, can get a member expelled.

"When we first started out we were way behind," Ortiz said with a laugh. "We'd go to New York and everybody'd be like, 'Yo, we already heard that three months ago.' But now we've got it together and have the newest music. We got the new Hermanos Rosario [merengue] before anybody."

Ortz looks back at the awards, the fruits of his solitary efforts to contact record companies and establish a name for his group.

"Yeah, that's my pride and joy," Ortiz said, running one finger along the frame. "It was a total surprise, but I'm glad we got it. This job, you know, it may not pay that well, but it's the power that I like." (Ortiz works a day job as a technician at a pharacuetical labs to support his wife and two children.)

In fact, the power NELDJA has in the New England Latin music market is phenomenal. Unlike cities such as New York, where there are several Latin record pools competing for the same gigs, in Boston there is only NELDJA. Considering that Massachusetts has one of the fastest-growing Latino populations in the United States, the market for Latin music here is huge. What songs NELDJA disc jockeys decide to play at their clubs, on their radio shows and on television can make or break an artist here.

"In New York, you have the people who like ! bachata [a Dominican music] going to one club and the people who like salsa [Cuban, Puerto Rican] going to another and the people who like merengue [Dominican] or the people who like cumbia [Colombian] going to another. If you go there and mix it up they'll throw you right out on the street," Ortiz said.

On a recent night, as Ortiz spun CDs and music videos shown on "Pachanga Latina" at the Officers Club in Saugus, his group's power was evident. Promoters from New York and Los Angeles and Miami swarmed the DJ booth, waving their handout CDs and posters.

"I don't take stuff from them anymore," Ortiz explained. "Not on the job. They expect you to play it, and you can't take the risk of clearing the floor with a bad song."

All of Ortiz's DJs keep careful watch on what is working in the clubs and what is not. They submit a Top 10 playlist to the record companies whose songs are successful, making themselves part of the industry. NELDJA also compiles a local ! Top 20 playlist for El Mundo, one of Boston's Spanish-language newspapers.

Eddie Q. Matthew is the CEO of the New England Disc Jockeys Association. Ortiz used to work for him as an English DJ.

Matthew, who has a sharp eye for the music market, asked Ortiz if he thought a Latin wing of NEDJA would work. Ortiz said yes, and Matthew asked him to be the president of NELDJA.

"The Latin music scene is growing like wildfire," Matthew said. "When Antonio first started out I was like, 'Go ahead and give it a shot.' I had no idea it would do what it has done."

What it has done is surpass its parent company. Though NEDJA has 60 disc jockeys, the Latin wing's 43 DJs work at more clubs locally.

"I've got a lot of great guys working for me," Ortiz said. "Sometimes it's tough to read a crowd. But most of the time this is just a lot of fun."

GLOBE PHOTO/BETHANY VERSOY / DJs (clockwise from left) Richard Torres, Antonio Ortiz, Luis Medina and Alex Zelaya.PHOTO


Copyright 1995, 1998 Globe Newspaper Company
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