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Maracuyeah: Opening Doors for Latin Music in D.C.

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DJ duo Maracuyeah knows how to throw a party. Or, perhaps better yet, Maracuyeah is the party.

Maria Escobar and Kristy Chavez, who spin under the names DJ Mafe and DJ Rat respectively, have been playing the D.C. club scene together as Maracuyeah for the past two years, bringing to the floor a unique mix of Spanish rock and dance music, with the added flair of global beats and electro-styled funk, spiced by rumba, cumbia, reggaeton, and more.

Escobar calls a Maracuyeah set not just a dance party but a community, one seeking to create a truly interactive environment that’s built upon both traditional electronic sounds as well as the artistic traditions of South American and Caribbean culture. “I think that, often,  in club settings, the different traditions are lost,” Chavez says. The Maracuyeah party has become an opportunity for active interaction with the culture and sound, Chavez adds, “even if you don’t know the music, you start interacting with it.” And interact, they do—dance circles and crowd members bringing their own instruments aren’t uncommon features of the average Maracuyeah party. “For us, music is about sounds, space and community,” Chavez explains. “We conceive of DJ’ing as something that can be really participatory and fun.”

The duo’s own roots are as diverse as the records they spin. Escobar, who is Colombian, has been DJ’ing in different forums for more than a decade. She got her start at Florida State University, DJ’ing and hosting Spanish rock and alternative nights, before coming to D.C. Chavez, who is Peruvian but grew up in Virginia, was involved in the D.C. punk and hip-hop scene as a teenager before becoming engrossed in indie music and global beats. It was after spending time in Peru that Chavez’s musical avenues widened and she really began to delve into the sounds she plays today.

“My time in Peru was a motivation to change what we were hearing locally,” says Chavez. Escobar and Chavez were introduced to each other by a mutual friend and really clicked on their shared passion for music, and so Maracuyeah—which takes its name from maracuya, the Spanish word for passion fruit—was born. While both were interested in the rock in Spanish scene, which was born in the 90’s of first and second generation Latin American immigrants and the punk- and metal-tinged music they brought to D.C., the duo was also craving different, newer sounds.

With Maracuyeah, they sought to “create something that reflects us” as a new generation of immigrants, a generation that grew up listening to punk and hip-hop alongside the traditional stuff. “It’s not straight up Latin, it’s not straight up American, but it’s a mix of things. It’s not what people might expect.”

“There are so many artists coming with really interesting sounds,” artists who play far outside the conventions of straight-up rock, Escobar observes. For Chavez, the Maracuyeah experience reminds her of the spirit and irreverence of punk rock and she wanted to find a way to tap into these indie artists. So, in an effort to showcase this new music, aside from spinning, Maracuyeah has also made a name for itself by working to book these innovators, DJ’s and live acts alike, who play outside of borders and boundaries, many of whom hail from places like Brazil and Uruguay, and who might never have hit the D.C. scene otherwise.

As Maracuyeah has evolved, they have connected with similarly influenced scenes and parties throughout the United States. The DJs are extremely proud of having been going strong for two years and the enthusiastic following and fans they have gathered along the way. People’s reaction to that first Maracuyeah party “told us that there were so many people who were really thirsting for this,” Chavez says, which helped drive them forward. “We’ve gotten a reaction from lots of different folks, more than I would have expected. What we’re doing strikes a chord with people and that’s really exciting to hear.”

Esobar and Chavez continue to plan more parties and will be supporting fellow DJs and artists throughout the D.C. area but will also be hitting the road to do more DJ spots. Beyond that, the release of a mixtape is planned for later this year. And you can expect them to continue their important work of brining unique and talented artists from around the world to the attention of the good people of the capital.