Interview: David Chavez, Sound Culture

As we approach the fifth anniversary of Chicago’s center for global arts, Sound Culture, we ask creator David Chavez about the company’s consistent mission and futuristic musical vision. Curating with a global state of mind, events are prone to spiritual enlightenment through aural pulsations that cause non-stop dancing. In celebration, Quebec’s Boogat headlines an eclectic line-up of notable artists including New York City’s Geko Jones and Chief Boima plus locals LVDP and Esso Afrojam Funkbeat. Selecting tunes will be the city’s top música collectives Soulphonetics, FEX and Las Selectas. The event happens this Saturday, May 3 at Subterranean (both floors).Tickets.

sound culture flyer

We last reported on Chavez in 2012 when we interviewed him for Extra Newspaper. He was on the verge, and in charge of, putting together a continuous flow of international music performances all over the city. As his productions expand, we now ask him about changes in the industry and his formula for successful event planning.

“I started Sound Culture just as the recession was taking hold in 2009. The economy was busted. People were broke. I had to learn very quickly how to leverage my resources and operate on very little. While that’s kept me ‘in business,’ I think overall what’s kept me going is a deep passion for world cultures and good music. While I tend to lean heavy on Afro Latin music in general, both traditional and electronic, I’m also a fan of Balkan, Bhangra, various African plus Nu Jazz and Broken Beat. And… I will always be a house head,” explains Chavez.

What has kept your intentions relevant and so exciting?

As a DJ and tastemaker I’m always exploring and digging for fresh and interesting music. I think that’s reflected in the artists I present, the shows I produce and what we spin. We’ve played a key role in helping develop the emerging global bass and tropical electronic scene. That’s what’s been exciting me lately.

His followers and fervent fans favor a variety of international acts such as Lido Pimienta (Canada) and Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba (Mali) who were joined in Chicago by Sidi Toure, to Federico Abuele (Argentina) and Noura Mint Seymali (Mauritania). His dance-friendly outdoor festivals are also frequented by world music aficionados.

Where do you search for your music as a DJ and as an event organizer?

These days so much has gone digital, both the music and the media outlets that it’s made it more accessible for people to talk and learn about music. It’s also opened up more opportunities for artists to put their music out to the world. The digital divide is narrowing and we’re seeing the democratization of global communication. (Although, there are places in the world not so far from us where that accessibility and inter-connectivity is being challenged and repressed.) I still read print music magazines and blogs and I listen to podcasts by other music taste-makers around the world. I like to travel as much as I can to world music festivals and I like to hear back from friends and colleagues in the industry on what they’ve discovered, too.

How does one maintain relationships with so many music and art communities in the city?

I enjoy working and collaborating with people, especially around shared musical interests. Working with other crews, cultural organizations and consulates offices do tend to be artists specific. Maintaining mutually beneficial and equitable partnerships across the board can sometimes be hard work, but it’s also very rewarding. At the end of the day, I do my best to ensure that every partnership I engage with is positively preserved.

As a purveyor of culture through sound, what sound(s) defines Chicago?

Chicago is more important than people realize in terms of music. Jazz and blues matured here in Chicago. Rock and roll evolved from our electric blues. There’s no other improvised scene like ours. Artists that have come out of our AACM are some of the most highly regarded musicians in the world.
Soul and R&B was televised here through Soul Train. We were the polka capital of the US. The first country music radio show was broadcast nationally from Chicago beating Nashville by years. Our symphony orchestra is one of the best in the world and our contemporary classical scene the most dynamic. The Duranguense craze came out of Chicago. House music, drill and footwork were born here and Chicago has transformed dance music internationally.

Furthermore, we continue to innovate. To say that Chicago has played a significant role in American music is undoubtedly the biggest understatement in the music industry. For me, it has been the epicenter of creative music historically.

This weekend, Sound Culture and CIMM Fest will take over both floors of Subterranean for the celebration of their fifth anniversary as well as International Workers Day. For all their event updates – and it’s a must with summer right around the corner – make sure to sign up for their mailing list. Tickets for this weekend’s concert are still available but going fast.