Trusting DJ Universe: A Conversation with Musician...

Trusting DJ Universe: A Conversation with Musician Sol Okarina

Planet4 Concert: Sol Okarina – Friday, August 5th, 10pm @ República Sur, Presidente Cordova 5-55 and Hermano Miguel

DSC00344I met up with Sol Okarina on Wednesday afternoon at a new Colombian empanada restaurant on Calle Larga. I figured it would be the perfect, homey environment, drinking black coffee and eating empanadas with this Venezuelan born, Colombian-raised musician whom I’ve grown to call my friend. But when Sol came in, I sensed immediately she was a bit stressed. The drummer she had been practicing with for her show, Planet4, scheduled for this Friday evening, had just told her that he couldn’t perform with her. If it had been anyone else, they might have seen the drummer’s announcement as a sign to cancel the show. But not Sol.

Music cannot be defined by fear. You have to ask why are we creating? To be rich? Famous? Recognized? We create because we need to.

For the past few months since Sol left Bogotá, Colombia to pursue her dream of sharing her music around the world, she has adopted the roles of marketer, composer, administrator, techie, and, of course, artist for her act. In Colombia, she worked with production and marketing teams while she composed and performed her music. She has released one CD, Sumergible, along with multiple other singles and collaborations, has performed with some of the most famous Colombian musicians, and has a following of tens of thousands on social media. Thankfully, these last few months of 24/7 work were exactly what she needed to prepare for this sudden change of concert plans. For the past few hours before our meeting, she had prepared recordings, talked to her other artist friends, and recommitted to giving the best possible concert she could for her final original performance here in Cuenca. With the drama mostly behind her, she shakes her head, laughs, and tells me,

“It’s just DJ Universe playing that song through us.”

Sol Okarina: Should I cancel the concert? No I couldn’t do that. So it’s like, ok, just do with me what you want.

Kristen Sawyer: DJ Universe sounds kind of like your creative spirit. Is that how you create new songs and material, through DJ Universe?

Sol: Sometimes the song just comes to me, as if I was a child and someone tells me the words and sound. My songs Gaea, Contacto, they were born like this. It’s DJ Universe, just producing through us. Other times, I work with the harmonics and rhythm to get the structure first.

Kristen: When did you start playing music and making songs?

Sol: Since I was a kid, I was always writing and writing and writing, that’s why I’m a big notebook fan. With writing, sometimes it was more prosperous, but other times it was more like a drip, drip, dripping. Sometimes with songs, I begin with lyrics.

Kristen: Is that how it was with Planet 4, your new song that you’re featuring at your concert this Friday?

Sol: Planet4 came to me in its entirety. It was directly inspired by the theme of earth care. In the last few years I’ve been drawn to the ideas of changing the patterns that are not helpful to the planet. I wanted to make a statement. The name is interesting. My instrument is the cuatro, like 4, because it has 4 strings. And planet in Spanish is ‘planeta.’ So I replaced the “a” in ‘planeta’ with a 4, for my instrument. So it’s really like: Planet4.

Sol's cuatro

Sol’s cuatro

Kristen: That is awesome, and I never realized that with the song name. Is Planet4 a typical kind of song for you? How would you describe your style of music?

Sol: Friends and musicologists have called my style urban tropical, or Caribbean alternative. It’s a mix of calypso, cumbia, soca and other types of music. There’s a lot of Caribbean influence because I went to the Caribbean beach a lot as a kid growing up in Venezuela. Our state, Estado Bolivar, was really close to Trinidad and Tobago. There’s a lot of calypso style music there because there are so many influences. In Estado Bolivar, there was a big mine, El Callao, where Africans were forced to come and work, so the music style there has evolved to have lots of different influences.

Kristen: And your instrument is Venezuelan as well?

Sol: Yes, the cuatro is mostly Venezuelan. But I also play piano, guitar, bass, lots of instruments. The cuatro was really my instrument as a child, and then I forgot about it entirely. But when I was working on my album “Sumergible,” the producer told me to bring every toy I could find to the studio, and one of these toys was the cuatro. It had a unique, authentic blend with my voice, and so we discovered something that could be my sound. I’ve been playing like that now for 7 years.

Kristen: So why do you call your instruments toys?

Sol: I call them toys because when I compose, I visualize myself a playground. It’s like my creative inner child that’s being curious. But the adult part is being methodic and disciplined. I approach creation without expectation, like let’s just see what comes up here. Instruments are toys, like a playground for a child, because children live in the here and now. Music cannot be defined by fear. You have to ask why are we creating? To be rich? Famous? Recognized? We create because we need to.

Kristen: Do you have any advice to give to people who are creating their own music or just creating in general?

Sol: You shouldn’t feel afraid of anything. You should try to be able to let the self go and work through your ideas, even if they’re crazy, even if you can’t see the future or how to develop them, just don’t fear.

Kristen: What professional goals to you have for yourself with your music?

Sol: I want to travel the world performing my music, and produce as much as I can in this life. Also, I would like to do different types of collaborations with artists from all over to help me expand the musical language that I’m already using. It’s a huge language.

A friend of mine said that all music has been done already. We have all the tones and scales, so now, we just have to play with it. I want to create with all of these different palettes of colors and sounds.

Kristen: What and who influence you as a musician?

Sol: My roots and ancestors are definitely a part. I feel like I’m rooted in more than one place, and this is both good and bad. Sometimes people want you to identify with one country, nationality, region. I feel myself to be more an inhabitant of…planet4. I belong to both places, Colombia and Venezuela, and especially I belong to this earth.

Kristen: And did you always know you wanted to be a musician?

Sol: I have always known. My parents are also very sensitive to music, but maybe they didn’t have the opportunities to become musicians or find instruments.

I’ve been blessed that I have this opportunity to devote my life to music. It is my biggest, biggest love for the moment. I cannot imagine a different life.

Kristen: Where can people find your music?

Sol: Spotify, Deezer, iTunes, Youtube. Just look up Sol Okarina.

Kristen: And are you named Sol for the sun? Or is that a common name in your family?

Sol: Actually, that’s an interesting story. It’s not a common name. When my mom was pregnant with me, because of the way her belly looked, all of her friends said that it would certainly be a boy. One day she was arranging my future bedroom and there was a mobile in there that my godfather had given her. It was a mobile with a G-clef note on it. And while my mom is arranging the room, she started to hear the mobile moving but there wasn’t any wind. All the windows were closed. And she suddenly realized, as if I was telling her from inside, that she was not pregnant with a boy. She was pregnant with a girl, and her name would be Sol. In Spanish, the G note and scale is called “Sol.”

This Friday, August 5 at República Sur on 5-55 Presidente Cordova and Hermano Miguel at 10 pm, come to see Sol’s last original concert here in Cuenca. She’ll be singing and performing all of her own songs, including her newest song, PLANET4. In just a few short weeks, Sol will be returning to Bogotá, Colombia to continue work in the production studio. After that, she is at the beck and call of DJ Universe, and will boldly go wherever she is guided, spreading her music and her messages with the world.

A writer, teacher, hiker, wonderer and wanderer, Kristen enjoys taking moments to notice the beauty around her, recording and sharing the stories of others, and spreading positive messages around the world.