I met Sutiweyu Sandoval around five years ago. At that point, I knew of him as a breakdancer, but at the point we met he was attempting to transfer his energies into the world of DJ culture and music production. He'd taken an interest in my globally themed dance parties and would show up at all my gigs and ply me with dozens of questions. I appreciated his interest. In turn I tried to support his entry into the Indianapolis DJ scene, throwing a few gigs his way.
But he didn't need my help. His Latin-tinged b-boy dance tracks produced under the nom de plume K. Sabroso quickly developed an international fan base. Sandoval has spent the last few years bouncing around the globe spinning b-boy battles and dance parties while racking up an impressive list of releases on a wide variety of labels, including Indy's own Rad Summer.
I recently met with Sandoval quite by accident. We were both booked to spin for Cumbia Sazo a monthly electronic Latin music party at Chicago's Double Door. I caught up with Sandoval between sets and invited him to select a few tracks to spin on my Cultural Manifesto radio show. Check out his comments on the songs below and hear the tunes this Wednesday night at 9 on 90.1 WFYI Public Radio.
NUVO: You haven't been spending too much time in Indy lately. Remind folks what type of music you produce and play under your K. Sabroso name.
Sutiweyu Sandoval: I guess what I'm known for is creating music for and spinning for b-boys and breakers. But one of the things I take the most enjoyment from is finding a type of Caribbean or tropical sound and reworking that into something that works for contemporary dance floors. So I may take a soca track and rework it into moombahton, or I may take a mambo and turn it into drum and bass. There's no formula for it. Sometimes I just hear the potential in something that I already think is amazing, but I feel like if I update it or rework it the 17- year-olds will be like, "Mambo is crazy!"
NUVO: When we met you were an Eastsider like me. Now you're bouncing all over the planet. I know you've spent some time in Latin America and you were based in Brooklyn for a while. Why did you feel that you needed to leave Indy?
Sandoval: To be honest outside of your Cultural Cannibals parties there's no place in Indianapolis that the sound I was striving toward made sense. It's not like I was doing something groundbreaking, but here the music I was making didn't make sense to anybody. They could hear the quality and the inspiration. But there was no place people were really rallying behind it aside from Cultural Cannibals. The essence of me trying to combine something old with something new, and something traditional with something radical was really what your parties were about the entire time.
It was something me and my crew of dancers needed. Inspired and creatively innovative dance parties were something we needed. Indianapolis has world class DJs, but that doesn't mean they have the creative freedom to do everything they want to. I know all these phenomenal DJs in Indianapolis who were not packing dance floors. For the ones who made a living off it they kind of had to stick to formats that would make the club money.
NUVO: Your music uses a lot of samples and textures from Garifuna music. The Garifuna are an ethnic minority based in Central America. They are descended from African and indigenous Caribbean peoples. Their music, language and dance is extremely unique and beautiful. Tell our readers about your connection to this culture.
Sandoval: I'm half Garifuna. My dad is from Labuga, which is the primary Garifuna village in Guatemala. I wasn't raised speaking the language and I wasn't raised within the tribe itself. So there's only a small handful of words I know in the language. But the music is beautiful to me. When I hear the language or the music it feels like a part of me. There's a sensuality to it that I can't escape.
NUVO: I asked you to pick four songs that have influenced you for my Cultural Manifesto radio program. Give us the titles and tell us a little about the selections.
Serani "No Games" (K. Sabroso & Los Chicos Altos ParandaHall Remix)
Sandoval: Basically I was listening to a lot of dancehall two or three years ago. At that time my music tastes and my personal beliefs were moving in a very Afrocentric direction. I thought dancehall was amazing because it works in so many different places. You can go to an African party and drop a dancehall tune or even a Latin party. I was experimenting with dancehall and I incorporated a Garifuna paranda song that I sampled. I got the Garifuna guitars and background vocals and put the dancehall singer Serani's vocals over it.
Wyclef Jean "Sang Fézi"
Sandoval: After the Fugees broke up all the members went on to make solo albums. Wyclef made The Carnival which was a fairly straightforward hip-hop album with the exception of a few songs that are based off traditional Haitian music. Back when I was a teenage hip-hop head I would listen to this album on loop. The impact it had on me was that Wyclef was able to incorporate his ethnic and national background into hip-hop. That was something I wasn't hearing and it sounded so rich. That was the first seed that planted in my mind that maybe I needed to do something more than straight hip-hop.
Magic System "1er Gaou"
Sandoval: You can drop this almost anywhere internationally. The variety of people this will make move is just insane. This might be the theme smog of the diaspora. It gets in everybody's blood and gets everybody's feet moving even if they don't understand the language. I try to keep this in mind when I search for sounds. If you can capture that universal essence to what it means to be human in a way that transcends language and culture then you're going to have that timeless song.
DJ Fresh "Gold Dust" (Shy FX Re-Edit)
Sandoval: My sound both in terms of what I spin and create, has really been influenced by the last thirty years of British electronic music. One thing I find interesting about the phenomenon of Black folk in England is that the majority of the population comes from Africa or the Caribbean - whereas the majority of American black folk don't think of themselves as being inherently tropical regardless of where our heritage may lie.
England is one of the places in the Western world that has a huge influence in terms of the reach of their popular media and the creativity of their Black folk is tied to their tropical heritage. That's one of the reasons that reggae, ska and dub had such huge reach over there. When electronic music started getting created over there it still had tropical roots. The way cats were MCing over tracks and the types of samples they were grabbing had a heavy Caribbean influence.
So I feel like while some of the samples I choose to use, and the genres I choose to mix may be somewhat new - the format is not new. In the garage, the UK funky, the jungle and all the magic music I hear being created in the UK set a precedent for what I'm trying to accomplish.