DJ Karaba remembers driving through France’s southern region listening to Motown in a
camping car with her parents. Listing off names like a musical-must syllabus, Karaba says
The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Earth, Wind and Fire, and, of course, Barry White sound
tracked her childhood. Born to a Congolese father and a French-Italian mother, Karaba also
listened to the music specific to her cultural and regional homes, such as French rap and
Congolese artists such as Koffi Olomide, Awilo Longomba, Papa Wemba and Passi .
Music and (literal) movement have defined Karaba’s entire life. Karaba was born in
Grenoble, France and, at the age of seven, moved to Montreal. As a child, Karaba was
enrolled in dance, which would become the next key step in her artistic journey, and her first
love. Self-described as an immigrant all her life, Karaba relocated to key musical markets to
pursue dance, like New York when she was 20 years old, and then Los Angeles in 2014.
While she was in Los Angeles, Karaba danced for some of pop music’s heaviest hitters such
as Drake, Camila Cabello, and Selena Gomez, as well as appearing in numerous music
videos and award shows. When a major tour was cancelled in 2016, Karaba felt helpless
about the next step of her career. She then found her way to DJing and music production, a
thought that had been bubbling up in the back of her mind for some time. Enrolling in the DJ
Scratch Academy in L.A., Karaba says she found a renewed artistic purpose.
“Being able to control the music with my fingers was the closest I ever felt to music. The
feeling was just out of this world.”
The foundations of a life defined by pop music, afro house, afro beats, and the ways in which
a body can move to those sounds, is so deeply imbued into the mixes she puts together,
making them like a complex puzzle. In 2019, just before the world went sideways with the
pandemic, Karaba decided to pursue DJing full-time. Karaba spends hours on her mixes,
“looking at tracks that I like or that I think will fit well together,” she says. “When I build a mix,
not only does it need to tell a story, but it also needs to blend very well. The main message
in the music I play, or produce is celebration. Coming from this dance background, the music
has to move people the way it moves me.” One of her all-time favourite mixes is “Ah ça c'est
Karaba,” which is also her slogan as a DJ. She still listens to this mix daily.
Her attentiveness to using the rich sounds from African countries comes from one her first
few times DJing. While playing a house track, Karaba uncovered all the ways in which music
from Africa was being incorporated into these works. “The more research I did, the more I
saw that there were DJs playing music from my country, and this is where everything
changed for me. I discovered music from the whole continent of Africa and knew I found my
niche, my purpose as a musician: To share with people the music from my own people, my
own country,” she says.
Karaba hopes that, with such dedication to learning about and incorporating music from
countries in Africa, her audience will be more curious about the variety and depth of music
from all over the continent. “Now, everything is kind of served on a plate, and it's really your
job, as a music listener, to do more research and know what style comes from which
country,” she says, “A lot of the sound that is coming to the Western world is very much
influenced by Africa, and so the artists behind it are deserving of a space to be seen and
DJ Karaba is currently working on her own project, an EP that will combine her love of
creation and movement for music lovers, and her desire to master production. She’s working
with Young Galaxy’s Stephen Ramsay, whom she cites as a key mentor and collaborator
during this process. Nearly two years into doing this full-time, Karaba says this project is one
of the most personally fulfilling things she has ever done.
DJ Karaba’s music is electric and spicy. There is no moment of pause or slow down. Her
intensity, her wish to see people dance and feel the music the way she feels it, is
aspirational, all-consuming. There is unmitigated joy to such devotion to sound, and in being
enveloped by one’s passion.
“I'm very intense and it's reflected in everything I do, especially music,” Karaba says
enthusiastically. “My goal being on this earth is to inspire people, especially young black
girls, that you can literally do whatever you put your mind into. I've come from barely
anything, but I have an artistic soul that guided me to where I am today.”
DANCE IS WHERE HER ARTISTIC CAREER BEGAN
In 2014, she moved to Los Angeles where she toured the world with Camilla Cabello, Drake, Selena Gomez & Chris Brown.