Delaware Public Media

Holiday DJ Advice From Stretch And Bobbito

Originally published on December 14, 2018 4:44 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

All right, here's the scenario. You're hosting a holiday party, and you've got the guest list, the food, the drinks. What about the music? You're stumped. You don't want your party to sound like, you know, a shopping mall.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WONDERFUL CHRISTMASTIME")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #1: (Singing) Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong.

CORNISH: Even though your guests might love it, you kind of can't deal with the endless loop of holiday tunes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOLLY JOLLY CHRISTMAS")

BURL IVES: (Singing) Have a holly, jolly Christmas.

CORNISH: You know what? You're not alone.

ADRIAN BARTOS, BYLINE: I used to program music for all the Calvin Klein stores worldwide...

CORNISH: What?

BARTOS: ...For about five years. And every year, this was the most painful playlist...

CORNISH: (Laughter).

BARTOS: ...I'd have to do.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SANTA BABY")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (Singing) Santa, baby...

CORNISH: DJ Stretch Armstrong hosts the NPR podcast "What's Good With Stretch & Bobbito" along with fellow DJ Bobbito Garcia. I turned to both of them for help with this party playlist problem.

BARTOS: I don't know if it'd be the first song 'cause you've got to warm up the crowd, but...

CORNISH: Oh, boy (laughter).

BARTOS: ...One of those peak records for me - it's a record by a group called Antibalas. And it's a song called "Che Che Cole."

(SOUNDBITE OF ANTIBALAS SONG, "CHE CHE COLE")

CORNISH: Nice.

BARTOS: You feeling it?

CORNISH: Yeah. You don't need to warm up to this.

BARTOS: (Laughter).

CORNISH: I want to walk in from the cold, put my coat up.

BARTOS: You've got to play that for a full room, though.

CORNISH: Yeah, and be like - yeah, that's true. OK. I understand that point.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHE CHE BOLE")

ANTIBALAS: (Singing in Spanish).

CORNISH: OK, so I feel like you can hopscotch the continent here for all the different influences.

BARTOS: Yeah, this song has a very thick passport. The origins of the song are a children's folk song from Ghana called "Che Che Koolay."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHE CHE KOOLAY")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #2: (Singing) Che che koolay.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS #2: (Singing) Che che koolay.

BARTOS: And then through immigration over the last 50 years, the song has sort of spread out all over the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHE CHE COLE")

HECTOR LAVOE: (Singing in Spanish).

BARTOS: In the '70s, Willie Colon turned it into a Latin salsa record called "Che Che Cole." And this song we're hearing right now by Antibalas is actually a cover of that. And the style of this remix is that of a genre of funk out of Cameroon in the '70s called makossa. So this record is all over the place. And I think that's one of the things about it that I find so charming.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHE CHE COLE")

ANTIBALAS: (Singing in Spanish).

CORNISH: So your party is on a low burn now, and Stretch's fellow DJ, Bobbito Garcia, says this song will get it to rolling, rollicking boil.

(SOUNDBITE OF COLMAN BROTHERS SONG, "SEM AMOR (BIG BAND ORIGINAL)")

ROBERT GARCIA, BYLINE: Please lower the music because I can't sit in my seat...

CORNISH: (Laughter).

GARCIA: ...And talk calmly while that song is playing. This is an absolute height-of-the-night crescendo record for me as a DJ. The reason why I say that is first of all, it has a samba beat. It has powerful horns. The song is titled "Sem Amor." It's the big band version, which creates this juxtaposition of, like, a soulful ballad almost in the midst of this high-energy dance floor banger. Colman Brothers are - they're a jazz band. They're surprisingly not from Brazil. They're a duo, Matt on the trombone and Andrew on the trumpet, from Bristol in the U.K. (laughter).

CORNISH: They nailed the sound, though.

GARCIA: They absolutely did.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEM AMOR (BIG BAND VERSION)")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #3: (Singing in Spanish).

GARCIA: Anytime I'm asked to spin, whether it's June or September or December, I am aiming to uplift my dance floor. If I can make them dance for two hours, four hours, whatever it is to music and rhythm that they don't know how to dance to, then I feel like I've really achieved my job as a DJ.

(SOUNDBITE OF COLMAN BROTHERS SONG, "SEM AMOR (BIG BAND ORIGINAL)")

CORNISH: This song is amazing. But there are those who want some real holiday music at your party, unless they're Stretch Armstrong of course. I mean, I really pressed him on this, and he actually had to turn to his phone to come up with a suggestion.

BARTOS: Oh, my God, do you know that Justin Bieber has "Drummer Boy"? OK, this might not be so bad. And I know you were really going for bad. I know what you were trying to do here.

CORNISH: I - so bad it's good, let's say.

BARTOS: Yeah. Well, I do love some Supremes singing "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN")

THE SUPREMES: (Singing) Oh, you better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I'm telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town.

CORNISH: Nice. That's a classic. Don't sorry-not-sorry The Supremes. What are you doing?

BARTOS: Well, it's not so bad. I know you wanted me...

CORNISH: Listen.

BARTOS: ...To say something really horrible.

CORNISH: Mine was "Christmas Wrapping" by The Waitresses.

BARTOS: Oh, my God.

CORNISH: Feel it, Stretch.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHRISTMAS WRAPPING")

THE WAITRESSES: (Singing) Bah humbug - now, that's too strong 'cause it is my favorite holiday. But all this year's been a busy blur, don't think I have the energy.

CORNISH: This is a perfect song for someone like you who's trying not to be into the holiday.

BARTOS: Audie, this is not that bad.

CORNISH: Yeah, see; not that bad.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE WAITRESSES SONG, "CHRISTMAS WRAPPING")

CORNISH: A couple of ideas for your holiday party playlist from DJs Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia, host of NPR's podcast "What's Good With Stretch & Bobbito."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHRISTMAS WRAPPING")

THE WAITRESSES: (Singing) Evergreens, sparkling snow, get this winter over with. Flash back to springtime. Saw him again, would've been good to go for lunch, couldn't agree when we were both free. We tried. We said we'd keep in touch, didn't of course till summertime. Out to the beach, to his boat. Could I join him - no. This time it was me, sunburn in the third degree. Now the calendar's just one page, of course... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.