Joann Jimenez has been doing the Brazilian ALMA parties in the West Village for a while, but now she’s ventured into a new project: RAZA, a fusion of live music, visual arts and DJ’s that come together once a month in the Meatpacking district nightclub Cielo. This Wednesday January 31, the first RAZA of the year, features Tato Torres y Yerbabuena, Mr Bless and Derek Santiago. It starts early, at 6pm so you can go right after work and shake all you’ve got!

Name:
Joann Jimenez
Age: 34
Where do you live: Spanish Harlem
Roots: Born and raised in New York City, parents from Dominican Republic.

What’s the concept behind the RAZA parties?
For several years now I have been working on projects that, although near and dear to me, were not representative of who I am. I am of Dominican descent and my partner, Benny Soto, is of Puerto Rican descent.  We both come from the New York underground (deep house) scene and were increasingly becoming aware that there seemed to be a gap in New York nightlife for Latinos.  I must also add that that the neo-soul movement was, in part, an inspiration because I saw that it was a movement that had, somehow missed us Latinos.  We like to think of RAZA as a neo-Latino movement – so to speak.

You have live art, electronic music and live band in the same event, what’s your goal with the party?
If you know of the ALMA (Brazilian) parties, it is just the way that I have become accustomed to doing my events, and this seems to work.  We are very fortunate to have Derek Santiago as an artist that has worked with us since the beginning (he has done the artwork for all of our flyers as well as designed our logo). He has been key because he is a well-known member of the very community that we have wanted to target. We hope to continue to incorporate more diverse art forms such as visual arts, poetry/spoken word, etc. Derek Santiago’s live art piece, will be the inaugural component of this aspect of RAZA. Our goal is for RAZA to be able to be a forum for the many talented Latino’s that we are increasingly becoming aware of… and this will be a pan-Latin thing.

In the press release you say that RAZA parties are “quickly becoming an important component of the changing dynamic in Latino culture (and subsequently, nightlife) in New York City.” Can you explain?
Sounds a little arrogant right?  But if you have been to a RAZA party you will see that because of its location – the trendy Meatpacking district – the party has become an outlet for Latinos of various walks of life as well as different socio-economic backgrounds, to get together and simply enjoy and take pride in their “Latinoness.”  From the overwhelmingly positive response that we have had, it became obvious to all of us at RAZA that this is a party that has filled in a gap for us as Latinos.

“La Raza” is usally used by Mexicans and Mexican Americans to describe their culture.  It seems you’re applying it to Caribbean identity.  Why the name choice for the party?
Really? It is a word that I grew up using so I was not aware of that. The actual choice for the word “raza” came from the Sanskrit word “rasa”. The fourth link in RAZA, Carmen Valentin-Melendez, turned me on to the word and we had long discussions about it and all that could be done under the concept.  In sanskrit, “rasa” is the word used to identify the feeling that is experienced when one takes in a work of art, whether it’s music, visual, a scent, etc….it can be good rasa or bad rasa. It amazed us that this culture had a word to identify this feeling that we have felt at so many different points in our lives. So the word “raza” and the logo (la manita de azabache bracelet) are kind of old-school throw backs to these things that we at RAZA, and many Latinos grew up with.

Is there a theme each month?
The concept of a theme really only started with our last (third) party because the title of the film that we showed (“Our Latin Thing”) was so catchy. So last month’s theme was “our Latin thing”…this month’s theme is “Urban Jibaros” because of Yerbabuena, and we cannot yet disclose what next month’s theme will be…but stay tuned…it is a fun one.

Tato Torres and Yerbabuena, Mr. Bless and Derek Santiago…sounds like a dream lineup!
We try to have some kind of connection and synchronicity at our events among the artists and DJs we feature. Tato Torres and Yerbabuena are regulars at Camaradas, where DJ Bless was once a resident…Derek Santiago  is well known in this whole scene. All mesh well, are outstanding in their individual talents, and will make for a night that will be harmonious.

What are your plans for 07?
We have been lucky, the party has grown rather quickly (and with a solid reputation), we have the support of artists that have expressed interest in working with us for our future events. We look forward to, not only representing the various countries that make up “Latin America” but the multiple races that make up Latinos as well. We are constantly looking, researching, and although I cannot say what we have coming up, expect an eclectic assortment of artists for the upcoming year at RAZA.