The Interview: Claudia Assef, Founder of the First DJ Museum Worldwide

ADE15, Amsterdam, Amsterdam Dance Event, Blog, Claudia Assef, DJ, DJ Museum, Interview, Museu do DJ, Music, travel

A couple of weeks ago I was at the Amsterdam Dance Event for the first time, which is one of the largest electronic music festivals in the world. This event is not only a networking platform for DJs, it’s also a great place to meet interesting people that are involved with dance music in different ways: producers, writers, photographers, directors and more. I was lucky enough to meet Claudia Assef on my press trip. I found her very fascinating: her knowledge, her way to talk aaand her amazing way to dress colorfully (which I sadly didn’t have the time to shoot). We bonded immediately and had great conversations at dinner about digital work and how electronic music evolved. Also, she is the founder of the first DJ Museum of the world, which I thought was a quite interesting idea, so I decided to do the first interview of my life with her in order to know more about the project.

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1. What was your motivation to open the very first DJ museum of the world? How did you come up with the idea?

I’m very attracted to DJ culture since, well, since I can remember, maybe I was 11 or 12 when I first noticed some videoclips on Brazilian TV, there was this show that I really loved, and I remember watching the video for Pump Up The Volume from M/A/R/R/S and going crazy over that track from Rob Baze and DJ EZ Rock (“It Takes Two”) and so many others. By that time I already had an impressive record collection of, maybe, a hundred vinyls that I had gathered from going with my mom to the supermarket (amazingly there was a record section in there) and using my allowance money only for that purpose. When I turned 13 my older sister Fernanda took me to my first club experience (yes, very young, I know) because I was dying to see a real club, how it worked and what it felt like. So I begged her and my parents let me go. It was love at first beat. As I was so young my sister and her friends wouldn’t hang so much with me so I was really focused on the music and on the DJ. I would go to the booth just to ask him to write on a napkin the name of the tracks and where to buy the records. Since then DJ culture hit me really hard and the rest is history. I became a journalist and a DJ and theses two things led me to write a book on the history of Brazilian DJing, it goes back to 1958 and describes how it all started here in Brazil. (The name of the book is “Todo DJ Já Sambou” and it has sold around 25.000 copies since it was released in 2003). So the idea behind the DJ Museum is, well, all my background. I wanted to give back to Sao Paulo a little bit of what this city has given to me in terms of culture and in terms of who I am. So I thought a DJ Museum would be a nice thing to do.

2. What are you expecting of it and what kind of crowd would you like to attract?

I’m hoping it will attract people who love culture in general, especially music lovers and people who want to learn about the Brazilian way of life, because the way this profession developed in Brazil really tells a lot about the country. Here it was never easy to get imports such as equipments, turntables, records and to make things worse the majority of the blacks (where this culture really began here) were very poor. But somehow they managed to get records, equipment  and went on to start local DJ culture. Now Brazil is the second market of EDM in the world, only behind the US. Who could figure that back in 1958?

3. You are planning the opening in 2016. How is the process going so far?

We’ll start with a small exhibition in March, at a local culture center, not yet at the museum headquarter. In that occasion we plan to cause a big awareness and also launch a big crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the renovation of the building – we’ll probably get it from the City but it will need lots of money to make it right. As well as the crowdfunding we’ll have companies sponsoring the different areas of the Museum. So, yep, there’s a lot of work ahead.

4. You told me about some stepping stones while you came up with this idea. What were the most challenging things about opening a museum?

I guess it’s a very bold idea because I really don’t have millions in my account to do it. But I always trusted a good idea and a lot of work can make anything possible and I’m not a lady who’s afraid of a big challenge, much on the contrary!

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5. How do you imagine the exhibition to be?

There’s going to be a permenant exhibition that will tell the history of electronic music and then chronologically the history behind the birth of different genres (from Samba to Favela Funk, not letting out House, Techno, Trance, Drum’n’Bass…), and also we’ll focus on some mythical DJs and historical nightclubs. We’ll have a lot of memorabillia but loads of technological solutions to help us tell this story. The architect in charge of making this happen is Guto Requena, a very talented (and famous) professional in Brazil. We’ll also have a room for international exhibitions, I’d love to bring material from several parts of the world under themes, such as Techno from Detroit, Kraftwerk and other german pioneers, the electro from NYC, the birth of house music from Chicago, Daft Punk and the French Touch kids… there’s so much to cover! Also we’ll have rooms for conferences, workshops, a DJ school, a coffeshop, a very small nightclub inside (that will open only on very special occasions) and, of course, a shop with all kinds of souvenirs!

6. You lived in several cities, like Paris or London – the museum should be opened in Sao Paulo. Big European cities are known for attracting easily tons of people in cultural venues, wouldn’t it have been an easier road? Why did you choose your native city?

Because it’s my home town and I love it. And because I wanted to leave something for my kids to be really proud of (laughs)

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7. Tell me about your relationship with music. What does it mean for you?

It’s really what moves me, you know! I’m 41 now and as you could see I’m really full of energy! I could spend a whole night dancing and go the afterparties and on the next day go straight to work. Some friends say I need to have a sample of my DNA sent over to NASA so they can figure out how I can do all the things I do. But my little secret is this: the love I have for music. It makes me feel like I’m 20 something… or maybe I’m just a goodhearted vampire (lovely laugh, again.)

More informations about Museu do DJ can be found here

A special thank you to Claudia Assef for sitting down with me despite the dance event madness ❤

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