SF's Coo-Yah DJs on Misconceptions About Dancehall and Reggae, and Why It's a Great Time to Buy Records
In the male-dominated world of DJs, local selectors Green B. and Daneekah have managed to tilt the spotlight toward the ladies with their dancehall releases and long-running reggae party Coo-Yah. The two met one day on Haight Street while flyering for separate parties, and began DJing together after discovering their mutual appreciation of reggae culture. With releases like Daneekah's renowned Dancehall Queens, which consists of 100-percent female artists, and Green B.'s "Hot Gyal Promotion" series, the two have established a strong presence in the dancehall scene, even touring worldwide. Their weekly party Coo-Yah showcases tunes from established and rising performers from places like the U.K. and Jamaica. Daneekah and Green B. spoke with All Shook Down about their love for vinyl, breaking stereotypes, and what dancehall and reggae really represent. Coo-Yah goes down every Wednesday night at Som.
Daneekah and Green B.
Coo-Yah has been running strong for two years. To what do you attribute its success?
Daneekah (D): Green B and I share a sincere love for the music, which I think carries over to our supporters. We have always aimed to have good vibes and to give thanks for what we have at our parties. We also don't play the traditional classic reggae tunes week in week out; we aim to bring the masses the best of the new music coming out of Jamaica. We always try to keep it fresh.
Are people often surprised that it's two women running this party?
D: All the time! We find it funny seeing people's reaction, like, 'Hang on, you guys are the DJs?'
What do you look for when booking guest acts for Coo-Yah?
D: We definitely try to book guest DJs and artists who suit the style we are trying to bring our crowd. Usually it's DJs focusing on playing new music and up-and-coming artists, as well as out-of-town DJs, so we can bring our folks something different. In turn, when we travel abroad, we have the opportunity to DJ in other countries and cities.
What inspires you two the most about reggae music?
Green B. (B): Reggae music is raw. Many songs were recorded in one-take and one session, capturing a moment of artistry. Also the subject matter is raw and honest, very much in tune with the culture, and often times influencing the culture.
What are your thoughts on people stereotyping the genre as a feel-good/smoking weed type of music?
B: Jamaicans have a lot of struggle, life is not easy over there, money and resources are scarce, and you can hear it in the music.
D: When you mention reggae or dancehall most people automatically think of Bob Marley and smoking weed. Dancehall is still a relatively unknown genre in the world. To me it is similar to hip-hop in many ways, with its colorful and flossy music videos, own style of dance and uptempo riddims. It couldn't be more different to the image of Bob Marley and smoking weed -- it's get-down-and-dirty dance music!
What's a misconception people often hold about the reggae and dancehall genres that you try to break with your parties?
D: I often hear from people that all reggae and dancehall sounds the same. I couldn't disagree more. You have your roots and culture-style reggae, new school roots, '90s dancehall, current dancehall, dancehall lyrics on current hip hop beats. As females I believe we have a slightly different ear for the music than many men; I love to win over new fans of the music by the selections that we play. We love to make people dance, so I feel that our uptempo dancehall and hip-hop remixes are where we shine the most.
Do you guys play mostly vinyl?
B: We both started DJing before there was any other option besides vinyl. Unfortunately most new reggae/dancehall music does not get released much on wax anymore, so we have both transitioned over to Serato -- though we do have crates and crates of records that still get played now and again.
What are your favorite records from your record finds?
B: I have some great remixes from Jstar's label I found at Aron's in L.A. back in the day with cuts I have never seen or heard before or after! Also, I would say some good 7-inches on Xterminator or Shocking Vibe with lots of big anthems from the '90s.
D: Extremely tough question! I'm in love with all my old rare Bounty Killer records on the Opera House label, with tunes such as "Warlord." "Buff Bay," by Goofy, will always be a prized possession, and plenty of Buju Banton on Penthouse; you just can't beat the basslines from the '90s era.
Where are your favorite places to dig for records around the world?
B: Besides Deadly Dragon in NYC, or going straight to the source in Jamaica, I had the best luck on a German website named Soundquake for many years swooping classics, sick remixes, and getting cuts that were never distributed in the U.S.
D: Also Jamaican online store O.J.36 records always had some gems, EB Reggae, Amoeba Music, Jammyland, and Deadly Dragon in NYC, and a record store in Miami I forget the name of! With many DJs transitioning over to digital these days, it's actually a great time to buy vinyl again with everyone selling their collections!
Lastly, summarize your Coo-Yah party in a sentence for people who haven't attended.
B: Those ladies know how to throw down!