There's a humble corner store bodega in East New York, Brooklyn, that is offering a lot more than Arizona Iced Tea, Jamaican beef patties, and loosie cigarettes. D&D Deli and Grocery, located near the intersection of Linwood Street and Belmont Avenue, hosts La Relambia FM 94.1—a Dominican radio station that boasts one of the most impressive libraries of Latin music in New York City. For eight years, this institution has served Brooklyn's Latinx population, providing a gateway back to their homeland through the Dominican sounds of tipíco and bachata.
La Relambia began as a passion project of Geovanny Valdez, who goes by the name DJ Jova and works as the station's program director. Valdez was born in La Vega, Dominican Republic, and at the age of 14 started working in radio as a DJ. When Valdez was 18, he moved to the United States where he continued to moonlight as a DJ while he worked full time at a Brooklyn warehouse.
Valdez got La Relambia off the ground in 2009. The online radio station was originally called DJ Jova Radio. Valdez ultimately landed on the name La Relambia, which is a Dominican term for an attention seeking fool, because it perfectly described his style on mic. He's since taken on the slogan “DJ Jova the DJ Mas Relambio.” This embrace of uniquely Dominican humor helps La Relambia's audience feel like the station is offering more than just music. Instead, listening to it makes you feel like you are sitting around a table playing dominoes with your closest friends as merengue plays in the background.
Since its inception, the underground station’s fan base has grown enough to bring it to FM radio with a ten-mile broadcast range. I met with Valdez and one of his station's DJs, DJ Duende Jackson of the “El Cocotazo Radio Show,” to talk about the community they serve, their overall mission, and the future of La Relambia FM 94.1.
VICE: How did La Relambia FM start?
Geovanny Valdez: I was working in a warehouse while I was producing my show on the internet. I started the radio station because of [my love for] music and communication. Eventually, I fel ready to start working on the project as a director and programmer. The funds I got working in the warehouse helped me buy the equipment for the station little by little. But it’s still not finished.
The space in the bodega was rented to me by my uncle, who liked the project and offered me that small and humble place to make our radio booth. Since then, I have been half president of the Solangie Deli Corporation and the director of La Relambia.
How many people do you reach?
We have thousands of radio listeners which are difficult to give a number with accuracy. And on the web, we receive more than 40,000 visits per day.
Tell me about your advertisers.
Most of them are local Latino businesses, such as Toribio Restaurant, La 810 Car Service, Auto Fresh Car, Chimi Monumental, La 510 Car Service, La Finquita, EGM II Metal Manufacturing, Quisqueya Car Service, El Mercadito, Crazzy Willy's Home Furniture Center, Uceta Production. These are businesses that are mostly owned by people of our community.
DJ Duende Jackson, how did you find out about the radio station?
We are all DJs, and we work in clubs. When I was in the Dominican Republic, I would work at resorts until I got my own show on a local station there. From there, I came to the United States and connected with one of the directors in charge of this stations. Now I’m working here while I perform sets in clubs in the city.
How do you prepare for the shows?
We usually make schedules and plan out what were are going to do for each program by the hour. But it's a very loose type of planning. We do more improv than anything. It helps it flow better.
How would you describe the personality of “El Cocotazo Radio Show”?
We are all jokesters. We play and tell jokes and work well together, but if we ever disrespect each other than we lose that partnership and friendship that makes this show work. It's like a brotherhood—like you're hanging out with the bros.
When did you meet your crew?
I meet DJ Alex Viva when he tried to steal my girl. [ _Laughs_] Nah, I’m just kidding. We’ve known each other for years. I needed guys that I vibe with and could confide in. You know if anything were to happen, we would be there for each other. It would have to be something really big to ever break us up.
What's the best part of the radio station for you?
The best part of this is to be able to speak to a mass audience. I love to talk, interact, and take calls. The music is what is important too and to see how the audience is reacting to the songs that we play on air is what makes my day. It's a job that we love.
What was the best on-air call that you’ve had?
Someone called in and said that this show was the highlight of his day.
Who are some new artists that you’ve introduced?
We have introduced artists like salsa singer Luis Galves, Latin urbano artists like KLE. We work closely with this collection of more than 50 DJ and artists from all over Latin America called CoroVIP. Duende is a featured DJ in the group.
How do you choose the music for the show?
We live in the United States and that means there are so many nationalities that we try to cater too. We love music, so we try to cater to the cultural music of the majority of these countries. If someone doesn't know the music of one country, we try to introduce that music to the other Latinos who wouldn't have heard it. That’s our job as DJs. We introduce new artists and new music too.
How do you continue to grow an audience even though Brooklyn is becoming more gentrified?
We cater to majorities of Latinos and that's how we keep our base interested. Instead of listening to the most popular songs of Latin music, you're hearing music that you wouldn’t have listened too otherwise. Like we play Mexican music, Ecuadorian music, Colombian music... These are the nationalities that don't get represented a lot on mainstream Latin music radio stations. There will always be Latinos in Brooklyn. We aren’t worried.
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