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DJ El Dusty on Why Music is Universal and Reggae and Cumbia are Essential for a Road Trip

El Dusty, DJ, producer, nu-cumbia innovator. (Photo: courtesy Universal Music Group)

The music that El Dusty produces and spins is directly related to where he’s from – Corpus Christi, Texas, where surfing is a thing and cumbia has ruled for as long as he can remember.

“I really love cumbia because in Texas it’s been a thing that’s been happening forever,” El Dusty, aka Dusty Oliveira, says. “We’re so close to Mexico that we kind of get that Latin vibe from there and in Texas we have the Selena deal.”

El Dusty feels like his nu-cumbia sound is like the new Tejano and it’s a sound he’s been evolving since the tender age of 12. Now, he’s at SXSW, one of the biggest music showcases anywhere and packing music venues with his distinct sound. I sat down with him at the JW Marriott Austin before he took to the turntables at a SXSW pool party, co-hosted by Marriott Rewards and Universal Music Group, to talk music and travel.

What is it about music that goes beyond borders? How is music something that speaks to everyone?

Music speaks to everyone because you don’t have to have a language. With the Internet people are passing around tracks from this side of the world to that side. They don’t care what it sounds like as long as it sounds cool. I’m all about that. I don’t even speak Spanish and I’m here making cumbia. I just enjoy the sound and what it sounds like.

What places inspire you musically besides your hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas?

Lately, I’ve been inspired by LA. I really love being out in LA. The weather is totally different. Everything you read about or see in the movies – that’s really the feeling out there. It’s a place where you can go and have a lot of dreams. I get really pumped when I go there and I try to stay there as many days as I can to work and get that motivation, then come back to Corpus and let it all out in my studio. I’m waiting to go to other countries to feel that vibe too. I’m sure that’s going to be a good experience.

Where do you love to DJ?

I definitely love to DJ in Austin. Austin has it’s own vibe. It’s crazy. I believe that’s why SXSW is here. It’s a vibe that you can’t make anywhere else. We do a really cool thing here every month. It’s called Peligrosa – a bunch of DJs that play the same kind of stuff get together. I love coming to play at Peligrosa because you can play whatever you want; people feel it and they come there to have a good time. Usually every month we do it at Empire.

You’re on a road trip. What music are you playing?

On the road, I listen to a lot of reggae, old cumbia. I feel a connection with reggae and cumbia. They’re really close. They’re both using the skank and both are using the bass, a lot of percussion. It goes hand in hand. I really love that music. I can’t be sitting in the car listening to a bunch of club music because I’m over it after awhile. So, I’m just jamming to what I like or Dirty South and rap, of course. Being from Texas it’s one of those things.

Where to Find El Dusty

Twitter: @djdus

Instagram: @eldusty

Sound Cloud: ElDusty