DJ Coco Maria

DJ Coco Maria was born and raised in Mexico. Today she lives in Amsterdam from where she broadcasts her radio show, Breakfast Club Coco. With her sparkling music taste she attracts fans from all over the word. For POM Magazine, Anke Verbeek talked with Coco Maria about live radio, festivals and bubbles.

By Anke Verbeek

You have your own radio show on World Wide FM and you do DJ gigs on international festivals. What music do you play in your radio show and on festivals?
My music style focuses on Latin America, South America, soul music and jazz. Anything that is danceable and feels like summer. Sometimes I divert from this musical path and play, for example, French or Japanese music. So mixing different styles. I love it when people like what I play. It means that the music not only touches me, but touches them too. When I play, I imagine a bubble. People who are interested in the music enter this imaginary bubble where we are together and feel the music vibe. That’s what I like.

Your radio show, Breakfast Club Coco, has listeners all over the world. How do you connect with the vibe of this world wide bubble?
The show has a chat. While I am broadcasting, listeners send chats to the show. It is live with an immediate reaction to what I say and play. Sometimes I play a song someone suggests during the show, because it fits better than the one I had planned to play. It’s a breakfast show with a casual vibe. I don’t start the show with dance music but my selection is always bright. The show ends with music that has a happy high vibration.

You are not like the average DJ who plays hits. Most of what I hear on your show I have never heard before. How do you source the music?
Researching and looking for music is part of the job. I used to play only vinyl. So I went to a lot of record stores and played what I found there. But during the Covid lock-down the record stores were closed and I started to search on internet sites like Bandcamp. I get promos from artists and exchange music with friends who are DJs. My boyfriend is also a DJ and together we have a lot of records. It’s not a crazy large number of records because I sell the ones I don’t like anymore or give them to friends. I love the idea that I only have records that I like. When it comes to my collection, it is not about the quantity but quality.

Who inspires you?
I have friends whose authentic approach to music inspires me. It is easy to get lost in things that are not about music itself, like image or networking. These friends remind me that it’s about the music. A few DJs inspire me like Gilles Peterson. He is the founder of World Wide FM and he organises festivals. I love playing at these festivals. At the moment I am really into DJ Sheila B. She has a weekly show on WFMU. It’s a station based in New Jersey. Sheila stopped social media two years ago, and started a regular newsletter with interesting information and interesting links. In her shows she only plays music made or performed by women, mainly Indie, Rock and Punk. I like her style and her approach. It’s not about her, it’s all about the music.

Is your DJ work for Breakfast Club Coco different from your DJ gigs at festivals?
On the radio show there is not the pressure to make people dance. There is more time to introduce a song. I don’t have to keep up a certain tempo, just to keep up the vibes. I can explore more and move in any musical direction. That makes it more personal.

You play at a lot of festivals. What are the ingredients that make a good party?
The basics must be right, like the lighting, the space and the sound. When you have that covered you need a certain number of people. It is difficult to have a good party, when there are not enough people or when it’s too crowded. The best parties are the ones where people are really on it. They dance and go for it. There is this excitement about what’s coming. I touch them with the music I play, they respond with dancing, cheering and clapping. I notice that people gradually focus less on me, when it’s a good party. That’s why I don’t like playing in DJ booths that are on a high stage. People focus more on their own thing when I am on the same level as the crowd. There is a festival in Spain, Wakana Reunion, that has the best DJ booth I have ever played in. The festival is in a forest. The booth is on the ground floor, in the shape of a triangle, and surrounded by people. The interaction is beautiful.

What do you think is the difference between local FM and World Wide FM?
Most stations on local FM don’t go so deep. World Wide FM shows go deep with the music that they focus on. I think it’s the best station I have ever bumped into. It has a nice community. The DJs are serious collectors and they really know what they are doing. They come from all over the world. It’s not a commercial station so we are free to play what we like. People who are thirsty for music will always find something new on this station.

Are your radio shows completely live? Or is it press & play?
The show is always live. If I can’t do the show someone replaces me, so it is always live. But to prepare the show I make an upfront selection. I prepare notes if I want to tell something specific about a record. I tried once without a preselection. The show was chaotic. I was busy finding the records instead of feeling relaxed and going with the flow.

What do you like about the live aspect of your show?
I love the experience that comes with a live show. I feel like a proper host. I welcome the listeners, I receive their chats to which I react immediately, live in the show. I notice in the chats that people want to tune in because it’s live. Not only for the music but also for the interaction, the warmth and the feeling that we all come together. Especially during the Covid lock-down people appreciated this more than ever, the feeling of being part of a community. That’s why people want the show to be live, to be able to interact with each other.

Photo: © Coco Maria