Mayra E. on Hip-Hop's Bias Against Female DJs and Giving Crowds What They Want to Hear
Mayra Sias (a.k.a. DJ Mayra E.) in the spin of things at the Diamond Lounge.
When Mayra Sias got into the DJ game about five years ago, she probably couldn't have asked for a better instructor -- namely, her husband Les, who's renowned around the Valley hip-hop scene as turntablism guru LES735.
Getting schooled on the ones and twos by her better half, who placed seventh at last year's DMC nationals, certainly had both its benefits and drawbacks. For instance, Mayra says, some folks assumed that she'd be able to melt wax and scorch turntables right out the box. Not quite.
That's not to say that she doesn't have ample talents at working the wsince she can certainly get people moving during The Vent, the couple's Friday night hip-hop joint at the Diamond Lounge. Sias definitely has skills, but is the first to admit that she's "still a rookie" with a lot to learn.
As such, the 29-year-old tries to hone her craft and develop her DJ career as much as possible. Well, when she isn't busy with the responsibilities of a wife, mother, and a day job, that is. Sias juggles a lot in her life, including her and her husband's Friday night gig, which this week will serve as the after-party for tonight's screening of Mega-Ran new documentary.
She told us about her experiences juggling both responsibilities and beats during a recent interview, as well as how she believes that DJs should become adept at gauging what their crowd want to hear, the craziest thing she's seen at a gig, and why there's a bias against female turntablists in the hip-hop world.
Name: Mayra Sias
AKA: DJ Mayra E.
Preferred genres: I do a little of everything, but my main focus is the old school R&B '90s music. I drop some Top 40 in there to keep it balanced, but people really dig the older stuff.
Current gigs: The Vent Fridays at Diamond Lounge
How did you get into the DJ game? I got into [DJing] by watching my husband Les. He inspired me to learn it because he spent a lot of time perfecting it, so I learned to embrace it and [considered] it as part of us spending time together.
What's the most important lesson you've learned as a DJ thus far? The most important lesson is to keep practicing. Even though you feel you know it enough to give a crowd what they want you want to be able to have a good balance within all regions of music to make people like you and keep coming out to your events.
Do you think there should be more female DJs, either in Phoenix or in general? Definitely! I think girls get intimidated -- I know I do when I'm around all the OG's. But it's good to hear them give me compliments. I think us females just have less time to focus on hobbies. I'm down to teach any girl DJ.
Is there a bias against female DJs in hip-hop? I think there is. If you are half naked and pushing buttons, guys are all over you. If you are actually DJing and know what you are doing and covered up, there's not as much attention. If I was half naked, I think I would have a bigger fanbase, mostly dudes. But that's not my priority when I spin.
What the biggest moment of your career thus far? Thus far, I think, was opening up for Immortal Technique a couple [of] years ago. That was a highlight. I felt proud of myself.
Mayra Sias and her husband Les Sias (a.k.a. LES735)
Are there any drawbacks to having a famous DJ as a husband? Just people thinking I'm up to his standards 'cause I am his wife and because he taught me how to DJ. I'm definitely not as good as him and don't have his 15 years of experience. However, I have a good crowd and fans that are awesome and I'm always capable of making then dance.
Which is harder: jugging the responsibilities of a wife and mother or juggling beats on a turntable? Definitely a wife and mother. Juggling beats on a turntable can be determined how good you are going to be that night by your mood as a wife and mother. Everything [comes] into play. My emotions need to be right or my music will be off.
How's your scratching? I'm good. I've been able to get by with what I know as far as performing. I know basics and when I have time I try to learn more. Currently I'm teaching myself the boomerang. Pretty hard one, but I'm getting there.
How do you get a crowd going? I sort of try to read them. I check for ladies looking like they want to dance. I make sure to put something on for them 'cause they are more willing to get on the dance floor [and] then drag the men out. Sometimes, if there's just guys hanging out drinking, I put some old school gangster stuff that they all know the lyrics to so they can dance in their seats.
What's your favorite track of the moment? Dilated Peoples' "Good as Gone" is my top one right now. I like the beat and the lyrics gives a bit of a story and Babu's cuts are crazy on that track! Nice head bobber.
Was it hard to launch a hip-hop night in unfamiliar territory at a new place like the Diamond Lounge? It was pretty difficult. With the help of friends we've been able to have pretty successful nights, especially when we have emcees. We finally hit that six-month mark so I think people are starting to notice us more. Thankfully.
Was it difficult getting people to come to the hood? When we first started we promoted a lot more than now, and everywhere we could think of. It was more difficult, I think, because of where it's located. Kind of out of the way for people on the west side and such.
What's the craziest shit you've seen at a gig? There's a few crazy things I've seen: A girl getting down and her wig falling off. [A] little chick named Donna doing the splits at her age. Guys trying to gangsta dance and pants falling down. Classic!
What bygone club do you miss the most? The Brickhouse. They use to have some great shows there
What was your favorite gig of all time? Blunt Club Ladies Night in 2012, I believe. I was given a lot of compliments that night [and] I think that's when people started taking more notice to me.
What's the three most important things any DJ should know? Learn how to set up your equipment, learn how to read your crowd, and have fun!
The Vent featuring DJ Mayra E. and LES735 takes place every Friday at the Diamond Lounge. Doors open at 10 p.m. and there's a $5 cover.
Find any DJ gig in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.
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