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Five years ago, Kristy La Rat and DJ Mafe were in a car on their way to New York to interview and see Oakland-via-Panama rap duo Los Rakas, lamenting the fact that independent artists like that never made it to D.C. Inspired by the show’s energy, Kristy and Mafe decided they would start booking the artists they loved, and Maracuyeah was born. And as the DJs and organizers of Maracuyeah celebrate their fifth anniversary tonight, it’s only fitting that the show will be headlined by Los Rakas, the duo that started it all.
Maracuyeah is many things: a DJ collective, a roving party, a talent booker, a community-building safe space. And for five years, Maracuyeah has been responsible for some of the best dance parties in D.C: inclusive celebrations by and for people of all races, countries of origin, genders, and sexualities—sweaty and sexy tributes to Latin music’s past, present, and future. Or as Mafe describes it, “the original Latin undeground tropical love party.”
While Maracuyeah parties have been held at (literally) underground clubs Tropicalia and U Street Music Hall, its unofficial home is less of a clubber destination: Restaurant Judy, a Salvadoran-Mexican spot that has been operating for more than two decades. In Judy’s backroom, chairs and tables are pushed aside, opening a disco ball-lit dancefloor that quickly becomes packed with revelers. “It often feels like collective magic—not just alcohol—allowing us to come undone together and feel free for a second,” writes Kristy.
True to their original mission, the organizers of Maracuyeah have been instrumental in bringing cutting-edge national and international acts to D.C. who might not be booked otherwise, including French-Chilean MC Ana Tijoux, Ecuadorian-American pop explorer Helado Negro and Brazilian-born bass fiend Zuzuka Poderosa. That continues at their fifth anniversary party, which features not just Los Rakas but Brooklyn-via-Caracas dance pop artist MPeach and Brooklyn’s DJ Bembona alongside Kristy and Maracuyeah resident DJ Carmencha.
The bill is a great example of what Maracuyeah has championed: musicians from around the globe that cross-pollinate Latin music to share their stories, struggles and successes. More than “just” a dance party, Maracuyeah seems especially important during a contentious time for both music (Justin Bieber doing dembow, “tropical house”) and life in general (Donald Trump, anti-LGBT laws).
“Times are always contentious. Appropriation is constant. Misogyny is constant. Xenophobia is constant. Racism is constant. But, resistance is also constant, and that’s way more interesting to me,” writes Carmencha. “I do this because I like to listen to music and party and laugh with my friends right here where I live. We’re alright because we have each other.”
Maracuyeah’s five-year anniversary party takes place tonight at Restaurant Judy, 2212 14th St. NW. 10 p.m. $15.