DJ And Activist Jasmine Solano Was Born To Perform

Patrick Struys

In some ways, Jasmine Solano has been manifesting her career as a performer since the tender age of five. Growing up in Philadelphia, and raised “strictly on classic soul music,” it was only a matter of time before she was trying out the songs for herself. “We have a recording of me singing James Brown into a Fisher-Price tape recorder at age five,” she remembered during a recent phone interview. “There’s a photo of me wearing sunglasses with this mic in my hand, and it just looks all too telling. That was a big foreshadowing moment.” Another standout memory was performing Salt-N-Pepa’s “Shoop” for a crowd of 1,500 people in fourth grade. “I don’t know why they let us rap those lyrics at age nine,” she laughed. “But I will never forget that feeling. I remember knowing then that I was going to be a performer for the rest of my life.” 

From a plastic mic and early talent show chops, Solano shifted to a fascination with turntablism as a teen, embracing both DJ culture and the era of socially conscious music that was cresting at that time. “At 15, I said to myself, ‘If I could be a DJ, I’d be the coolest person in the world,’” she said. Continuously drawn to the intersection of music and activism, she eventually enrolled at Emerson College in Boston, creating her own self-directed major focused on those two elements. “Lucky enough, I found Emerson College and was able to design my own major,” Solano said. “For the first two years, my major was actually called ‘The Music Activism Quest.’ Later, the name changed to Music Production and Social Marketing, which is what I have a degree in. But I essentially studied in a triple major with audio/radio, marketing communications, and political science.”

Emerson is also where Solano began to perform seriously as a DJ on the college radio station, working a coat check job so she could afford to buy her first pair of turntables. After college, Jasmine moved to New York City and began working as a touring DJ for the likes of Wiz Khalifa, before a big look from MTV turned into her own show, Scratch The Surface, a series produced for MTV’s internationally-focused channel, Iggy. Around the same time, Jasmine and one of her best friends, MeLo-X, started a party in New York called Electric Punanny, which evolved from a downtown club party to an internationally touring party, and finally, became their moniker when they released original music.. 

Patrick Struys

And as Jasmine’s profile continued to rise through her work at MTV as a host, as a DJ and through making her own music, her desire to give back to the community only got stronger. In 2016, spurred by the devastating loss of the presidential election, she founded Unity In Color, a global photography series and platform that showcases solidarity for women’s equality. “It’s really just been a whirlwind,” she said. “I’ve continued to remain in the space of music and culture, and women’s equality. I think the thread is that I’ve always been involved in this intersection of music and activism.”

That involvement deepened in the spring of this year when Solano and a few other friends ended up starting a tech company. The events of the pandemic led to economic disaster for countless artists, DJs, and fellow creatives, so Solano, alongside photographer, videographer, and producer Patrick Struys and executive producer Anjali Ramasunder all came together to create Club House Global. The virtual dancefloor and music streaming platform was designed to subsidize income for the DJ and artist community during the pandemic. It’s possible you’ve read about the platform before, as Cinnamon Mag previously highlighted it as a virtual Place, and their work has also been featured in Vogue, Forbes, and The Los Angeles Times.

“There’s a forever trend that the arts are not as valued financially as other commercial sectors, right?” Solano said. “This notion has existed for centuries and centuries. I think that in times of chaos, it’s so interesting, because the arts are needed more than ever, in order for people to escape, to process, to feel inspired and motivated. The arts are what keep everyone mentally sane, and alive. However, they’re still looked at as a less important job in terms of income or distribution of funds.”

For Club House Global, the goal is to turn that longstanding misconception on its head and advocate for artists to be fairly compensated for the services they provide. It’s also designed to help open people’s eyes to the instability within the freelance economy in general; people that work gig to gig have a much different experience during a global shutdown than those in other types of employment structures. e Solano reminds us that bartenders, security, waitstaff, photographers, techs, and more are the people who make the nightlife and entertainment ecosystem possible.

Patrick Struys

“For a DJ, the amount of labor and coordination and performance skill that goes into making a crowd stay at a venue, or a festival, or a bar, is a true talent,” Solano said. “And someone’s venue, or festival, or business wouldn’t sell tickets without that, wouldn’t sell drinks without that, and wouldn’t have a business without the DJ or the artist. In difficult times, we ask artists to help more than ever, but we forget about them, in terms of who needs funding.”

In order to pay artists and DJs, Club House Global uses a model that works in a couple of ways. First, any sponsorships or revenue that the streaming platform brings in are distributed democratically to artists throughout the entire month. Beats By Dre sponsored the platform in the first three months, as did spirit brands like Avion and the dating app Bumble. The Theatre at The Ace Hotel, currently closed to hosting events, offered their space as a home base to Club House Global for streaming. There are also membership and donation tiers that audiences can be a part of, whether it’s for an extended subscription or just specific shows. And as the virtual and digital models are building infrastructure and gaining momentum, Solano has noticed all the other ways that livestreaming can complement and supplement IRL programming in the future. 

From accessibility for disabled audiences to increased affordability, the Club House Global model is poised to continue on, even when in-person events are safe again. And Solano’s hope is that the community this platform has created during the pandemic can continue to grow and adapt in the future, merging the thrill of physical events with the power of digital resources. “The livestream space satisfies a lot of needs within the music community that a lot of us didn’t think about before,” she said. “Our goal when we do open back up is to figure out how we can preserve the magic and benefits of both into one unit.”

This profile first appeared via LA streetwear company The Hundreds’ blog for our Hint of Cinnamon monthly collaboration.

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