DJ Ref on being “green” and promoting indie music

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kamyar110BY KAMYAR JARAHZADEH

While the eco-friendly trend continues to get support from musicians and artists, Los Angeles based Aaron Brown a.k.a. DJ Ref takes his dedication for the environment to a whole new level,  not by just promoting an eco-friendly mentality, but by making sure his own DJ work doesn’t harm the environment. Through the use of special equipment and an attention to detail, DJ Ref tries to infuse his work with a commitment to the environment and to giving back to the community.

Upcoming July 16 to 30, DJ Ref is sponsoring a showcase competition featuring  independent music acts in three live shows leading to the grand finale on August 6. The showcases, which are limited to 12 acts chosen from hundreds of submissions, are Hip-Hop/R&B (July 16), Pop (July 23) and Rock/Alternative (July 30) at Studio 5th in Reseda.  DJ Ref intends to help Valley schools by using a portion of the proceeds to buy instruments and music books for students.

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DJ Ref says he is the first solar powered DJ and is able to power is whole set off of of solar energy.

Q: First off,  define the term “green DJ” when it comes to what you do.

A:Well basically what I do is, I’m the first solar powered DJ. I’m able to power my whole mobile set up off of solar energy. I have a complete solar energy station I’m able to bring anywhere. Also, for every booking we do we plant a tree and also purchase carbon credits, so we’re not just greenwashing.

Q:What inspired you to take your eco-friendly message and make it more than just words but a way to do business?

A:I’ve actually been “green” since forever. It wasn’t cool when I was doing it. I was green from a young age. My mom, she does construction, she got green certified. That made me want to do something with music, and my answer was the solar powered DJing.

Q: What are all your music ventures are so we can get a feel for who you are and what exactly you do.

The main thing I do is music production. Recently I was DJing for BET’s show Baldwin Hills. We’ve done some music for Spike TV. We’ve also got a gold plaque for our writing for Disney.  Also, we’re trying to have a green living fair for teens. We want to have something for the college youth. There’s a lot of people in the urban mix who want to go green but don’t know how.

Q:Where do you want your place to be in the current hip-hop scene?

I definitely want to start branching out more into the production. Also the events are more so what we want to get into. I think we can make a bigger impact having the green living fair and doing more community events. So that’s what I’m focusing on, community events. It’s helping me get into the community and have a mix between doing what I love while also giving back. So yeah, so far it’s going well.

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"The urban community gets left out of the whole green movement. I want to be the bridge, if you will, that makes sure that they won't get left out of the message," says DJ Ref.

Q: Critics like to talk about how mainstream hip-hop has taken a turn towards consumerism. With that said, where do you feel your go-green message has a place in the current hip-hop scene?

It fits into really anything. At the end of the day, regardless of the genre, what’s going on with the planet transcends all of that. We all need to start paying attention. If we can all kind of recognize if we all do these small things, it’s going to add up. It’s not about spending money, it’s about taking time to do what you want to do. That’s the message we want to get across to hip-hop people and to rock people. I can do that through DJing, through music. Its good a vehicle to get that message across.

I want to have a team of green DJs across the world. We can have DJs in Paris, DJs in Africa, DJs in New York. This is bigger than LA. We’re starting in LA, we’re starting on a small scale. There’s a lot of potential for this as well.

Q:With environmentally friendly clubs like Ecco starting up in Hollywood you could safely say that this movement will have some bit of longevity. That said, where do you hope to see the eco-aware movement in a few years?

There’s definitely progression everyday. I can see the green movement really progressing in a few years. I want to be one of the few members getting the movement going here along with the urban community. The urban community gets left out of the whole green movement. I want to be the bridge, if you will, that makes sure that they won’t get left out of the message. These are the people that in a few years are going to be taking a lot of things over, so my goal is to work with them.

It’s not just going to be me  spreading the message; we’re able to get the message out a lot farther the more people we have on board.

Q: You’ve talked a lot about reaching out and involving your projects with the idea of giving back. What encouraged you to put so much effort into helping the urban community?

It was just one of those things that was just instilled in me from growing up. I see a lot of people who can give back and don’t give back. But there’s always something that can be done.

We’re going to have a free DJ clinic for parents who can’t afford summer camps. I don’t want to the kids to have to miss out because of the parents’ problems. I want to give the kids an opportunity so they can come out and learn some music.

I was working with the Boys and Girls Club for Mobile Stream Melody. It’s a foundation that works with kids on the importance of music and relating it to the business.

A little over a year ago we started working with the Boys and Girls Club. I started working with the kids one-on-one to help get their confidence up and show them there is so much to do in this industry. I think it’s really just from my mom and from my upbringing.

Q: What is going on with this whole Indie Nights showcase that starting this week?

Indie Nights is a music competition for indie artists, for hip-hop, for pop, and for rock.

It’s very much in the American idol style but its more on a critical feedback level. People actually talk to the artists after the show and give them feedback.

The New Boyz with the song “You’re a Jerk,” they performed at one of our last showcases. It’s definitely a good venue for artists. The overall winner is going to a get a worldwide marketing package. Guitar Center also donated time to its studio hall, and a photographer donated a photography package. We want to give these things to artists and musicians who feel like they are stuck and push them to the next level.

Also, I really want to mention IndiePower.com they really helped to put this all together. They work really closely with artists in helping make them independent of labels, so they can empower themselves rather than relying on the labels and have that “indie power.”

Q: Where can people go to find out more about you?

They can go to www.indienights.com or www.WhoisRef.com. I’m ready to start the blog back up too, so they can check that out.

Kamyar Jarahzadeh is  is currently the editor in chief of the El Camino Real High school newspaper The King’s Courier. He has won multiple awards from the National Journalism Education Association.  Outside of journalism, his interests lie in learning new languages and exploring music from all over the world. Feel free to contact him at kamyarjarahzadeh [at] yahoo.com.

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.