Welcome back and Happy New Year to all. We took a bit of a break during the holidays, as everyone should have given the tumultuous year that was 2020. However, we are back and ready to hop right into it.
I am ever so pleased for this weeks highlight with Tehetena (Tana) Yonas also known under the moniker Passionfruit. The story of how we met is a wild one, it was in the middle of the jungle of Costa Rica as we were both working the Envision Festival. I was enamored by her energy, the kindness and passion that emanated from her was absolutely enthralling. We spent hours chatting about everything from life, to events, to music and so on and ultimately solidified a friendship I absolutely cherish.
Since first doing this interview, some exciting developments have happened for Tana that I find absolutely necessary to mention prior to hopping into the piece. She recently won a competition with Fault Radio, "Best Bedsethetic" which was a winning place for best bedroom set that made the listeners wish they were quarantined elsewhere: video. She has also become a contributor for insheepsclothinghifi.com, which is a platform for all those with curious personalities to discover new records and find some rare treasures of the world.
Without further ado, let's get into the exciting interview:
Hey Tana, happy to have you on Stay Vibrant. Please introduce yourself a bit to the readers! Heya, Everyone! My name is Tana and I'm a Creative Producer and Vinyl DJ based in Berkeley, CA. I always joke that I found myself in Berkeley because I was too weird in my small town in Southern California... and here in the Bay Area I'm wonderfully basic. Yes, I too love to forage for mushrooms, go rock climbing, make kimchi, and go on digital detoxes... it's the zeitgeist of the place.
You spin vinyl under the moniker Passionfruit, where did you get the inspiration for the name? It was funny actually. I was working as a producer at Envision Fest in Costa Rica (where I met the creator of Stay Vibrant, the one, and only most lovely Mr. Colton Boothe) and I was going to play my first party when I was back home in a week. Anyone who REALLY knows me, knows I'm obsessed with rare and tropical fruits so I'm always market hopping on my travels to find fruits new to me. I was thinking of what my name should be while eating passion fruit and initially, I thought of going with the Spanish word I had been using, Maracuya. Though quickly realized it would be weird because I'm not Latinx so I went with Passionfruit, I stuck the two words together because I liked the way it looked. I was a little concerned because the Drake song with the same name was popular then, and I didn't want any relation to the king of sad bois.
You have extensive experience within production of events, when did you gravitate towards the music/festival side and what urged you to start spinning? I've always been obsessed with music. I picked my University, UC Riverside because they had an incredible radio program and I applied before I even arrived on campus. I met some of my best friends during my years at the station and it was such a nurturing place to explore sonically. One of my best friends, who I called the art queen of the desert, was asked by Coachella Music Festival to start a DIY art tent and she invited a handful of lovely friends and myself to help bring it to life. That was my first festival, and production life behind the scenes is where I wanted to stay. I was able to grow in the festival world and have been apart of teams that have produced festivals as far as Johannesburg, South Africa, and Bodrum, Turkey. Though it was physically hard work, and often the pay and hard working conditions didn't balance out. I got a fateful call to start assisting producers for art and tech events and went from an assistant to an executive producer within a year. I had finally found my professional calling and was able to work for brands that I love and use all the time like Apple.
I've only been collecting vinyl for 2 years, but have about 500 records in my collection now. There were two pivot moments that started this obsession. First, it was traveling to Colombia for the first time where I fatefully met my fairy vinyl father Terry who had the most excellent collection of local music, and the second going to this amazing party that was in LA called Heat-wave that played international disco/funk+ on vinyl. The party was the MOST fun, and I was surprised how much I loved the music... like, my mind was blown with each song the DJs played. I also appreciate how visual it is and playing the physical medium makes more sense because I'm playing older music a lot of the time. It creates the perfect environment.
Recently, you launched a monthly radio show "Disco Airways", can you tell us a bit about that show? I love being on a plane and travel was an essential piece of my story before Covid, so I often meander around the globe musically. I've been exposed to a lot of incredible music from around to work and you can hear that in my mixes. A little Ethiopian jazz, a dash of New Zealand funk, and the celebratory sounds of champeta from Colombia. I just really liked the idea of being able to fly around so easily so Disco Airways seemed right.
The Disco Airways playlist can be found here: playlist.
You have a self-proclaimed globally inspired music taste and I saw you participated in an event called "Immigracious" -- what inspired you to take part in that event and what did it mean to be a part of such a special event? My parents are immigrants from Ethiopia and I consider myself a third culture kid because it's that background that makes the idea of home a bit complicated. I worked with a few of my artist friends to build a project out of a brilliant concept by my friend Richie Rhombus... his art is the best. The group created this beautiful voyage via sailboats across the Bay from Oakland to Angel Island. Angel Island is notoriously known for a brutally inhumane immigration center that operated there between 1910 and 1940. We gathered a group of 20 immigrants that came from every inhabited continent and facilitated an artful journey through the traumas and joys of immigrating to the United States. It was a transformative experience and I got to collaborate with my mother which was so not only fun but healing.
You have been busy with streams over quarantine, how do you decide on the records you want to use each set and do you have a specific record that makes a debut each time?
I'm an intuitive creature, so often I'll take a look at the brand I'm making a mix for and all of a sudden a song will come to mind and build a set from there. I really try hard to not repeat songs, partly because it makes things a bit more challenging and fun. I'm also ALWAYS buying records so I always have some fresh picks to debut.
I love to touch on mental health a bit, especially with industry members and during current times. How have you been maintaining your mental well-being during this pandemic?
To keep your sanity producing huge events, you have to be BFFs with chaos so I was able to move through quarantine quite easily. The start where we all thought we were going to die of this strange novel virus was very stressful but once I got enough information I was able to enjoy all the time off I had at home... something I have never done and it was fun playing housewife for myself. I made flower arrangements, learned how to make sourdough bread/make lox, and was able to invest more energy than ever into my mental health. Luckily I was very busy with work last winter and tech generally pays really well so I was okay financially. I work as a contractor so I dot my year with large corporate projects and personal projects that mean a lot to me.
Thank you so much for chatting with me! Is there anything else you'd like to tell the readers, any exciting new things on the horizon?
Yes! I just joined on to be a contributor to In Sheep's Clothing based in LA. It's a Hi-Fi Bar with the best sound system, killer vinyl selection, and incredible cocktails and it happened to be the last place I had a drink before the lockdown started this year. I'll be writing about curious and insightful moments in music and will be helping to build their collection of vinyl that's already of epic proportions. I actually wrote an article for them a couple of months ago about Cape Verdian music that was my favorite project of 2020. I realized music sounds so much better when you know the history. You can check it out at insheepsclothinghifi.com!
Check out on of Passionfruit's sets below and follow her on Instagram: here.