The Ballsy, Artsy, Anti-Sixth Street Outlook of DJ Joaqu.n

Austin to L.A., keeping up with the beloved Pangea Sound producer

Joaqu.n on deck at San Bernardino's HARD Summer festival in July 2022 (photo by Andrew Donovan Valdivia)

On a warm April night, baby-faced Joaquin Fernando Chaffardet Rosas wears a cut-off T-shirt. The son of a formerly high-ranking Venezuelan political dissident and university-educated mother, he's due to DJ at Coconut Club later that evening. Better known as the Austin-launched DJ/producer Joaqu.n, the 30-year-old is a secret weapon at the Downtown club.

Joaqu.n first applied for asylum in 2007. It had only been about four months since the artist's asylum was finally granted when we met at a quiet house in East Austin. While he waited for the immigration decision, he lost a series of jobs due to work permit issues.

November 2019 was the end of his last "real job," he said. Laid off, he saw music as his only hope for earning cash then. Few things are as motivating, he explained, linking to a prolific philosophy seen in his years as the requisite Austin host for an artful and in-vogue good time.

"Book yourself. That's the cheat code," he said. "Throw your own party. People will book you once they see people show up."

A few hours later, on the night of April Fools', a packed rooftop sang along in a kind of karaoke trance as the asylee played hip-hop, R&B, reggaeton, Afrobeats, and amapiano. Behind him, a gaggle of men and women filled the booth. He invited them in and looked at home, having only recently relocated to Los Angeles part time after years of visiting monthly from Austin.

“I didn’t even need to post fliers. All the fashion kids came. It was a moment in time.”   – Joaqu.n on the Nu Wave

The California visits began to join Dominican DJ SuperNova, Puerto Rican DJ Sleepy Joe, and Cuban American DJ/producer Falcons for their party, Pangea Sound. Our spring meetup marked four months since one of the collective's sets was captured by notable electronic broadcasters Boiler Room, cementing Joaqu.n's sharp ascent. As the DJ geared up for parties in Los Angeles during Coachella, where he'd be joined by Major Lazer member Ape Drums, he recapped how it all started – before packing out monthly Pangea parties 1,200 strong; before Skrillex dropped in for a back-to-back set of reggaeton and dembow; before Amaarae and A-Trak became party regulars; and before Joaqu.n had sessions lined up with stars of Latin R&B and rap.

Before all that, he started a party called the Nu Wave in Austin.

"I'm Caribbean, so I like Caribbean music, African, UK shit, Brazilian," he said. "There wasn't anything for that world before, so [the Nu Wave] became a hub. I didn't even need to post fliers. All the fashion kids came. It was a moment in time."

The residency launched back in 2017 at the Eastern, a now-shuttered space behind Cisco's Restaurant on the corner of Sixth Street and Comal. With the help of the then-nascent When Where What Austin social media account, backed by founder Chris Cates, Joaqu.n hosted and performed. The ringleader also welcomed another DJ each week – making up for when he didn't often feel welcomed in the city early on, aside from invitations to join Peligrosa's King Louie at the Volstead.

The Nu Wave also found a sweet spot for special guest performers, hosting a new one each week and putting them on for just two songs. "It's hard to have someone perform live for the whole set, but if you get someone with energy to do one or two songs, it's still hype," Joaqu.n recalled. The formula worked, if attendance was an indication.

Eventually, he would be asked to curate private events, closed guest lists and all, for artists like Thundercat and Flying Lotus when they dropped into town.

The Nu Wave vision was "the anti-Sixth Street, anti-regular club DJ party." He still played hits, but specifically ignored the Top 40 heard in the heart of Downtown. That predictable playlist was what pushed him to become a DJ in the first place, though he tried to avoid it.

Joaqu.n at Soho House Austin in his club essential, VADA brand sunglasses (photo by Chuma Ukegbu (@chumathepuma_))

When Joaqu.n was still paying his bills as a top salesman at T-Mobile, he threw local parties alongside Chris Omenihu as part of the creative collective Human Influence and put the aesthetic experience first. When longtime friend Payton Long asked him to book talent, Joaqu.n turned to another friend, DJ Casual T, for help. "I was like, 'Hey man, I'm throwing a party. Would you like to DJ? But I'm gonna stand by you the whole time and tell you what songs to play.'" The request was denied.

"He said, 'Hell no, but I'll teach you how to DJ if you want,'" said Joaqu.n. Learning the rudiments took him two hours.

In his sets, years spent living in Houston and Puerto Rico shine through in rap and reggaeton. A family legacy, his mother's side is all musicians, his grandfather hosted a radio show, and his big brother paved an artistic life as an animator for a major video game developer.

Versatile, Joaqu.n only lets Latin music dominate certain sets, showing affinity for everything from classic salsa, like the Seventies hit "Llorarás" by fellow Caracas-born musician Oscar D'León, to Brazilian funk, like "Na intenção" by MC Menor da VG. But opening for Talib Kweli in March, in the small upstairs room at Austin nightclub Superstition, Joaqu.n played hip-hop.

"Rap music is my first love and why I am the way I am, and play what I play," said Joaqu.n, who later added, "I'm ballsy with my sets."

That aforementioned "UK shit" and drum 'n' bass peppered throughout his mixes whisper little secrets, too. In February, he played a fantastic five-hour house set at West Sixth's Howards, and said he could go way longer. He still counts the Coconut Club complex (which is due to eventually be developed on an unconfirmed timeline alongside Oilcan Harry's) as his favorite club – "No. 1, undefeated" – followed by Empire Garage for the sound equipment.

Cut to the first Saturday of South by Southwest, when Joaqu.n kicked off his DJ schedule with an invite-only event alongside rappers Armani White and Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon. On Thursday, the jet-setter then played what he called the second-best party of the Festival – produced by Figure It Out, an outgrowth of his management agency When Where What. Thrown in a secret location Joaqu.n says he couldn't identify now anyway, having forgotten, he recalls an 18-wheeler used as a DJ stage, the Dreamville-signed rapper Bas, and Ferrari and Lamborghini sponsoring.

Unplanned, he also hopped on the Blaq Pages' Afrobeats to the World event, which Joaqu.n called "the best party I've ever seen at Neon Grotto ever." His own event, naturally the very best of the Fest per Joaqu.n, was an Austin edition of Pangea at Coconut Club on the final Saturday.

Now returning to Austin to DJ monthly, he shifts focus to production. Close friend Milkman, who he describes as "the Virgil of Mexico," connects Joaqu.n with artists alongside Falcons, who linked him with former collaborators Issa Gold and Sherwyn.

"I always wanted to do music since I was a kid. I've always wanted to produce," he said. "I've never had a plan B. If this doesn't work out for me, I'll go back to T-Mobile."

According to Joaqu.n, he's also working on things nobody would suspect. There's singer-songwriter-type projects, inspired by artists like Steve Lacy. Rare sets include what he calls "listening music," which you would not dance to.

"I'm a producer. I don't want to have to party for a living. It's kind of unhealthy," he said. "I don't wanna be a DJ forever."

For Austin's sake, hopefully he can hang on for a few more Coconut Club surprises.

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Joaqu.n, Joaquin Chaffardet, Pangea Sound, The Nu Wave, Boiler Room, Coconut Club, Chris Cates, Human Influence

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