El Dusty Turns Traditional Spanish Cumbia Music Into EDM

Dusty Olveira, better known as “DJ Dus” or “El Dusty of Master Blaster Sound System,” got his start in music in the lovely but somewhat dead-end town of Corpus Christi, Texas. He honed his skills as a DJ, musician and producer doing sessions and performances and crafting beats for rappers, but an unexpected inheritance changed the path he would have on music in a new and startling way.

“I inherited my mom’s record collection, and it was insane,” says Dusty. “She had something like 20,000 Latin records. I’m still listening to them to this day. The thing is, a lot of the Latin musicians in the ’60s and ’70s were heavily influenced by Motown. One day I just decided that I would start pulling samples from that instead of the soul and funk ones I was used to using.”

Dusty began incorporating more and more of his mother’s cumbia bequest into his work, but as he was literally creating a new genre of music, finding an audience was difficult. In the meantime he played with Kumbia Kings and other bands, but would work as a DJ between sets. It was at these sessions that he began to build an audience as he sneaked in more and more of his cumbia electronica creations.

All of this culminated in his breakout, viral hit “K Le Pasa,” in 2012. It was arguably the first true cumbia electronica song and immediately broke out all over the world, particularly in Europe. Using Spanish samples and a colorful video, it was the perfect mix of modern dance music and the more traditional steps of cumbia.

Cumbia remains a popular dance and music form, especially in Texas. Unlike many other Spanish dance styles there aren’t as many big movements or complex steps involved. It can be much more centered and personal, something that lends itself well to a rave set up.

One of the things that makes El Dusty stand out, though, is the way he takes his music on the road. There are two Master Blaster Sound Systems; the one that makes songs in a studio and the live act that recreates the music on stage.

“Back in the day you had to load everything into the sampler,” says Dusty. “But now you can use backing tracks and it gives you more flexibility for the musicians. I can scratch and add layers. It used to be a lot harder than it is now. Luckily, everybody that I work with is like family.”

Master Blaster live shows are a trip-and-a-half, with a full band being backed by Dusty in a combination conventional rock band and live DJ set all decked out with Day of the Dead masks. It’s extremely energetic and if you ever have the chance to catch one don’t miss it (Ed note: You don’t have to! RSVP for Green Label Live, Houston, here].

Dusty himself is spending most of his time running all over the globe right now on behalf of Universal Latin. Attention from “K Le Pasa” has him doing remixes for everyone from Enrique Iglesias to J-Lo. Universal keeps him busy as a more conventional DJ at events, but more and more he’s getting his new brand of music out there.

“It’s less fun but it’s a lot easier than the band,” says Dusty. “I get a lot of opportunities because I’m just one guy, but your friends aren’t around. If you’re having a bad night it’s harder to get pumped up without your friends. It’s a bigger platform. It’s the same music I was doing ten years ago but people are more open now. I still kind of have to trick people into cumbia electronica sometimes though.”

Catch El Dusty as well as Venus X and Snow Tha Product at Green Label Live: Houston this Sunday night 4/19. RSVP for free tickets here.

Images: Dustin Ashcraft

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