Growing up in a Colombian-Peruvian household, music played an integral part in 22-year-old Tania Castillo’s upbringing. There were many mornings throughout her childhood when she would wake up to her Peruvian father blasting salsa music.
“That was probably the foundation of my love for music,” Castillo said.
Castillo, also known as “DJ Tania” is one of the few women and Latinx DJs in Nebraska. She officially launched her DJ career in 2022.
Since her start, she’s become one of the only women resident DJs in Lincoln playing every other weekend at Club Rio. Club Rio is one of two clubs in Lincoln that consistently play music for Spanish-speaking audiences.
According to recent data from CareerExplorer, women make up 33% of DJs in the United States. Overall, Latinx DJs make up 12%.
For Castillo, music has been a way to connect with and take pride in her Colombian and Peruvian roots.
“Being born and raised in the U.S., it’s easier to shift away from your roots,” Castillo said. “It’s a good safe spot to always have Latino music, Colombian music and Peruvian music to help me stay grounded.”
Not only is Castillo a first-generation American but she’s also a first-generation college student studying political science and sociology at UNL.
Throughout college, Castillo hosted dance parties for her peers to enjoy with the hope of connecting people through music.
“In the midst of hosting these parties, I just wanted to expand my knowledge on the music side of things and get creative that way…so that’s when I bought my controller.”
A controller is a tool that most DJs use to play and mix music together. According to Castillo, using a controller for mixing is something that takes a lot of skill and practice.
“When I first started using it, I wasn’t open to making mistakes and failing so I would periodically practice but I was always self-conscious,” Castillo said.
As Castillo became more comfortable with DJing, she approached Club Rio owner and longtime DJ Steve “DJ Toons” Solorio with the idea of establishing herself as a DJ.
“From the beginning, Tania had a lot of motivation to learn, to do something different. I saw the potential in her,” Solorio said.
After that interaction, they lost touch. Only to be reconnected once again through Facebook Marketplace as Castillo sold a bar table to Solorio.
Along with the bar table, Solorio thought Castillo would make the perfect addition to the newest Latinx-inclusive club in town now known as Club Rio. Solorio took Castillo under his wing and had her DJ for Club Rio once it opened in November 2022.
During those first few nights, Solorio said, “She did amazing. She was a natural and jumped right at it.”
Through DJing at Club Rio, Castillo has created an environment that is inclusive of all Latinx cultures and backgrounds, playing tunes from genres like Panamanian reggaeton to Mexican regional music.
However, Castillo expressed that playing music for a predominantly Latinx audience also means having to cater to the sounds of each culture as many audience members come from different backgrounds and generations of music.
“When it comes to more Central American crowds, they definitely like hearing more merengue and cumbia…and some crowds who are from the Caribbean or are South American are going to love the salsa,” Castillo said.
According to Solorio, because different people enjoy different sounds, it’s the DJ’s job to figure out what most of the crowd wants to hear.
Castillo was recently a DJ for the multicultural sorority Kappa Delta Chi’s dance and fundraiser. Prior to the event, Castillo asked the organizers to compile a list of songs they wanted to hear to have a better idea of what the crowd was wanting.
Among the organizers was Kappa Delta Chi member Yahaira Castro who gave Castillo the opportunity to DJ to support a fellow Latina on her journey as a female DJ.
“We enjoyed the cumbia, reggaeton, bachata, and the mixes she had,” Castro said. “Everyone had a great time.”
Being of Salvadoran heritage, Castro believes that Latina DJs are something that she wants to see more often.
“I think it is extremely important to see women, especially women of color in spaces that are historically male-dominated,” Castro said.
As a DJ since 2005, Solorio has watched the Latinx club scene continue to grow. He hopes more women like Tania can contribute to that growth.
“It makes me very proud to see Tania as a DJ, empowering other Latinas, as this is something that you rarely see any Latinas do,” Solorio said.