By Natalie Maniscalco
If you told Jonathan Jorge five years ago that he would be a Salsa DJ in the Mecca of New York City’s salsa scene with a name like DJ Mustachio, he would have called you crazy. Born in the U.S. to middle class Puerto Rican parents who migrated from the island to the states in 1980, Mustachio grew up listening to anything but Salsa music. "Both of my parents were huge fans of romantic bolero like Los Panchos and were also very religious, so that's mostly what I heard growing up. That and American pop music like Prince, Michael Jackson, and Bruce Springsteen. Then from age 10 and on I became a Hip-Hop junkie." Mustachio grew to love a variety of music because he saw how it could be created to form a Hip-Hop beat and set out to become a master listener in order to be able to spin every type of music. To this day he constantly listens to anything and everything, but says, "Salsa music will be played at my funeral. Not sure which song yet, but that's how much I feel it's become a part of me, both as a DJ/Arranger and avid music lover."
Well, with a name you just can’t seem to forget, we thought we’d catch up with DJ Mustachio at one of his local gigs in New York City.
SALSEEK: What is the significance of your name, DJ Mustachio? How did you get that name?
DJ Mustachio: My last year of college I had a huge beard, which I shaved but ended up leaving the mustache (because 80's parties and Muscle cars were all the rage back then). Around this time I started to land more DJ gigs at local college bars and didn't really have a name, so one late night back home, after a retro funk and 80's break beat themed party I spun at, my best friend Alvin up and said, "You should be called Mustachio!" He was serious and at the time, no one, to my knowledge, could grow such a mean mustache like mine, so I went with it. It was very different. Talk about conversation starters for one. It definitely serves a purpose in reminding me that I need never take myself too seriously, because with a name like Mustachio you're always going to get a smile out of someone when you say it.
SALSEEK: Where are you from?
DJ Mustachio: Born in the USA to a very loving mother and father who were both born and raised in Puerto Rico. We moved around a lot when I was young and settled in TX during my teens. New York City is my home now; it's where I feel the most comfortable out of everywhere else I've lived.
SALSEEK: How did you first get started as a DJ?
DJ Mustachio: Making mix tapes in my room with two tape decks was what started it all. I wasn't ever allowed to go out much as a kid as far as house parties and clubs went; we lived in the suburbs of Texas. So I'd see Hip-Hop videos on BET's Rap City (with Big Lez and Joe Claire) where they'd show these dudes scratching on turn tables. The way they blended was insane to me. 90's Hip Hop got me into the whole idea of what DJing was. Seeing those DJs spin and scratch and blend the music. Then in college I worked at the school's radio station doing a Hip-Hop show that ended up lasting 4 years. Doing that show really taught me how to speak up on the mic and enunciate my voice. I still get nervous, but doing it for that long definitely helped in feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
SALSEEK: NYC is such an eclectic city of music, what drew your attention to Salsa music?
DJ Mustachio: Believe it not, It was mainly guilt. Being into Hip-Hop music for so long and seeing my cousins in PR shunning Salsa and only listening to Reggaeton, made something inside of me snap. Once I got a taste of how much people in NYC appreciated Salsa, I decided up and then to become an "ambassador" to the enrichment of Salsa and in spreading its amazing culture. My first real exposure to Salsa was the summer break of 1994 in Puerto Rico when my cousin took me to a concert where Victor Manuelle was playing; and I remember hating being there. They were actually good friends and she took us all back stage to meet him. I remember shaking Manuelle's hand, saying hello, and then counting the minutes to get the hell out of there. A sad fact that I came to realize on a recent trip was that young people in NYC respect Salsa music more than young people in Puerto Rico. Salsa is to young kids in Puerto Rico what Gregorian Chant is to young kids here in the US. It's something I hope to help change one day, bringing Salsa music back in a hip way to the island where so many amazing Salsa artists hail from.
Only when I moved to NYC and saw how the Salsa scene was here did I really want to understand the music and learn how to dance. I felt pretty ashamed that I had no idea how to dance Salsa and I was Latin. So I started taking salsa classes. Then I started learning how to hear the music so I could learn how to lead (the woman) better. By this time I had grown exhausted with the Film industry in NYC, which I was trying to break into, and had started picking up DJ gigs here and there in bars around my area. It got to the point where I loved going to Salsa parties so much that a couple of friends said, "Why not do your own party?" I was getting fed up with some of the parties at the time, that were claiming to be a Salsa party but were playing more Merengue and Batchata then Salsa, so I went with my gut and immersed myself into doing it. Along the way I've met some of the most amazing people ever. The salsa scene has some of the most eclectic and amazing people from all walks of life.
SALSEEK: Who and what are some of your influences?
DJ Mustachio: DJ wise, DJ Premier for his awesome cutting and producing skills and DJ AM (RIP) for being able to mix anything and everything and making it sound amazing no matter what was mixed. Salsa wise: Off the top of my head: Producers: Roberto Roena, Willie Rosario, Louie Ramirez. Of course can't forget Willie Colon and Tito Puente.
Singers: Hector Lavoe (Singer) and Ismael Rivera (Singer).
SALSEEK: What’s the best and worst part of being a DJ in the salsa scene?
DJ Mustachio: Best: Playing and dancing to beautiful music. I've been in a lot of different club environments and I can tell you hands down that the salsa club environment is the best, most balanced environment I've ever seen. You have both young and old, and people from every ethnicity and back ground; rich and poor all coming together to enjoy this beautiful music and energy.
Worst: The club/music business politics. Trying to find the balance between profit margins and beautiful environments where amazing salsa music can be showcased. I have a profound respect for venues that emphasize on the quality and not quantify side of things. This issue has been going on for decades and there is no simple solution to it.
SALSEEK: What are your top 3 favorite Salsa songs?
DJ Mustachio: My favorite songs change every month (right now I'm heavily into groups and songs from the 60's). But I still remember the first couple songs that blew me away when I first started getting into Salsa. La Banda by Spanish Harlem Orquesta, El Cantante and Todo Tiene Su Final from the El Cantante Sound track.
SALSEEK: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
DJ Mustachio: I'm a huge health fanatic. Later I would find that it helps balance the craziness of being around loud musical club environments every night/day; doing my weekly yoga and cross training work outs (rain, sleet or snow). For any of my work outs I never bring a music player with me. It's just me and the outside elements. I just started doing Yoga consistently for a little over two years and I love how it balances out my body from the intense Cross Training stuff I do. Eating right is also something I've become obsessed with. People need to realize that once they start working out for themselves, see their bodies as a sacred temple, not doing it to impress others, then the results are extraordinary. Loving others starts with yourself and how you respect your body.
SALSEEK: Where can we find you each week?
DJ Mustachio: I'm DJing practically every night of the week. For Salsa you can catch me in the West Village every Tuesday night for TUMBAO at Veranda lounge, and Wednesday's in Astoria Queens for WEPPA at Bungalo Lounge. Both of those parties are designed for hardcore Salsa Music Lovers and Dancers of all ages. I'm also a guest DJ at Club Cache (every now and then) and Santo Rico's monthly Salsa Social (every last Saturday of the month).
SALSEEK: How can fans contact DJ Mustachio?
DJ Mustachio: For bookings contact me at
Follow me on Twitter @djmustachio
Subscribe to my Blog www.djmustachio.com where I post a new Salsa Song each and every week. It's all about educating the masses one Salsa song at a time!
Come check out DJ Mustachio this week at ANJA for the official after party of Sunset Salsa, sponsored by SALSEEK!