Derek Amaya, aka DJ Cale, enters 11th year of dream gig: Festival Latino's official DJ

·4 min read
Derek Amaya, known as DJ Cale, has been the official DJ for Festival Latino for 11 years. He also is owner of The Cave Bar & Lounge.
Derek Amaya, known as DJ Cale, has been the official DJ for Festival Latino for 11 years. He also is owner of The Cave Bar & Lounge.

Derek Amaya moved to Columbus from Queens, New York, in 2001.

Born in Honduras, Amaya, also known as DJ Cale, has been an integral part of the Latino community wherever he's been. So it's no surprise he was drawn to Festival Latino in Columbus when he arrived.

A fan of music since he was a child, Amaya always envisioned himself as a DJ and wanted to be the DJ for Festival Latino one day.

He's now been doing exactly what he dreamed of for the past 11 years, since being named the official DJ in 2011. He calls it an honor.

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"It’s been a great honor to serve the community," he said. "We play the best of our culture to people and that makes me want to continue to work with CAPA (Columbus Association for the Performing Arts) because we can show off our culture."

And he's been so key to the festival's success that Rich Corsi, the festival organizer, makes sure Amaya is his first call every year.

"I remember asking if I put him on this, would he be cool running the music and he jumped in and hit the ground running," Corsi said. "He’s pretty big in Columbus. We are fortunate to have him. ... He brings it every year and he’s an integral part of the festival every year."

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Growing up with music in Queens

Growing up in Queens, Amaya was influenced heavily by his uncles, many of whom were musicians.

Between their influence and watching MTV, his dreams were set at an early age: He was going to be a DJ. The problem was, he didn't have the financial means to purchase his own equipment, so he went to work.

Amaya worked for his uncle's construction company in New York as a teenager in order to raise money for his equipment. At the age of 16, he was playing house parties, Sweet 16 birthday parties and more.

"It was a passion for me, then it also became more like a career," he said.

DJ Cale will be at Festival Latino this weekend.
DJ Cale will be at Festival Latino this weekend.

Showing his love for Columbus

Amaya loves Columbus. Compared to New York, and a brief stint spent in Miami, Columbus felt like home right away.

"It’s the environment and the people. Everybody here is so friendly, as opposed to growing up in New York, where people are rude," he said.

"This is more like a chill, down-to-earth place. When I came to Ohio, I liked how everybody treated you, I said, 'OK, this is a great place for me to grow.'"

If you talk to Amaya for even just a few minutes, you'll understand his love for this  community is genuine. The festival is something he has marked on his calendar every year, and not just because he gets to live out his dream.

Between the food, the music, the thousands of people in attendance and the merchandise available for purchase, Festival Latino is the perfect atmosphere for Amaya as he embraces all that the event has to offer.

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As much as he's embraced Columbus, the city has done the same with him.

Along with the aspiration of being the festival's DJ, he's always had hopes of opening his own bar one day. Amaya was able to make that dream a reality last December with the opening of The Cave Bar and Lounge at 122 E. Main St.

"It was exciting because starting from the ground with no capital to being a DJ to now having a bar open is a great accomplishment," he said.

Still, for Amaya, being onstage in front of thousands of people celebrating the Latino culture will always be a dream come true.

"It has been an impact in my life. When they talk about Festival Latino my name always comes up, so it has been a big impact in my life because I am proud to say I am proud of it," he said. "To me it’s always positive. It opened many doors for me."

Cameron Teague Robinson CTeagueRob@gannett.com; Twitter: @cj_teague 

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: DJ Cale has been playing music for Festival Latino for 11 years