Chelina Manuhutu is one of the greatest sensations of the latest years in the tech scene. Daughter of an Indonesian father and a Dutch mother, Chelina grew up in an atmosphere marked by music. However, it wasn’t until late adolescence that Chelina decided to stop her career as a model to focus on what really filled her: DJing. It was then that she moved to Ibiza and, little by little, she came to the attention of managers, agencies, clubs and, most importantly, the audience. Her residence in Blue Marlin made her become famous. Her funky and house style, always with the groove as a common element, has led her to a two years residency with Solomun in his Pacha party, before becoming a complete artist who’s already touring the world with a name recognized and acclaimed by tech-house fans. We visited her during her last visit to Barcelona and her stay at the spectacular Crowne Plaza Barcelona to have a cocktail with her on the terrace of the hotel and talk about her interesting past, her intense present and her promising future.
A past with a lot of music
I searched “Chelina Manuhutu” on the Internet and I found “an Ibiza-based artist born in the Netherlands”. But “Chelina Manuhutu” doesn’t sound neither Spanish nor Dutch…
You’re right! My mom is from the Netherlands and my dad is from the Pacific Islands, from Indonesia. So, my name is Indonesian. Everybody has a really particular name there, yeah…
Tell us more about your relationship with music.
I always liked the music. I grew up with a lot of music in my life. My dad became a quite famous frontman in Holland with his band Massada, my mother is a dancer, one of my brothers plays the guitar and the other one is also a DJ…
When and how did your passion for electronic music appear?
When Carl Cox was born! No, I’m joking. I wasn’t even alive yet! It was thanks to my brother. I was around 12 when I saw him playing for the first time. Later, when I was 15, I joined him. Everything started then.
Without stopping modelling (yet)…
Right. I was a model for a lot of years. I always had the music inside, but I was modelling most of the time. At a certain point, the day arrived. I decided to go totally for music.
Ibiza, the new home
That’s when Ibiza and your dear Blue Marlin arrived…
Yes. Blue Marlin has probably been one of the most important factors in my career. There is where I started to become known, where I became a real DJ and where I met my agent Alex Montoya, from Analog Agency now. Blue Marlin is a big beach club with a good name and nice line-ups. It was my most important step.
Can we say that you are from Ibiza?
Ouff, good point. Yeah, I’d say Ibiza is my home. In winter, I go to Amsterdam a little bit, but I normally stay in Ibiza, even during those months when the island is empty.
How does a DJ spend her time in Ibiza in winter?
Sitting in the studio! I work on my own music. There, I don’t have many distractions, so I can focus on producing. But I also have to say that I have gigs every weekend, so it’s not easy to focus on producing when you stay in the studio only for 2 or 3 days before you leave again. By the way, I really recommend you visit Ibiza in winter. The weather is nice, and the island is even more beautiful than in summer.
Groove goes first
Let’s keep talking about your music. How would you define the sounds you play?
I like to play groovy music: tech-house with a lot of groove, groovy basslines, a lot of funk and old-school and vocals from RnB records and stuff like this.
Do you think it’s the kind of music you’ll keep playing in 10 or 20 years?
I think you always change a little bit your style while you grow as an artist. I always grew up with RnB and bass in my head, so I think they’re going to stay with me forever. Until now, I’ve always been playing this tech-house music and I feel super comfortable and happy with it.
You have played all around the world. Your favourite country to play?
Wow, it’s super difficult to choose one. I’d say the craziest parties happen in Spain and Argentina.
Your best gigs so far?
Oh my gosh… I can’t answer that! I played for elrow in Barcelona, Jakarta, Bali… All of them were super nice. I also had my residency for Solomun in Pacha Ibiza and I remember my shows in Aquasella and Medusa festivals. They were all amazing.
You’re talking about clubs, open-air venues, festivals… What’s your choice? Do you change your way of playing depending on the situation?
I like them all. At the end of the day, it’s more about people’s energy. But it’s true that it’s always easier to read the audience in a club rather than in a festival, so I can adapt myself. In a festival, the audience is much further, so I focus more on enjoying what I’m doing and trying to express it.
Today, you’re going to play at INPUT High Fidelity Dance Club, in Barcelona. What do you expect?
I have heard some good stuff about it, and I have seen that most of the biggest names have played there, but I don’t know much more, to be honest.
Is this an exception or you normally don’t know much about the venue where you’re going to play?
We all try to check a bit of where we go, but sometimes I don’t have much time for that, maybe is even better to get a nice surprise!
Let’s talk about references. Who were, when you were a kid, and who are, now, your biggest inspirations?
When I was a kid, I used to listen to a lot of hip-hop and RnB music, as I said before. Now, at home, I use to listen to all the big DJs that I like: wAFF, The Martinez Brothers, Jamie Jones, Carl Cox, Marco Carola…
I guess you have seen them all at least once. Is there any big one you still haven’t seen?
Uhm… I must think about it, but I think I have seen them all. I’m spoiled living in Ibiza! Also, as you can imagine, I feel really privileged every time I share line-up with some of them.
The party in Ibiza… What do you think about people having to pay €10 for a bottle of water, €20 for a long-drink or €80 for a single ticket?
It is the way it is. I can’t do anything to change it… It’s a shame because Ibiza is getting more and more expensive. I think the problem in Ibiza is that it’s not for everybody anymore. There’s a lot of people who love music but can’t afford a trip to the island. This really must change!
Could we say that Ibiza is not underground anymore?
No, I think they are two different things. Prices don’t matter. Ibiza is still underground. And all the underground DJs we all try to surprise with the latest cool and still unknown music that we have waiting to play at the Ibiza summer season. There you have no boundaries.
Do you like other styles when you go out?
Yes, I do, despite I don’t imagine myself dancing to industrial techno in Berghain. I always need my dose of funky. I enjoy most of the electronic music, a clear example would be Carl Cox playing his techno style. Carl was the first DJ I ever went to see.
A festival where you haven’t been to yet?
I have never been to Time Warp. I never had time.
Because of playing too much?
Because of travelling too much, I’d say. I’d never get tired of playing but of travelling. Music gives me energy!
Chelina, as a producer
Some people don’t even notice the difference between being a DJ and a producer. What do you consider yourself the most?
It should be kind of 50-50, I think. But, yeah, right now I’m playing so much, so I have less time to produce. I try to find time everywhere: at home, in the hotels, even in the planes. DJing takes also a lot of time. I spend several hours per day searching for and selecting new music. I receive a lot of promos and I try to listen to them all.
I also searched your name on Beatport, and I found a track called “Ochibaba”. It’s a bit old (from 2012) and it consists of some complex bases and esoteric vocals. I’d have never said that’s a track by Chelina!
It’s been a long time ago! I produced it just for fun with a friend of mine. We were inspired by Latin house and some African components. Yeah, it’s true that it wouldn’t fit one of my sets now. Also, 6 months ago, I produced another track which would fit much more. It’s called “Fantastic Job”, and it got a great support from many artists, like Camelphat. Now, there are 2 more tracks coming!
What about if I challenge you to play “Ochibaba” one of these days?
I wouldn’t play it, but especially because it’s too old. I always try to play music as new as possible.
Keeping feet on the ground
Chelina, looking at where you are right now, do you feel like you made a dream come true?
Definitely. I’m doing what I love the most.
More dreams to come true now?
My dream is to continue the way I am. Of course, I’d love to improve, to be in more of the best clubs in the world and in the best festivals, but I just must be focused on my job. These things happen when they happen.
What do you see in your near future?
I want to release a lot of music.
It’s impossible to answer. Of course, I’d love to be named the best DJ in the world tomorrow, if possible, but that means to be at the right moment, in the right place, playing the right music and meeting the right person. And, yes, I’d love to play in Awakenings, Time Warp, etc., but I don’t want to set goals like these. Let’s see what happens. Step by step!
Can you imagine your name in the next Top-10 of the year?
That would be awesome. When you see that, you feel how people appreciate your music, and that’s important. Of course, I’d love to see that, yeah. Who wouldn’t?
If that happens, we’ll come to celebrate it with you!