A&E » Arts

Zak Santiago, a man of many talents



Actor, activist, dancer and DJ

Who: DJ Zak Santiago

What: Whistler Jazz and Blues Festival

Where: Garfinkel’s

When: Friday, June 13

If you haven’t heard of Vancouver’s own Zak Santiago, you soon will. He’s destined for big things. Not only is he unique for being a Rom (Gypsy) artist, dancer and hot club DJ but he’s got a hosting contract with MTV, a guest-starring role in the TV series Stargate and a film due out later in the year called The Goodbye Girl.

Santiago studied classical piano for many years and dances every year at the acclaimed Amor de Dios academy in Madrid. His rap group, A.M.P. is one of the top new independent acts in Canada, having recently toured with The Rascalz and Shawn Desmond.

As a DJ, he has one of the longest running residencies in the country – seven years hosting the legendary Thursday nights at Bar None in Vancouver. He has worked the club circuit throughout Europe and the U.S. and for commercial and community radio in Canada. He is the host of MTV’s Breakout , a new series which profiles trend-setting Canadian groups. And as an actor, Santiago has appeared in over 30 film and television productions.

We tracked him down for a quick chat to find out what we can expect at his special set for the Whistler Jazz and Blues Festival next weekend at Garfinkel’s.

Pique: You seem to be a very busy boy. What’s a typical day like for you at the moment?

ZS: It lacks a lot of sleep. Because I’m starring on Stargate I have to be on set most days, but then my main cash roll is through DJing so I am in the clubs until 5 a.m. as well. I also try to get down to the dance studio at least once a day.

Pique: What sort of dancing do you do?

ZS: Mainly flamenco. It’s my culture and my passion. I also do some ballet to maintain my core and my line. The dance studio is not like a conservatory so there’s so many different classes you can drop into all the time. It relaxes me.

Pique : Your Spanish heritage is really important to you by the sounds of things.

ZS: Absolutely. Even though I was born in Canada, I have very strong ties with where I came from. My mother is Spanish and Irish and my dad is Romani. I’m fluent in Spanish and French and I work with the Western Canada Romani Alliance helping Roms get refugee status here.

Pique: What sort of music do you like to play?

ZS: Well there’s a difference between what I play and what I like to dance to personally. I mainly play urban music, hip hop, R&B, dance hall, because it’s what people want. Ever since Vancouver got its first urban station, The Beat, it’s just gone from strength to strength here. But I really like house music. There’s just not much of a market for it at the moment though as a DJ.

Pique: Why not?

ZS: I think the Benson & Hedges Gold Club Series has watered down the local house DJ market. They’ve been bringing huge international house DJs to town so people are going to spend their money going to see Sasha or Danny Tenaglia rather than going to see any good house DJs from their home town. House music is rarely on the radio or on TV, unlike hip hop, and naturally most people like to hear the hits.

Pique: What are you going to lay down at your Whistler set, considering it’s an international crowd here for a jazz festival?

ZS: I’m going to play a real mix and work out what the crowd wants by gauging their reactions and movements. It’ll be an amalgamation of the big club hits, with some world music surprises thrown in. Maybe some Latin, some deep house, a few jazz tracks, I’m bringing it all so let me know what you want to hear.