Jonathan Alcoba aka TANAFLOW came in to have a chat with us prior to his set at the Velvet Wednesdays opening edition this week. Check out how it went!
Airplane Mode: Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Tanaflow: I was born and raised here in a Filipino family. I have always lived a musical life thanks to my family. On my father’s side, my grandfather was a guitarist in a band in the Philippines. My father is leading a choir in a church every month, so I’ve always been raised in musical vibes. At the age of 12, I started to get interested in playing the piano, so I taught myself how to play. I do covers and sing a lot. I started like that, singing in private parties like birthdays, weddings and things like that. Most recently I sang with Sandra Bakuku, she sang for The Voice van Vlaanderen, so for the singing and piano part that’s the most professional thing let’s say.
A.M: How did you get into DJing?
Tanaflow: I started to get interested in being a DJ when I was helping my cousin Chimvie Dimaculangan, she co-organises Moonlight with Tatiana de Wind, with the entrance to a party and I could hear the vibes and that’s when I started to get interested in the Soulection vibes.
A.M: When was that?
Tanaflow: I would need to check the date on Facebook ha ha! But I was like yeah wow cool, it was something new and it was the first time future beats was in Brussels, 4 or 5 years ago, in a party in Bazaar. KAYTRANADA came and Sángo, and I checked their Soundcloud and I thought woah they are dope ha ha. KAYTRANADA is one of my idols.
A.M: Would you say he’s a big influence on you?
Tanaflow: Yeah, because his productions are really unique. When you hear a sound from him you can recognise it instantly. Sometimes I love a song and I see it’s KAYTRANADA and it’s not even a surprise it’s him! Sángo as well… and the whole Soulection squad but there are too many to name. Recently I was surprised that BSMNT could invite sosupersam because I love her too!
A.M: So did you become a DJ straight away?
Tanaflow: After the party, it wasn’t straight away that I became a DJ. I had a conversation with one of my best friends from Vienna (the music is everywhere over there), and he asked me: why don’t you make your life a musical life 100%? Because before I used to study marketing and business management, and music was just a hobby. I had never thought of doing it 100%. Since that conversation I searched for a school, and I started studying audio engineering at the SAE institute. I was like, why not do something professional to do with music. There’s a lot of technical stuff though like you have to know the acoustics so there’s maths and I suck at maths and physics! But I have learnt a lot of things there.
I thought of being a DJ at parties where I was like, I want to put my music on and make those people dance and be happy. That’s when I started to think why not invest in a DJ controller, so for the moment I have the small one, the SB2, quite basic but it works! I started last December at a girl’s birthday party. In the Filipino culture when a girl turns 18 she enters the adult world, so there’s a huge party. I had some good feedback so I thought, why not continue!!
A.M: So DJing is quite fresh for you then?
Tanaflow: Yeah quite fresh! My first public event was the Apéros Chill, where I talked with Saf because we had grooved together at the BSMNT with sosupersam, he recognised me so I thought I’d properly introduce myself: “I’m a DJ and I have a Soundcloud…” and that’s how we got connected with Theo! He heard my mixtapes and loved it and booked me for the next Apéros Chill, and that’s how it started.
A.M: Where did you learn to mix?
Tanaflow: I actually just watched Youtube videos and I was just in my room doing the transitions and all that, but the thing is everyone has always told me that I have the rhythm in my blood. Maybe thanks to the fact that I play instruments. We did band competitions with other countries and I was the one leading, and I was always real strict with the rhythm and beat, so maybe that’s why I can find the good spots. Since then I’ve always had good feedback so I keep going on and working on my stuff. So maybe the next thing will be producing my own beats and all that but I’m still so busy with school and with making myself a name.
A.M: Where does the name Tanaflow come from?
Tanaflow: Well in the Philippines they have a nickname for me: Tantan. Jonathan. Tantan. So the ‘tan’ comes from that. The ‘a’ is for Alcoba, my family name, and ‘flow’ is for the flow, the music. I was really struggling to find an artist name actually! First I had JLA but I was like no that’s way too basic. Then I found Tanaflow… tana tana floooww that sounds good! People said it was good so I kept it ha ha!
A.M: What kind of music gets you dancing?
Tanaflow: Future beats. Especially KAYTRANADA beats. It’s a mix of groovy, funk and hip-hop and that’s why I love him. When you put something groovy on, I’m gonna get up and dance! I also love trap, but that’s more to jump into the crowd you know. So what I love most is the future beats vibe, the whole Soulection squad, so many I could name, like Jarreau Vandal.
A.M: I was going to ask you who your favourite artists are but…
Tanaflow: I’ve named them all!! The whole Soulection squad they are crazy.
A.M: What’s your favourite genre to mix?
Tanaflow: Future beats of course, and hip-hop.
A.M: Is hip-hop quite difficult to mix?
Tanaflow: What I love about hip-hop is all the different rhythms. A lot of DJs do a loop before they go to the next song, and what I love to do is to mix two songs together so they overlap. People have told me like, yeah what you’re doing sounds good! When you say it’s difficult, that’s true but I work a lot at home and search for good cues, so I hear what’s coming and I know which cue to put in which spot, and that’s how it goes!
A.M: We are called Airplane Mode, in reference to switching off and losing yourself in something, when do you switch to airplane mode?
Tanaflow: 24/7! The most crazy thing, my iPhone jack is broken so I’ve gotten used for a year now to being outside without earphones, and I’m listening and I’m like woah, some people might find me crazy but the illest sounds are from outside I think. Those are the most natural sounds and I would love to make some beats with outside sounds. Maybe not here, but I’ve heard recordings from Times Square that people sampled and it’s sick! I’m also in airplane mode whenever I play the piano, it’s when I’m most comfortable and where I find my inspiration and peace.
A.M: Is there anywhere you dream of playing one day?
Tanaflow: Lately it was Bloody Louis but that’s happening next week so that’s pretty cool! For a festival… maybe Fire Is Gold, the festival run by the Bloody Louis crew. I went and it was pretty cool because they had a stage for Bloody Louis and Trillers, oh yeah, I would also love to play for Trillers! In the Flemish side, they are so open I love them! Some people here in Brussels, and I’ve seen it, they always want the same type of music, the same sounds.
A.M: Do you mean club owners or the crowd?
Tanaflow: Depends on the party… but I know that BSMNT they are more open and that’s why I wanted to connect with Theo because it’s really a future beats vibe.
A.M: What do you think of the music scene in Brussels?
Tanaflow: I think it’s quite good. Better than before! They are more open, but could still open up a bit more. We can see the difference between the Flemish side and Brussels vibes. In the north, the parties are crazy! When I saw videos from the Fire Is Gold festival, Roméo Elvis was playing on the Trillers stage and everyone was dancing it was crazy. The Bloody Louis stage, was super cool, you had Damso and Hamza, big names, but yeah people were a bit more reserved. Trillers was a smaller stage but I enjoyed it there.
A.M: What’s the music scene like in the Philippines?
Tanaflow: To be honest I don’t really know what the vibes are like there! My cousin Chimvie, she’s there and she told me the music is quite commercial, that there’s house music and all that, and I was like oh! There’s house?! Ha ha, didn’t know that.
A.M: Do you go there a lot?
Tanaflow: The last time was in 2010. Most of my family is here or in the USA so we don’t go to the Philippines a lot. Maybe I’ll go in two years or so.
A.M: Where can we see you after the Velvet Wednesdays?
Tanaflow: Next week I have three parties in a row! Bloody Louis for the Welcome Party, I’m mixing there for the first time it’s gonna be crazy! Apéros Chill at Kumiko, and the Warm-Up for Tarmac on the 31st.
A.M: Any advice for aspiring DJs?
Tanaflow: Push forward and don’t be afraid. It’s by making mistakes that you learn and that’s how you grow. That’s how I grew. I was kinda scared of how my life would turn out if I did music 100%, but if you love it there’s no problem, and I really love it. I think I could do this for the rest of my life.
A.M: Have you got a good support group?
Tanaflow: Oh yeah I really do. My parents are really supportive, especially with school because that’s quite expensive. I was supposed to finish early September but I didn’t get the average score, which is quite high, 80%! But they told me they still wanted to support me and they gave me an extra six months there. So yeah my entourage is really great and that’s why I don’t regret this decision.
A.M: Are your friends coming to Velvet Wednesdays?
Tanaflow: I’ve told them about it and shared it on my Facebook page, so I hope they can make it but some of them have school. But when I do the Apéros Chill, those who come for the 3 days I will get them a bottle of whatever they want ha ha! They said they’d think about it because of their livers… ha ha ha!
A.M: What’s your drink of choice?
Tanaflow: Ahh… Whisky Coke. I’m a Whisky drinker. Actually I love everything, except Gin. It’s taken me to crazy dimensions.
A.M: Not a good idea to drink while mixing I’m guessing…
Tanaflow: No! I did have a bad experience with that… but it was at my cousin’s wedding so it was ok, I was really drunk. The next day I saw Snapchat stories and I was like why did I put this song on ha ha! So never again. Drinking on the job is never professional, so better to drink after not before. Also I think water is life ha ha!
There you have it! Don’t forget to check out his Facebook page for more upcoming dates and info.
logo credits: Mariele.Chiara