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DJ Kaori

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It’s a long way from spinning vinyl for friends in Kochi Prefecture to DJing private parties for P. Diddy and Michael Jordan in NYC, but that’s exactly the journey Kaori Ueda, aka hip-hop DJ Kaori, made when she left for New York a decade ago. Having established a career abroad, she now—like trance DJ Tsuyoshi and house DJ Satoshi Tomie before her—is looking to make herself known to a domestic audience.

A release for the Japanese market, DJ Kaori’s Def Jam Mix (Def Jam Japan) has just reached record store shelves, and the DJ has been busy supporting the album with a string of DJ engagements around Japan. But with plenty of homegrown DJs providing competition, she’ll have to prove herself once the New York cache starts to wear off.

Kaori’s journey began at age 16 when she bought turntables and taught herself the art of mixing vinyl. Moving to New York in 1992, she set up residence in the East Village and threw herself into the city’s vibrant club scene, eventually landing gigs at marquee venues like Limelight, Tunnel, Twilo and Sound Factory. Her mentor and current manager, Funkmaster Flex, recalls happening upon her in a club. “When I got in the club the vibe was incredible and the selections the DJ was playing were knocking me out. When I went over to see who was DJing, I had to do a double take.”

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