On The Record: Da Lion of Judah
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Being a working DJ for 20 years with rhythm, flair and spice is a feat Judah “Da Lion of Judah” Oschner holds close to his heart. The only thing that trumps his career’s longevity is being blessed with the opportunity to represent the Latin dance community.
After proving his worth at Waikiki hot spots like Zanzabar Nightclub, Playbar Waikiki and Lulu’s Waikiki for more than a decade, he’s since journeyed away from tourist confines to find his career in the best place it has ever been.
In all ways, shapes and forms, Oschner has genuine love and an appreciation for Hawaii’s DJ culture. His support is unconditional. This passion extends to the dance-crazed Latino community and his ever-popular “Ritmo Latino” dance party, which recently moved from the defunct Cafe Che Pasta to The Villa at Aloha Tower Marketplace.
“The opportunity came about for me to step in the scene here in Hawaii and help it grow and make the general public aware of this happy and sexy culture,” he said. “(I’ve) been doing it ever since.”
Perpetatuating the Latin beat is a natural transition for the accomplished salsa dancer of Hispanic, Filipino, Indian and German descent. He not only grew up around the sounds of Santana, Elvis Crespo and Oscar D’Leon, but amid a full household of dancers and musicians as well.
At one point, the future of Oahu’s longest running Latin night was in a state of limbo when Che Pasta announced it’s closure. Oschner was only given two days notice. The news initially shocked him, but faith won over.
“I was like, ‘Hell no, we have too much momentum to stop now,’ plus a bunch of vultures thought they could take the night from me before we even closed,” said Oschner. “Didn’t happen.”
Not only was he left scrambling for a venue, but he also had the responsibility of a whole dance community and culture on his shoulders. Thanks to a mutual friend and a dose of good karma, The Villa fell into his lap and the sizzle was back.
“Not just the salsas, merengues and all that, but I could let loose on the reggaetons, Brazil funks, bachata, bandas cumbias, I mean, everything,” Oschner said.
The spacious new digs and new 21-and-over age requirement fit the classy, upscale vibe he long sought after. Latino boogie music finally had a home it truly could be proud of. The move was the spark the party needed.
“This is hands down the best venue Latinos ever had to date,” said Oschner. “You notice I said Latinos. The dancers following us (are) just a huge bonus. They always complained they never got a top-of-the-line venue on a Friday and a Saturday.
“Well, guess what? We got them one. And the scene has responded. It is now a staple in the Latin scene here in Honolulu and people can’t wait until Friday to go to The Villa.”
These days, residencies at The Mill in Mililani and Suck ‘Em Up Bar in Kapolei keep Oschner on the outskirts of his old Waikiki stomping grounds and other saturated areas of Honolulu’s nightlife. The move keeps him closer to the local crowd, he said. It’s a position he relishes. Tough-skinned and unfazed by whatever scrutiny may come his way, Oschner said he’s in the midst of the most fulfilling period of his career.
“Nothing really phases me anymore, but DJing special events, festivals and other non nightspot events keeps my career fresh,” he said. “You get the peeps who wanna tear down what you build or even undercut you.
“I have had people take advantage of me. I still have haters, but some of the people I have met in my career far outweigh any of the negativity.”
Kalani Wilhelm covers nightlife and music for the Pulse. Contact him via email or follow him on Twitter.