Testing, testing one, two, three... the dainty but daring DJ was on a roll. She was skilfully selecting track after track at the request of her fans of her Hott 93.5 radio programme, Beauty and the Beats. Beauty and the Beats — indeed the perfect title for the stylish woman and her talents in the entertainment industry. It was 10 a.m., while doing my last minute painting for Christmas it was just the right combination to spice up the Saturday mid-morning — soca parang tunes of Scrunter, Kenny G and Marcia Miranda interspersed with pop, reggae and a little dash of hip hop. The DJ with more than 15 years experience in the industry knew how to communicate with her fans, her banter was light — "Wow, I know many of you have completed your Christmas cleaning and shopping but I am still behind time. I still have some rooms to clean and I am hoping to finish before Christmas..." — not too much talk, the focus is on the music.
Undoubtedly one of the most sought after DJs in the business today, Alicia Awai, christened "Alicia the Duchess" at a Carnival fete, (the Vale Breakfast Party in her hometown of Diamond Vale, Diego Martin a couple of years ago) is an icon. Born the last of seven children, Awai started out in the business at the young age of 11, taking pattern from her older brothers, mainstay DJ outfit back in the eighties, LKC — Love Kid Crew. Her debut as a turntable maestro was an expected baptism of fire — "It was a DJ and rap competition at the Princess Building Grounds in the late 1980s. I entered at the tender age of 11 in the DJing segment. In those days we had to use turntables and records, a far cry from the computerised process of today. I played 20 songs in five minutes mixing in an instrumental with a Cindy Lauper tune and three more discos as my entree. I won the first prize and my parents took the prize money and bought a BMX bike for me. I was elated. That was the start of my career as a DJ/radio announcer!" Awai remembered.
Her broadcasting career made a major leap in 1997 with Power 102FM Radio, through a series of overnight and part-time "On-Air" shifts. Eventually, she furthered her studies in the field and her opportunities grew. In 1999 she joined the 98.9FM Radio team as a DJ/Programme Producer and spent six years as one of the top rated DJ/Music Programmers with the very popular youth oriented radio station. Her tenure with 98.9 helped to redefine the "Duchess" brand and the advice she received from veterans in the arena nurtured her raw talents and ability in the entertainment circuit. "I remembered popular radio host and announcer, Tony Lee, telling me — 'Alicia speak from your diaphragm not your throat and that advice stuck with me throughout and it worked superbly. Tony was one of my mentors and I learned a great deal from him. I had and still have a passion for announcing and DJing, it was my dream job and when I was on air I felt like if I was on cloud nine!" claimed the mother of two.
On air, the Duchess is easy-going, charismatic and engaging, off air she is the same woman and much more — a mother, wife, friend, homemaker... she is one of a kind. "I am always very busy. I work an eight-to-four job apart from DJing and announcing and I have to manage my family and my home so my schedule is tight. It can be tough achieving a balance amongst all these roles but I get a lot of support from my husband and my family and that helps tremendously," Awai said.
Not many announcers can DJ at the same time they are on air, actually not many women DJ at all. Awai is a master of both arts. Her daring, optimistic and resilient personality augurs well with the occupational path she has chosen. "As a DJ and announcer, you have to be a good listener to connect with your audience, feel their vibe and deliver programming that is pleasing to a wide cross section of the target group. It's not an easy career but it is rewarding if you love what you do," she declared.
The 'mic' woman is always on the cutting edge in trend setting energetic music. She has a style of her own within a business predominantly dominated by males. Well-organised and blessed with crowd-pleasing gifts, as a true professional, the "Vale girl" (another one of her aliases) is always ready to perform any format, style and at any venue with expert care and flawless performance making her a return visitor to almost every venue at which she spins. Her weekend international stints have made her a worldwide favourite from Toronto to New York to London and of course the Caribbean.
What is her secret to success? A classic case of a Duchess seeking the needs of her subjects, versatility is her key to the hearts of many music lovers. "My sets include a variety of genres and styles from soca to dance/trance, alternative beats, hip-hop to R&B. My plans for the future are to continue to strive to do the very best at what I do and I hope to someday carry local talent and Caribbean music to the wider international market," said the two-time Fresh Fest Master Mix champion and affiliate of Fantasy Mas, Poison UK and Generation X.
For the Christmas season she was everywhere from Christmas parties to corporate functions. Carnival time which is quickly approaching will be even more hectic but the Duchess is ready and waiting. "I let the music speak for itself. My fans and my family are my inspiration; without them I cannot perfect the art of DJing," she concluded with a knowing smile. And that was a wrap; stay tuned for more details on the Duchess.
For more information on Alicia "the Duchess" Awai log onto Facebook: www.facebook.com/aliciaduchess or Twitter: www.twitter.com/aliciaduchess YouTube: www.youtube.com/aliciaduchess