Mixing it Up Jersey City DJ Carlos Ramos has been spinning since the days of disco

Jersey City DJ Carlos Ramos began his career as a 15-year-old on the seedy underground South Bronx club scene. Those humble beginnings would eventually take him to Europe and back to become an acclaimed international music mix spinmeister.Today, Ramos is working on original remixes for export to Europe and collaborates with DJs half his age. Ramos, born in 1961, no longer spins at clubs, but considers that phase of his career a rite of passage that led to his successful private events service – World Music. Ramos also is a founder of Last DJs, a coalition of young DJs from throughout New Jersey, and is creating a soundtrack for the European ad campaign for Samsung.

His career has led to recognition from the likes of Paul Simon, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Sting, Muhammad Ali, and Rosie Perez.

Ramos got interested in music when he was 7 years old, fueled by his father’s experience as a roadie for the Joe Cuba Sextet and Jimmy Sabater. Later, a stint in the Army gave Ramos the opportunity to spin records for club crowds in Germany, where he was stationed at the age of 17.

Club scene

But that was only the beginning for Carlos Ramos. His next career stop was in the heyday of the disco scene New York clubs including Merlyns, Studio 54, 4D, The Milky Way at Hotel Amazona, The Ritz, Octagon, Pastels, Le Club, and Palladium.

In 1986 Ramos became a fixture as head DJ at New York’s renowned international dance club Sounds of Brazil, where Town & Country magazine noted in a September 1987 article that “The young enthusiastic crowd succumbs to joyful abandon, whipped into a frenzy by … a remarkable assortment of international dance music spun by DJ Carlos Ramos.” Ramos recalls being flattered when he noticed that artists including Bryan Ferry and others (who were regulars during his nights at S.O.B.s) incorporated many of his ideas into albums they released in the late ’80s and beyond.

In 1989 Ramos was recruited by restaurateur/club owners Noah Lee and John Zalkin to appear exclusively at the Bon Ton Square Caribbean Café in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., due to his intimate knowledge of Caribbean and African dance music. He was recognized as a formidable presence in Miami and Fort Lauderdale nightlife by area media including the Miami Herald and the south Florida monthly 25th Parallel.

“I started playing music in the seventh grade, at which time I became interested in the ways many nations’ rhythms and instruments were coming together in urban music to create new hybrids,” he told an industry newsletter recently. “I lived in West Indian neighborhoods that were steeped in Calypso and reggae culture, and hung out in the parks where many summers the benches were full of competing groups of drummers. The Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian rhythms that were all over dance music at that time suggested fusions that I felt were only partially realized in that era.”

In 1990, Ramos returned to New York and began working at Cafe Iguana, where his Monday night parties were bar- and table-top dancing extravaganzas for club and dance-music loving celebrities and wealthy trust-fund babies.

His experiences soon led to a new frontier and market in his musical career, as the promotional partners and exclusive clientele from the club world created a demand for his services on a private basis. His seven-nights-a-week work schedule had to be divided for him to both cash in and meet the demand for private parties hosted by corporations and socially prominent individuals.

Among his exclusive client list is Steve Forbes, who holds annual parties for clients and neighbors, usually a two-day affair at the Timberfield Estate in Far Hills. At these events, Ramos has helped to entertain guests such as WCBS-TV anchorwoman Roz Abrams, comedienne Joan Rivers, and other VIPs.

Corporate entities are among his chief clients, and the product- and movie-launch parties on his résumé include Liz Claiborne’s Dolce Vita fragrance, Jaguar Motor Cars, and movie premieres for Cop Land and Jason’s Lyric. He also provides music for personal gatherings such as birthdays, weddings, and other social events through World Music.

“I consider the success of my private party business a sort of graduation from my hard-driving years as a seven-night-a-week disco jock,” Ramos says. “Today my repertoire goes far beyond popular club music to include the international and classics like Sinatra, Torme, and Etta James, big band, swing, samba, and even polka. Any musical genre or listening need an individual might have can be met by a collection of over 40,000 wax records, thousands of CDs and other recorded media.”