February 2005
By Steven M. Housman

Raising Cain with Abel

Abel Aguilera was born a Brooklyn boy who relocated to Miami at an early age. He prominently displayed his winning talent and charm by DJ’ing clubs, starting at the tender age of fifteen. Miami is the city that he was still discovering when audiences started discovering him. In the mid-nineties, his heavy beats and diva anthems were as famous to Miami Beach clubs as Jackie Gleason was to Miami Beach audiences. Just a slightly different crowd.

With his latest release Alegria, Abel has put together a 140 minute CD so phenomenal that his most recent Number One Record, “Cha Cha Heels,” with fabulous vocals by Jeannie Tracy, is just an indication of how hot this disc is.

I caught up with Abel as he was winding down from a gig in Chicago and got to ask him about the man behind the music, and if he ever thought he’d be as popular as he is now. For accomplishing what he has in the past decade with longtime collaborator Ralph Rosario, (Rosabel), the man was more than modest, and that’s putting it mildly!

I understand that you were voted the #1 circuit DJ - How does it feel to hold that title?

It feels great! It’s not something I let get to me. I don’t do this to get that headline. I do it for myself and for the love of spinning. It’s not so much about getting the title, but it does help.

I understand that you’ve been playing Gay Disney for the past seven years. Isn’t it great?

Yeah, it’s a special thing. It’s definitely not your typical circuit event. It’s a really fun thing to do.

When you’re not playing live, how hi-energy are you?

What do you mean? I don’t know what you mean! (Laughing). Actually, I’m pretty much as hi-energy as my music. My fans consider me very much fun and active. I always have to being doing something. Always. I’m a Red Bull kind of guy!

Congratulations on the new release “Alegria”- Are there any tracks that are particularly special to you, and if so, why?

There are a couple. La Punta is one. It was the first track that was put out under the name Rosabel. It’s also special because it marked the tenth year of Rosabel. Also, “That Sound,” because it was one of our biggest records as well. Also the track that Ophra Haza is on. It’s a special track that was done by a friend of ours that was never going to be released, and we had the privilege to have it on the CD.

Let’s go back a little. How did you and Ralph initially hook up?

Me and Ralphie met years ago in the late 80’s during a Winter Music Conference. It was funny the way we met. Some guy came up to me and gave me his business card (Ralph Rosario’s), and I was a big fan of his. It turned out it wasn’t him. Then a few minutes later, Ralphie came up to me and gave me his card, and I started laughing and said, “Wait a minute, how come there are two of you?” Then I said, “You have an imposter out there because he gave me your card.” Then I really got to know Ralphie when we started talking on the phone and we started hanging out, and that was it.

Who’s your favorite current diva?

Hmm, that’s a tough question. There are a lot, but I have to say because of the talent, it would have to be Missy Elliot. The other would be Christina. Angie Stone is another one.

Who’s your favorite diva of all time?

I would have to say Donna Summer. That woman just does not quit. She is amazing! Another would be Bette Midler, because she’s just so fabulous.

What’s the strangest moment you’ve ever had playing live?

Actually, it was a Rosabel night and it was in Orlando by some creepy promoter. I don’t know what the hell he was on, but he booked us into a venue that had a ship in the middle. It was Ralphie and myself. We had to walk the plank to get onto the ship, with water in between, and the plank was about a foot wide. It was a weird party.

Besides Miami, what cities are your favorites to play?

I’d have to say Brazil because it’s really intense. The whole country is intense. I love Montreal and Toronto. They are both really incredible. Here in the states I would have to say that Chicago is amazing. When we have Fireball, it’s Chicago at its best. Then LA and San Francisco - those cities are IT!

Do you ever make it to Palm Springs?

Yeah, I get there for the White Party. But then it’s really not Palm Springs. Everybody there is really not from that city, so it’s hard to judge.

Did you ever honestly think that the team Rosabel was going to be as successful and admired as you are today?

It was not something we ever focused on. We also do our separate things, so when we’re together, it’s a plus. I find when you don’t look at things so closely, the better it looks. If you just focus on the success, it doesn’t happen.

Do you have any DJ idols?

Not currently (laughs). There’s a lot of new up and coming DJ’s that are cool. There are a lot of legendary ones that are still kicking. But there’s no one in particular. I admire them all.

If you had to pick just one song of yours that you’d put in a time capsule for future generations of dancegoers, which song would you choose and why?

It would HAVE to be Debbie Jacobs’ “Don’t You Want My Love.” That song still is our most powerful song. It was our first song that was a single on Tommy Boy Records, and they gave it a lot of love. It’s incredible to see a dance record hold on the Billboard charts for two weeks in a row while competing against Madonna, Janet and whoever else was up there at that time. For a dance song to hold onto the #1 spot is very unique, and that song did it. We can still play that song today and get an amazing reaction. It was a classic back in ’79 and it’s still a classic. I have to say “Cha Cha Heels” is the strongest record we’ve put out in a long time, but it’s too soon to tell if it will stand the test of time.
Hey Steve, just keep the Cha Cha beat thumping!

© 2005 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.