It’s Monday morning and Chicagoans are up early, headed to work. Imagine their surprise when they hear a song that reminds them of Sunday afternoons at their grandma’s house. That’s how DJ Ayana Contreras curates her playlists; with songs that make people feel.
“I just get a big bag of records,” Contreras said, “and as I’m pulling them I’m thinking about records that I remember going to cookouts and people enjoyed … or going to whatever event, and it meant something to someone in that moment.”
Without even realizing it, commuters may start to bob their heads, really getting into the music. The train takes off from 95th Street and the hope is that riders are ready to start their day.
That’s one of the many goals of the AESOP (An Extended Song of Our people) DJ booth: to make the commute that much more enjoyable.
“Art has an ability to heal and be therapeutic and to reach the people of this community,” says Ronald Ale, program director for AESOP 95th. “So we thought that for this particular instillation that music would be a really important aspect for the people.”
AESOP is a part of the Rebuild Foundation and the CTA’s public arts program, geared toward enhancing Chicago’s transit systems with art reflective of the community it’s based in.
Contreras is on the ones and twos for the early Monday morning commute. While it’s early, she says she’s happy to bring people together and play records that may mean something to everyone.
“This is actually one of the most popular train stations in the whole city. So to have people all coming together, all walks of life, coming in and bobbing and grooving to the same music I think is a really unifying thing. And I think it’s a beautiful thing,” she said.
AESOP 95th sits directly in front of the north terminal turnstiles, making it nearly impossible for riders not to stop for a quick dance.
That’s where riders can be found Friday after work, eager to catch Chicago House DJ Duane Powell.
“I love house music. I’m a house head,” says one CTA rider. “I love house music. It’s free music. Who wouldn’t love that?”
DJ Powell says he just wants to brighten everyone’s day.
“Even just in passing just for a minute,” DJ Powell says. “Just a smile for one minute of that day.”
“I love that the music is here,” says another CTA rider. “I spent all day doing work so I could get here by 4 o’clock. It’s needed. People need to release. Chicago is a beautiful musical city and it’s a great way to get people right into the mood.”
House music originated in Chicago in the ‘70s in response to segregation. For DJ Powell, house music began desegregating the city.
“Music seems to be the one thing that brings us together, it’s a unifier,” he said.
“I think it’s good that people get off and realize that they have spaces that’s celebrating their art and music.”
The AESOP 95th DJ booth is expected to be in action through at least the rest of the summer, Monday mornings from 7-10 a.m. and Friday afternoons from 4-7 p.m.
Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3
Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.