Outside of the history department, Dr. Onaci is an avid music lover. We talked to him about his DJ career, music production, and creating a place on campus for student vinyl hobbyists.
Dr.Onaci, a history professor here on campus, also happens to be an avid music lover – and a part-time DJ.
Onaci’s appreciation for music as an artistic medium dates back as far as he can remember.
“I have been, ever since I can remember, been obsessed with music,” Onaci said. “I think that those two things, general love for music and fascination with that scratching sound and how people weave together these sonic tapestries, are probably the reasons why.”
Onaci became interested in scratching as early as the age of 8, but turntables and the other necessary gear finally came into his possession in 1997. Since then, DJing has become his favorite way to spend his spare time.
Of course, he has had moments of discouragement.
“You know, I actually quit a lot,” Onaci said. “My friends made fun of me at one point and said I retired more times than Michael Jordan.”
Onaci has always had a soft spot for hip hop and dance music. He loves house music and electronic dance music, especially South African House music.
The artist Onaci loves to talk about the most is Oddisee, a prolific and consistent rapper and producer from Washington, D.C. He tries to weave Oddisee tracks into his DJ sets whenever possible.
Onaci also cites Soul-Ection as one of his favorite influencing forces in music today. They have a sound that, as Onaci has noticed, many other artists try to emulate. Their sound, originating on the west coast and Canada, can be heard in the output of artists such as Rae Sremmurd, Rhianna, Anderson .Paak, Ravyn Lenae, and Kaytranada.
Onaci describes Soul-Ection’s sound as “really synth driven [and] bass heavy.”
“It’s a perfect blend of analog-meets-digital,” Onaci said.
Despite being a passionate music-lover, Onaci frowns upon the current direction undertaken by the music industry, noting the focus on streaming as the de-facto medium for consuming music these days.
He admits that his view can seem “ancient,” but he believes that the convenience of streaming is hurting the future of music because it eliminates the physical aspect.
There’s a sense of ownership that streaming removes, according to Onaci. His first memory of music involves a Michael Jackson record on vinyl, and to this day Onaci has a much stronger connection with music he plays on his turntable.
“When I listen to vinyl, I sit there, grab the cover, look at the liner notes, the lyrics sheet, if there is one [because] I buy a lot of used records, and sometimes I just watch it spin and I get kind of lost in it,” he said.
Onaci, along with sophomore Yusef Ahmed, have been working on starting a Vinyl Club at Ursinus. Vinyl Club is a group that has periodic meetings in the common room of New. It provides a time for people who own vinyl to come and share their music with other students.
He has enjoyed getting together with people who enjoy vinyl and being able to share his collection and knowledge of music with others.
The club held a themed-meeting this semester focusing on the history of hip hop. Onaci showcased some of his scratching skills to multiple students, and even gave some introductory advice on DJing.
Onaci is unsure where his DJing passion will go in the future. The turntables turned into a hobby, but he has started to supplement DJing with music production.
“That’s one of the reasons I don’t practice DJing as much … I’m trying to make a song,” Onaci said.
While he’s not sure where the future will take him, music remains the biggest constant in Onaci’s life – he knows that it will always be with him in one way or another.