Jasmine Banful, '20, excites the crowd in her giraffe onesie on August 31, 2017, on the Front Lawn. She was the opening act in the Blackbear concert. (Sam Henry/B&W Staff)

DJ Zen discusses love of music, opening for Blackbear

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Everyone has their brand. A marker of their identity. Something they are unrefutably known for.

In the case of Brooklyn-native Jasmine Banful, ’20, she wouldn’t be caught dead without her favorite pair of headphones. Whether she’s grabbing a cup of coffee, walking to get lunch or making her way to class, she’ll proudly sport a set around her neck and brush off any flak she receives in return.

Such a brand is all too fitting for someone known around campus as DJ Zen.

DJ Zen gained fame early this semester after opening for Blackbear during University Productions’ fall show. More impressive is the fact that Banful was less than a year into her DJing career when she landed the gig.

Banful said she was slightly overwhelmed after receiving the offer over the phone.

“It was crazy,” Banful said. “I called my sister and asked her if I should do it. She said, ‘It’s going to be a great opportunity and I don’t want you to let it go,’ and I was like, ‘Well, if I mess up, then I’m that person that messes up.’ I didn’t know.”

Given that Banful had only nine months of DJ experience under her belt, her hesitation was warranted. But after only one phone call to her mom, Banful made her up her mind.

“I called my mom and she said, ‘Do whatever makes you happy,’” Banful said. “So then I just called back and said yes day of. It was awesome.”

On the day of the concert, Banful was just as nervous as she was excited. Prior to the event, she said she had only ever performed for smaller groups of close friends. However, once the music got going and she settled in behind the DJ table, Banful said she was as relaxed as she’d ever been.

“It was so awesome,” she said. “I was so nervous to start, but at the end I was just chilling and vibing.”

To help her feel more at home, Banful said she put a lot of thought into her outfit for the event.

“I had my onesie on, so I was just chilling in my onesie,” she said. “It was really hot, especially in all the fleece. My friends told me to wear it, but my mom said, ‘Don’t you dare.’ But I did it anyway.”

While opening for Blackbear may hold rank as her most prominent performance, Banful started cultivating her character behind the table long before the concert.

On-campus DJ Frankie Rodriguez, ’19, met Banful at a jam session hosted by a fellow Electronic Music Society club member last year. He said although Banful was slightly timid at first, she broke out of her shell as soon as she started DJing.

“We had a jam session, and she went first,” Rodriguez said. “She killed it. She was so nervous, but once she got on the table, she did it and she was fine. That was one of her first times on the table without anyone else’s help. She went from being nervous to doing great.”

Rodriguez said Banful stood out because she was always asking him for tips and advice on DJing, which he was happy to give. He said between her drive and initiative, Banful garnered a lot of respect as an artist right from the start.

Isaac Wellish, ’17, the former Electronic Music Society president, also said Banful has an intense passion and willingness to learn.

“I met her last year when she signed up for the club, and she just immediately started going to all of the workshops, all the sessions…and really had a desire to learn how to DJ and produce,” Wellish said. “I would teach her DJ basics and production basics. After a month or two she started volunteering to DJ our events and stuff. She’s a driven, music-loving DJ.”

Banful’s drive and passion for DJing roots itself in her love of music in general. To her, listening to music is the best way to relax and unwind. She said producing music amplifies that experience.

“I tend to overthink, so the best part about DJing is getting into the flow,” she said. “Music just calms me down…It’s my life. DJing helps me make music into even more music and mix sounds together. I just love it.”

To Banful, DJing does more than serve as an outlet for stress. She said her favorite part about it is having a platform to connect with people and make new friends.

“I love the people,” Banful said. “(DJing) is fun and the opportunities that come with it are fun. I’m playing songs that I enjoy and sharing it with a crowd, and when the crowd loves it, it’s just a mutual vibe.”

As internal chair of the Electronic Music Society club, Banful gets to share the “mutual vibe” with anyone who wants to join. She said prior experience isn’t necessary, and she’ll teach aspiring DJs everything they need to know.

As for the future, Banful said she’s enjoying keeping her options open. She said Blackbear was an “awesome” opportunity, but doesn’t know where her career will take her.

Rodriguez said Banful’s open and carefree attitude toward DJing is what makes her who she is.

“She’s very low-key about what she wants out of the future but very high-key about her passion,” Rodriguez said. “You know that she’s a DJ and that she loves it.”

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