"...We split our programming between being a true listening kissa bar, and someplace to come shake your ass..."
DJ, party-runner, spoken-word performer, archivist, curator, teacher, journalist, producer: Rich Medina is a constant force against the limitations of what one person can achieve in music. Running for over 30 years in circles with the likes of J-Dilla, Q-Tip, Bobbito Garcia, and championing Hip-Hop, Afrobeat, House and Funk with his superb record of successful and pioneering parties in NYC and beyond, Rich is surely one of the most valuable musicians we know.
We asked Rich to try to shine a spotlight on Miami’s first true listening bar - Dante’s Hifi, where he serves as musical director. The venue, opened in September 2021, is inspired by the type of ‘Jazz Kissa’ listening bar that can be found in Japan, where sound and atmosphere takes precedent over conversation, crossed with a more traditional and social bar appeal. The bar features a custom-built analog sound system including Klipsch speakers, a vintage Carys tube amplifier, and the MasterSounds Radius Four Valve.
Hey Rich, tell us a little bit about what you have been up to recently besides your work at Dante's?
"Aside from trying my best to be a good dad, I’ve been doing a ton of touring, holding down my NYC and Philadelphia DJ residencies, and activating new work opportunities that are connected to my winning the 2021 Pew Fellowship Grant in 2021."
So, can you tell us about the ethos behind the bar, and how your involvement as musical director came about?
"Dante’s HiFi+ is Miami’s first Japanese Kissa inspired HiFi bar. My business partners returned from a trip to Japan and reached out to me about the possibility of collaborating with them as a partner in the endeavor. After a few interviews and a site visit before it was built out, we agreed on a new partnership and here we are 1.5 years later, tearing shit up."
Can you tell us a little bit about the analog sound system at Dante’s? What was it like to put together and have you made any changes since opening?
"Our system is made of classic Klipsch Cornwall speakers, Cary tube amplification, an array of modern age Klipsch speaker boxes as spatial fills, double 8” Klipsch subwoofers custom built into our bankhead seating, 10” Klipsch subs embedded into the ends of our bar wall, vintage Altec Lansing 5 panel folded horns that carry strictly high end, Technics 1200 turntables on Isonoe isolators, and our beloved MasterSounds Radius Four Valve DJ Mixer and matching FX Unit. All I can say about putting it together is that our engineer and our pro audio consultation is the best there is."
We’ve read that you keep a large selection of your own records behind the bar - so what's it like to have your personal collection housed in a venue and have you ever been surprised to find out a record being played was one of your own that you had forgotten about?
"There are roughly 10,000 records at Dante’s HiFi+, all of which belong to me. They make up roughly 30% of my collection. The rest is at home or in storage. The beauty of digging is that there’s always something to learn, particularly inside your own collection. It’s a bottomless pit of discovery when you’re truly dedicated to the craft and you play your collection rather than rinse and repeat records you feel safe about."
We’ve seen education mentioned as a key feature of Dante's experience, something we try to offer at MasterSounds too. How does this aspect of learning about music work during a visit to the venue?
"We split our programming between being a true listening kissa bar, and someplace to come shake your ass after the 7pm to 10pm listening sessions. In both aspects of our presentation we ask our guest selectors to engage the space as masters of ceremony, and share some of their inside musical voice and tastes with the clientele. We play music films. We have talks with artists and DJs about the craft or their latest releases, or their approach to record collecting. We share detailed data about the recordings we play with the desire to not only educate our clientele, but to show them that we respect their intelligence and taste enough to talk to them directly about who we are, what we are doing, and why their ears make all the difference in the end."
What track is stuck in your head right now?
Hiatus Kaiyote - Get Sun.
"Arthur Verocai’s string arrangements in combination with the virtuoso stylings of the entire HK crew and Nai Palm’s phenomenal songwriting are mind blowing."
How are things looking for the future, both in regards to your position as Director at Dante’s, and your own personal projects?
"The sky is the limit. We will continue to put our best foot forward to represent the culture, I’m not going anywhere but up, Dante’s isn’t going anywhere but up, and our combined growth will hopefully continue to keep us on people’s minds and in their hearts whether they visit us in Miami, Austin, or wherever we decide to set up Shop next. As for personal projects, all I can say is watch this space. 2023 is gonna be a motherfucker."
Written by Ed Jackson.