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Get to know Chelina Manuhutu, the Ibiza tech house favourite going global

The Dutch DJ's gone from playing elrow and Pacha on the White Isle to touring the world

  • Words: Marcus Barnes
  • 1 November 2019

When a freak accident put Chelina Manuhutu in hospital for two weeks, she focused on the positive and used it as an opportunity to pursue her musical ambitions. Modelling since she was just six years old, the 34-year-old Dutch selector spent the majority of her adult life traveling the world on assignments. But in 2010, over the Christmas period, she was badly burned during an accident involving a fireplace. It was so severe that she was in hospital for two weeks, where she underwent skin grafts.

“Right away I thought, ‘Modelling is over, now it’s time to focus on music one hundred per cent’” she says. “It became my main priority – I wanted to play as much as I could to see how it would go for me. It wasn’t as traumatic as people imagine because I was thinking about music straight away. Of course what happened was not nice at all, but you’ve got to see the positive side to it. The accident made me more open-minded, and was actually quite liberating. Maybe I would never have gone into music that early in my life – or even at all.”

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Born in Huizen, Holland, Chelina grew up in a musical family. Her father Johnny Manuhutu – whose parents are from the Maluku Islands in the Pacific – is the lead singer of a Latin rock band, Massada, which also includes two of his brothers. Her Dutch mother was a dancer in musicals, one of her older brothers played guitar, and the other was a DJ. Initially she chose to dance, attending classes and competitions in her teens, but Holland’s progressive clubs and festivals planted a seed. “When I was fifteen I went to Dance Valley with my brother,” she recalls. “Carl Cox closed the main stage. I was like, ‘What the fuck?!’. It was a whole new world.”

Read this next: elrow still looks like Ibiza's most outrageous party

Modelling dominated Chelina’s life, but in 2007 she decided to get some decks as an outlet and way to unwind. She progressed from spinning at home to playing friends’ birthday parties and local bars and clubs. But the accident changed everything,
and when Chelina recovered, in the summer of 2011 she went to Ibiza, taking a demo CD to the Blue Marlin. She got herself a slot there and, three years later, met her influential manager Alex Montoya at the very same venue. This was followed by a residency at Solomun’s +1 party, warming up every week at Pacha for three years. Since then she’s become a regular at parties like Elrow and ANTS, with jaunts to South America, Australia and across Europe, plus several releases under her belt.

Nine years since her accident, Chelina is loving every moment. “Sometimes you strive for more and more and more, and never really enjoy what you’re doing right now,” she says. “So I’m trying to focus on the here and now and enjoying life in the moment.”

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