Artist of the Month: Carlita

The artistic polymath, Carlita, speaks with Harry Levin about her diverse musical upbringing, her mentor DJ Tennis, and curating her multi-sensory Senza Fine parties.

12 min
Carlita Artist of the Month Beatport
Mar 12, 2024
Harry Levin

Throughout her whole life, Carlita has been submerged in cultural overlap.

She is of Turkish and Italian descent. She is a classical musician who plays piano and cello, but she has also played bass, guitar, and drums in rock bands. In college, she took courses in marketing, computer science, and the music industry.

Such a varied history might cause a bit of head-scratching for most, but for Carlita, real name Carla Frayman, it was the exact path she needed to walk.

“Everything I did in my life, when I look back everything I did makes sense,” Carlita says. “Everything is very connected.”

Now Carlita is connecting all of her cultural and musical interests within her career as a DJ, producer, and party curator.

Her tracks bounce effortlessly from organic house to deep house to electro-pop. “Cash For Love,” her newest single on Circoloco Records, is a sweeping yet groovy house tune. In November of last year, she made her debut on Afterlife with “Ultra Violet,” a melodic track of epic proportions. Her highest streamed song on Spotify with over 7 million hits is “Zorro,” the indie-dance production on her regular home of Higher Ground that flaunts a bright and punchy horn section.

In the curatorial sphere, Carlita is connecting her interests through her Senza Fine parties. Beyond the lineups, which have included revered artists in dance music like SG Lewis, Mita Gami, Jimi Jules, and her mentor and artist manager, DJ Tennis, Carlita curates Senza Fine as a multisensory experience.

She spreads a specific scent in every room of the venue for Senza Fine parties; there are gourmet food options; and she builds the visual aesthetic around the Mona Lisa because the Lourve was the initial inspiration for the parties.

“I found so many parts that I’m interested in, so I decided to bring all of those together and build a community of people who have an interest in these things,” Carlita says.

Check out Carlita’s ‘Artist of the Month’ chart on Beatport.
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Carlita has been surrounded by people interested in different art forms since she was born. She grew up in Türkiye, which is culturally diverse by nature given its position between Europe and Asia. Her father is Turkish and her mother is Italian, but her mother is also obsessed with Brazilian culture. She speaks Portuguese and often played Brazilian music in the house when Carlita was still at home.

“Türkiye is culturally super diverse,” Carlita says. “It’s musically very strong. We use a lot of instruments.”

Carlita’s exposure to music led to her playing multiple instruments from a very young age. She started piano at three, and then she was studying cello at a conservatory in Istanbul by eight. She was inspired by her sister, who was also playing the cello.

Soon after learning cello, she had the idea to play in rock bands after watching the celebrated 2003 film, School of Rock.

“The cello player turned into a bass player, and I really liked that,” she says of the movie. “Cello and bass [are] so similar, and I always had so much love for rock music. I still do.”

Carlita was playing in rock bands between her collegiate studies at Northeastern University in Boston (her parents wanted her to study in the US), and living in Boston was another submersion into cultural diversity.

She was making friends with students — from the US and beyond — attending any of the 64 colleges and universities in the metro Boston area, including the renowned conservatory Berklee College of Music. Eventually, she and her friends wanted to do some dancing, which led her to electronic music

Carlita graduated at 21, which kept her underage for her entire college experience, but that didn’t stop her from getting into prominent Boston dance venues. Two of her favorites were Middlesex and Phoenix Landing.

“I was not able to get in all the time, but I would get in when my fake IDs worked,” she says with a laugh. “Those were small clubs where you can easily see the DJ and live acts. I remember watching Fatima Yamaha very closely playing the synths. I got super impressed. Seeing Blessed Madonna and so many amazing artists. I got super influenced by all of them.

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Carlita was set on becoming a DJ after all the influence she received from these nights out. Serendipitously, the owner of BIJOU, another club in Boston, was also Turkish. He offered to teach her how to use Rekordbox and CDJs, and a short time later, she was a resident at the club.

She implements an intuitive musical sense in her sets, stemming from her diverse musical upbringing.

“I play a lot of tracks that aren’t for the dance floor, on the dance floor,” Carlita says with a chuckle.

Her upbringing also prepared her for the performance aspect of DJing. Despite all her experience on stage with cello, guitar, and now a set of decks, she still considers herself a shy person, but DJing was actually a breath of fresh air in that regard.

“There is less error to [DJ]. In the end, what you have to do is transition and choose the tracks. Cello is a very hard instrument to play. Guitar has the [frets] so it’s easier to find the notes. Cello, you don’t have them. You have to know where [the note] is,” she says. “Secondly, Cello is a much more quiet environment. People are really [focused on] you. Then DJing, the environment is completely different. The focus is on you, but it can be on the dance floor. It can be many things.”

With less pressure on her own performance, Carlita was able to carefully observe how the music she played affected the people in front of her. She realized certain tracks were missing from her sets — moods she wanted to curate on the dance floor that reflected her own shrewd musical taste.

In order to create these moods, she started producing her own music, and her arsenal of instruments has played a role throughout her entire discography.

“I can use all the instruments I play in my music. This is my strength in music production. The live instruments. I grew up with this,” she says. “When I look back, I use everything I learned in my past.”

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Apart from using instruments she learned to play in her past, Carlita approaches her releases through the lens of the past. She only wants to put out timeless music, and for a track to be timeless, she needs to test its staying power.

For example, “Cash For Love,” which was released this past January, is over 18 months old. Many of the songs she has coming up for her album are also a year old, at least.

“I try to hold tracks for a year. If I still like them, they’re timeless. If I don’t like it in a couple of months, which happens all the time, I have so many songs that I get bored of very easily,” Carlita says. “‘Time,’ one of my favorite songs I’ve made and one of the most special songs from the album; the first time I performed that track was at Coachella with Tennis.”

Carlita played Coachella last year as Astra Club, her collaborative project with DJ Tennis (she’s playing Coachella again this year on her own, which was her dream since she first attended the festival in 2013). Currently, Tennis is her artist manager, but their relationship was really sparked through DJing.

The second time they ever spent time together, it was for her birthday celebration in the jungle of Comporta, Portugal, four years ago. They played a back-to-back set that unexpectedly lasted for 12 hours until the generator literally ran out of juice. They have been working together ever since.

Tennis is someone who aligns with Carlita’s exposure to so many different cultures. Throughout his career, he has been a manager (he managed Tale Of Us once upon a time) and agent, and he runs his label, Life And Death. He is also a chef who wants to own his own perfume line one day. Carlita has described him as a “unicorn” in the past.

“He’s been a mentor to me since I met him. He has so many talents. Extremely hard worker. Genuinely a good person,” she says. “I find him very inspiring.”

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DJ Tennis was the only artist announced to play at Carlita’s latest Senza Fine party last month for New York Fashion Week. She’s hosted a party every fashion week since 2022, and while she’s expanding the reach of Senza Fine to other major cities like Miami and soon London, Fashion Week will always be special to her because it’s another hub of cultural connection.

“I really think that how you dress also expresses your music. Right now, fashion brands are very into music. They like to associate with DJs and artists and how their [brands look],” she says. “I think music and fashion are super connected.”

Carlita isn’t just connecting music, fashion, and other cultural disciplines through Senza Fine; she is connecting people. She opened RSVPs for the first time at the latest party, and 1800 people signed up to come on a Wednesday night.

“I got so stressed out. I checked the list, and I only knew 50 people. Those are my friends. Who are these 1750 people?” she says. But while she was overwhelmed, she loves the Senza Fine community. “I really like the concept of a community. The concept of friends of friends of friends. In the end, that makes for like-minded people.”

All throughout her life, Carlita has been around like-minded people who are universal lovers of culture. Now she is doing everything she can to bring those people together through music, art, fashion, and any other creative pursuit that crosses her mind.

Harry Levin is a freelance journalist living in Denver. Find him on X.

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