In the past few months, visitors at Soda City might have been drawn to a funky DJ stand setup. From the bumping tunes to the sign featuring a skull wearing a top hat, the attraction can be hard to miss. This is the work of DJ Voodoo Child.
DJ Voodoo Child, or Darian Bethea, recently moved to Columbia and brought his years of musical experience with him. He has worked in numerous positions in the music industry, most recently as an iHeart Radio personality until COVID-19 caused cutbacks in staffing last year.
Music has always been a part of his life, he said. Throughout his childhood in Florence, South Carolina, his mother inspired in him a love for a variety of music.
“My mother was into like a whole lot of everything, like Motown and classic rock and things like that … When I was younger I would ask her about different types of music, and she was never just locked into any one thing, [as] her favorite,” Bethea said.
He began his career with songwriting and performing, opening and doing sound work for various acts such as Lauryn Hill, OutKast and Ludacris. All the while, music production and DJing never left his act.
“I've always was like kind of DJing a little bit, mostly focused on production, so like independent arts and stuff … I was always carrying like, records and stuff for other DJs, and helping them set up and stuff for free so it just kind of, you know, started from that,” Bethea said.
His aptitude for sound production became obvious when he would work with other producers in the studio.
“I would have to tell the engineer, 'I would want, OK, I want this right here, and I want this sound right here and I want this.' And after a while it's like, 'Why don't I just start producing my own stuff?’” Voodoo said.
Because of the freedom of expression possible in the DJ stand, Bethea said he found his passion and has been working since the early '90s.
Bethea's individualism can be found in every aspect of his life: from his personal expressions, clothes, car collection, pop culture item collections at his home and his music.
His career has become a part of the music industry in multiple places, but especially Florence, South Carolina. Florence has a continuously growing dynamic for musicians. Events such as the Pecan Festival showcase the music scene every November for up to nearly 50,000 people. Bethea has his own stage there every year.
“He is ... a fixture in the Florence and Pee Dee region,” George Jebaily, a friend of Bethea's, said. A lawyer and city councilman in Florence, Jebaily said he has seen this community and musical scene grow for years.
Ezra Brown, one of Bethea's longtime friends — and at times, his bandmate — is one of the reasons Bethea ended up performing at Soda City. Brown, who is a saxophone player himself, had the idea for live music to accompany Brown's coffee truck — Soulé Coffee — on Saturdays at Soda City.
“They always say ... all the weird cats always found each other," Brown said. "We ended up being all the popular cats … All of them and even more, they ended up being at my location, Soulé. So it was like a breeding ground, not just for the artists that were already doing things, but for the artists — for the budding artists.”
Bethea now performs in events such as the NASCAR Southern 500, the Darlington Dragway and more. He also has a passion for charity and organizing benefits that support local artists. In 2017, Bethea did a TedTalk with TEDxEvansStreet about inspiring people to follow their dreams.
As he continues to figure out Columbia, Bethea plans on involving local artists in his work and starting "Club on a Corner," or "Concert on the Corner." This project would involve live performances in different areas of the city.
“He has a passion for what he does, it's not simply a job," Jebaily said. "He’s passionate about it, and he's passionate about engaging the community into the process and building relationships, you know. He's about promoting relationships and positivity. I'm very proud to call him a good — a very good friend.”