Chicago House Music Oral History Project
Interview with Alena 'Alinka' Ratner


Micah Salkind



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Alinka’s musical journey began at an early age in Kiev, Ukraine, where she was born and spent her early childhood. Raised by a pianist mother, she began reluctantly learning to play the piano. Her family emigrated to Chicago from the USSR as refugees in the late 80’s. Her first exposure to House Music came from local radio shows that played tracks by Chicago legends like Cajmere and DJ Funk. In 2011 Chicago DJ Justin Long recruited her to be resident for his .Dotbleep party at Smartbar where she honed her skills until 2008. In 2012, an impromptu meeting with former Hercules and Love Affair vocalist, Shaun J. Wright, changed her life forever. The pair instantly bonded over their shared love for Chicago House Music and Cajual Records, and it wasn’t long before their evolving friendship resulted in what would be the first of many musical collaborations. Alinka has become an in demand DJ both on her home turf and across the globe.

Publication Date



Columbia College Chicago




House Music, Chicago, Illinois, Kiev, Ukraine, disc jockey, SmartBar


African American Studies | Gender and Sexuality | History | Latina/o Studies | Music | Regional Sociology


This interview is part of the Chicago House Music Oral History Project held at Columbia College Chicago and was captured for Do You Remember House? Chicago's Queer of Color Undergrounds authored by Micah Salkind and published in 2019. The work integrates histories of music, production, DJing, dance, fashion, and slang and addresses movements that led to the development of Chicago's house music.

Interview with Alena 'Alinka' Ratner