597. Dutch Carnival Courage

Born and raised in the Netherlands, a 21 year old Maarten Schakel was drawn by sun, sand and sea and decided to take a job at Dutch radio station (Dolfijn FM). Fast-forward 9 years, ‘Maarten Schakel’ is a Curaçao household name. In fact, these days Maarten can’t walk 10 feet without hearing ‘hey stobá, hey stobá!’ . And with good reason: Maarten is the third-ever Dutch-European to participate in Curaçao’s annual Festival di Tumba, the biggest local music competition. The second was Peter van der Pligt… 22 years ago.

No stranger to the mic, but an amateur singer at best, it took significant guts to get up on that Festival stage and sing — in Papiamentu — in front of tens of thousands of people. But if you ask Maarten’s mother, who flew in for the big event, watching her son perform his Tumba was no different than watching him play piano recitals as a little boy.

“Working as a DJ, I constantly want to reach new people.” 

Pre-Tumba Festival 2014, Maarten had already amassed quite a fan-base through his radio show, regular DJ gigs, social media channels and various volunteer activities. So his ethnicity notwithstanding, he wasn’t a far-fetched Tumba candidate for Festival organizer Giovanni Atalita. But Maarten hesitated at first, unsure about the timing. “If I was going to commit, I wanted to give it my all.” Giovanni, Farley (Lourens) and Maarten clicked around an idea bigger than Tumba: they wanted to bring people from (as many as 70!) different ethnicities together, make Tumba and Carnival accessible to anyone, hence, the stobá.

“I think [Tumba] is super cool, but I have absolutely no clue.”

Despite participating in this year’s Festival, Tumba remains elusive to Maarten. “Just listen to my Tumba, you’ll hear that I’m off-beat. The rhythm is just a little crazy to me, I played the piano for 10 years growing up, and I know the 3/4th and 4/4th time signature, but this is different [6/8th]. I’d ask the musicians to explain during (a short week’s worth of practice) and they’d just say: ‘clavé, noh! makkelijk!’ [clapping]. But I still don’t get it. When am I supposed to join in??”

Though the Rei di Tumba 2014 crown went to a very deserving Ikey Yesurun, Maarten is undoubtedly Curaçao’s unofficial ‘Rei di Kaya 2014’ (King of the Street).

When Maarten isn’t belting out Tumbas; he plays music, reports and interviews interesting people for a living. So I decided to use his interview format ‘The Seven’ on him:


“I’ve wanted to be a Radio DJ since I was 13. Friends who worked at the local radio station in De Bilt asked if I wanted to do a news program for teenagers. After my first broadcast I just knew that that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”


“I derive satisfaction from bringing joy to other people — without sacrificing too much of myself. That’s when I feel like I make an honest living.” Maarten’s volunteer projects [Curacao Clean Up, Fuikdag Clean Up, Ieder Kind Een Kerstkado] also give him great satisfaction. “If you have access to a large platform to make a positive contribution to society – just do it.” (He credits his mother’s example with the inspiration.)

Post-Fuikdag 2014 Clean Up Crew.

After the party, there’s the after-party. Post-Fuikdag 2014 clean up crew.


“I’m single.” What he looks for in a woman? “You know me, I like a good stobá! And a woman who’s not afraid to live an interesting life.”


“I believe in helping other people, living with a clear conscience, not profiting too much from others. It’s really too bad that we live in a society in which more and more people take advantage.”


“I have the most relaxing job in the world! It’s like I get to play music at ‘my’ party on a regular basis. I do intend to include more beach time in my 2014 relaxation: a little less work, more play.”  


“I’m 30 and I’ve wanted to be on the radio for as long as I can remember, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to do this long-term. I worry about the future. Do I ever get too old for this type of work? Will I have a comfortable retirement? I hope I don’t peak too early. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be kicking it like [local DJ Boogie Man] until I’m 50.”


“I’m intrigued by entrepreneurship, but I’m not super confident in my abilities. Besides, doing something for the sake of making money, money, money, is not my ambition. I want to pursue some type of social entrepreneurship.” How about going into politics? “I’m flattered that you would ask; you’re actually not the first.” And Rei di Tumba? “We’ll see!”

CSR Logo BearingPointThis profile is the fifth in BearingPoints Awesome Young Professionals series. Special thanks to BearingPoint for sponsoring 1000 Awesome Things About Curaçao.

About 1000awesomethingsaboutcuracao

I'm Carolina Gomes-Casseres, the creator of 1000 Awesome Things About Curaçao. I live in Manhattan but sometimes miss my first awesome island. Thanks for visiting!

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