International Women's Day 2017
It’s International Women’s Day! This year the cause is aligned with the economic empowerment of women. By calling on the masses, and asking you to call upon yourself, the focus is to forge a more gender-inclusive working world. Nowhere does this message resonate more highly than in the electronic music scene. We are a community that offers solidarity for most but frequently fall short for those considered to be other, whether due to class, race, sexuality or gender, and in spite of their roots, genres such as house and techno can be particularly homogeneous and occasionally intolerant of those who don’t conform - but progress is being made.
In 2017, with the number of female producers ever increasing, more platforms and established DJs are actively promoting women. Institutions such as RBMA and Radar Radio have introduced a series of all-female workshops and, working in collaboration with DJs and producers such as Madam X, Flava D, E.M.M.A and Ikonika, the workshops are designed to encourage other aspiring female DJs, producers and sound engineers in their work, as well to help open doors in an often inaccessible industry. Positive DIY movements like RBMA’s '#NormalNotNovelty' understand the importance of sharing skills to help elevate others and are a fundamental step in the right direction for creating a sustainable music community; their underlying message that women belong in clubs, both on the dance floor and behind the decks.
So today we’re here to celebrate some amazing women whose songs, mixes and contributions to music have inspired us, over the last 12 months and beyond.
Willow grew up in Manchester, where she frequented (the recently closed) Sankeys to get down to electro, although she’s always prefered old grime records, a genre that’s more obviously heard in her tracks which comprise dub-esque basslines and wonky highs. Her breakthrough moment came at the hands of beloved selector Move D, whom she met during her ongoing residency at one of Nottingham’s ‘808’ get-togethers. He featured her tune ‘Feel Me’, only her second ever go at production, in his Fabric 74 mix, causing quite a stir amongst music fans and in forums. Soon after, german label Workshop snapped it up as part of a compilation for their 21st offering. A year later saw Willow release her full debut: Workshop 23. There’s something infectious about Willow’s music, simultaneously polished and rough, the sparse nature of her production meaning each element is left to breathe. She is picking up shows at a dizzying rate, with perhaps her most eye-catching forthcoming date in her resident Manchester on April 8th for High Hoops' second birthday, where she plays alongside Omar-S, Mike Servito, Aurora Halal and more.
Able to play the guitar and piano from a young age, the progression into electronic music seemed like a natural one for Or:la. Two years ago she started up the monthly Meine Nacht events in Liverpool with friend Jessica Beaumont, seeking to take a fresh, Berlin-inspired approach to UK nightlife by creating one-off, limited-capacity parties with carefully selected line ups and rarely used locations. Production-wise, Or:la borrows from house but with accents of techno, jungle and breaks - her unreleased track ‘Jinx’ exemplifies this style. She blames her varying influences for the initial struggle in finding a suitable label for her work. But, ironically, within a day of sending tracks to Scuba he had signed her debut EP ‘UK Lonely’ to his label Hotflush. It was in part this difficulty that inspired her to start her own imprint, Deep Sea Frequency, with fellow Meine Nacht co-founder Beaumont - with the idea that the records will exist as a tangible extension of ‘Meine Nacht’ able to accommodate for a global audience. Along with the continuation of Meine Nacht, she has a string of dates across the country in the coming months, and will feature at a number of festivals throughout the summer, including Farr, Lost Village and Farmfestival.
Operating on her own and as one half of synth-wave duo Essaie Pas since 2012, Montreal singer, poet and producer Marie Davidson has been responsible for some of the most enticing spoken-word electronica of the past few years. With her 2016 album ‘Adieux au Dancefloor’ shifting towards a more club-focussed dynamic, she claimed the ears of a much wider listenership as her palpitating, industrial-tinged tracks drew a wealth of critical acclaim and landed her on several end of year lists. Whilst an all-too-rare visitor to the UK’s touring circuit, her live shows are a compelling release of energy that bring her productions to life in frantic, hypnotic style.
Although now residing in Berlin, Shanti Celeste is a recognised Bristol talent. Her involvement in the city's tight-knit scene, as a promoter and regular DJ at nights such as Housework, introduced her to Idle Hands’ boss Chris Farrell. He employed her at the label’s record shop where the pair founded BRSTL, a label focused on bringing the sounds of the city to vinyl, and on which she released her first EP in 2013. She’s since put out records on a number of labels, including Julio Bashmore’s Broadwalk, Max D’s Future Times and London’s night-turned-label Secretsundaze, as well as sharing house, techno and everything in between on her monthly NTS Radio show. Towards the end of last year, looking to create something truly representative of her sound and somewhere to showcase her artwork, she announced her new imprint, Peach Discs, the first instalment of which is two songs from herself. She is a DJ of growing global repute, and has an extensive touring schedule in the coming months including a string of appearances at festivals such as Dekmantel, Bestival, Sunfall, and Moogfest in North Carolina in May.
At the forefront of the explosion of rugged-yet-sultry house music several years back were Not Not Fun offshoot 100% Silk, with one of the most vital records to bear their stamp being Octo Octa’s 2011 debut EP, ‘Let Me See You’. Since then the Brooklyn producer (real name Maya Bouldry-Morrison) has released a steady stream of material - including two full-lengths on 100% Silk - and towards the end of 2016, following a transitional period spanning a number of years, officially came out as a transgender woman. She has been vocal about the need to improve work to cultivate safe spaces within the clubbing community, and has called for greater representation of trans people within the scene. She makes two rare UK appearances this summer, at the Peckham Rye Music Festival in May and the intimate Field Maneuvers festival in September.
One of the most exhilarating DJs around at the moment, Lena Willikens operates in a sphere of her own that it’s always a treat to stumble into. The Cologne-based artist’s sets are a truly eclectic blend of styles, loosely centred around sweaty, warped house and techno, but readily slipping into new wave, boogie, disco, and anything else that feels right – or even what doesn’t. She’ll be appearing at a range of Europe’s top festivals this summer, and will next be landing on British shores for a date in Leeds on March 24th and an appearance at the launch party for Sheffield festival No Bounds on June 9th.
Based in Berlin, Tamo Sumo has been DJing since the early '90s. She’s held residencies at Tresor, the defunct Ostgut and Panorama Bar, where she’s been a firm fixture since its opening in 2004, including curating some of the club's events alongside her wife and fellow DJ, Lakuti. With only a handful of releases to her name, the most notable being her first (with long time friend Prosumer) on the Ostgut Ton label, she is primarily and devotedly a DJ - even attributing her lack of productions to being too busy listening to new records, owning over 15,000 in total. As such, her sets are always diverse and memorable, influenced by emotion and typically deviate in style; she enjoys playing to the mood and atmosphere of her surroundings, focusing on the nuances between tracks and drawing inspiration from whatever moves her at that given moment. Her taste-heavy approach to DJing has made her a favourite amongst her peers - a true "DJ's DJ". She tours globally and incessantly, with her next UK date bringing her to Sheffield on March 31st for a set at Hope Works.
Part of the increasingly potent Copenhagen music scene, Courtesy is one quarter of local DJ collective Apeiron, one half of burgeoning imprint Ectotherm (alongside Mama Snake), and by herself one of the most engaging DJs on the circuit at the moment. With a penchant for the dark and brooding, Courtesy – real name Najaaraq Vestbirk – provides the perfect soundtrack to the murkiest hours of the early morning, layering crisp techno with silky electro and red-blooded rave. As her reputation grows she is steadily accumulating passport stamps from across the globe, including a series of shows in Asia this spring, but will be playing a Whities night in London on April 28th and the No Bounds launch party in Sheffield on June 9th, where she’ll be going back-to-back with friend and regular DJing partner Avalon Emerson.
Words: Kristy Britt & Jack Scourfield