In 1938, experimental German-American musician Johanna Beyer composed one of the first known musical pieces (and the first by a female artist) scored for electronic instruments, Music of the Spheres. We’ve come a long way since then, with producers and performers of both genders truly advancing electronic music in innovative, experimental and incredibly entertaining ways. In recent years, topics like DJ mental health and exposure to female-identifying artists have taken the forefront of industry-discussed themes. While there is still much work to be done, we continue to evolve and become more outspoken regarding the strengths and weaknesses of our scene, and the structural changes needed to make it an artistic arena authentically mirroring talents of all genders and parts of the world.
Today we celebrate women – their presence, their art, their achievements, the barriers they still face and the recognition they deserve.
Last year, MUTEK Montreal became the first Canadian Festival to adhere to the Keychange project, “an initiative aimed at the empowerment and professional development of female artists, innovators and cultural workers in the field of digital arts and electronic music”. The festival saw a flurry of performances, panels, creative labs and workshops placing the female experience and structural inequalities present in the industry at the forefront of discussion and entertainment. These types of initiatives go beyond the controversial motion of simply inserting gender quotas on festival lineups as a solution – they confront the systems and stereotypes that breed unequal representation, attacking the issue on various fronts and allowing visibility of the female experience.
To celebrate the growth of female producers and DJs in the electronic music realm, Husa Sounds compiled a list of 5 out of the box underground acts, veterans and newcomers alike, who are all making strides through their expertise, creativity and curiosity.
If you attended AIM Festival 2018, with some luck you were able to witness the roaring beats and vocals of Baltimore powerhouse Ultra Naté, who made the Monolithes stage her home. Active since 1989, she left her debut label Warner Bros. when pressured to move away from house music. A singer-songwriter, producer and dance music expert, she also puts out some soul, R&B and hiphop music – and a hell of a show.
One common discussion that comes up when talking about female representation quotas for festivals is the valid point of preserving quality, and there being simply less female artists to choose from. To this, Panorama Bar resident Tama Sumo [OstGut Ton] replies “But quality only comes up in this conversation. There are a lot of great male artists, but there are also a lot of successful male D.J.s where I would question the quality (…) I would love to have this discussion in general, not only when it’s about diversity.” [New York Times]. This owner of 15 000 records is known for her eclectic and sharp danceable selections, bringing spaces to life with the fruits of her digging, including old school vocals, afrobeat, blends of electro, tropical instrumentals, acid, disco-funk and German techno.
This up and coming Paris-based Moroccan artist explores the intersection between Western techno and Middle-Eastern Shaabi with an electronica twist. Shaabi, which stands for “for the people”, started out as a working class politicized musical genre in 1970s Egypt, expressing socio-political discontent. Moroccan Shaabi mixes traditional and modern instruments as well as rural and urban folk music. Glitterڭليثر٥٥ gained some steam through her mixes on London urban radio Rinse FM’s French branch, and is now part of Boiler Room TV’s selection for a Marseille festival.
A Cora Novoa set comes ripe with a whole lot of spunky techno and multi-genre influences, from melodic cuts to new wave. Producer, DJ, tech wiz and label boss at Seeking the Velvet (which also specializes in streetwear), she set fire to MUTEK Montreal 2018 with a to the point industrial all-modular techno and drone beats live set. This Spaniard artist and drum machine adept has many hats, including but not limited to: Ableton official trainer, classical flute player, sound technician, radio curator, and computer-science graduate. Above all, she is perpetually curious, inspired and inspiring.
Described as mesmeric and unpredictable, Mayaan Nidam encapsulates Berlin sonic eclecticism in a seductive, stripped-back manner. Her latest album, Sea of Thee [Perlon] features varied branches of intriguing rumbling minimal dark grooves, well framed thanks to her technical dexterity and artistic sensitivity. She likes to keep listeners on their toes with live sets mixing recreation of her material with improvisations. Nidam’s released on an impressive label lineup, including Nina Kraviz’s трип, Wolf+Lamb, Cuttin Headz and more, as well as being part of the tasteful Yokaku agency roster. We will be following her next move with anticipation…
And this caps off the non-exhaustive list of interesting female artists we wanted to share with you today. Keep an eye out for more short and sweet selections of artists making waves, and for female DJs and producers around you to hear out, show up for, and book!