In addition to her newly released mixtape (via Hakuna Kulala), queer artist with Kenyan and Tanzanian roots DJ Iche joins the PAM Club exercise with a groovy and authentic mix.
A few days ago, the young DJ released from her homebase in Mombasa the Nai Yetu Mixtape for Hakuna Kulala, a sub-division of Nyege Nyege Tapes. Originally a producer and vocalist, Janice Iche turned to the turntables a year ago in search of another way to share music and connect with her own songs. She condenses 74 minutes of urban sounds on tape, representing the impact of US and UK drill music on Africa. Nairobi’s hottest rappers such as Nattt, Burukulyn Boyz and Dyana Cods follow one another, provoking parallels with gengetone, a Kenyan derivative of the Californian genre called genge, and other gems from the country’s urban and underground scene. To know more about her beginnings, we interviewed Iche, and listened to her PAM Club with a feel-good atmosphere radically different from the norm at Hakuna Kulala.
What is your musical background?
I was introduced to music very young, my parents used to have house parties with loud music blasting, this plus the radio got me interested in the sounds I was hearing. I then started singing in church on Sundays at around 7 years old, and the crowd would really love it. This is when I also started writing my own songs. I had a friend group with two other little girls and we would write songs together and make dance moves to songs we loved. I have no formal training in music though my passion for it keeps growing, I find any way I can to express myself musically.
When did you become a DJ, and what do you enjoy in this “job”?
I am only a little over a year old when it comes to DJing. I started DJing because I had gone a long time without creating any music of my own and I needed a sort of bridge to get back into it. DJing provided a space for me to still be close to music even as I was not creating it. It has since opened this whole other path for me to connect with music and people in ways I had never imagined before. The thing I love about DJing is how communal it is. From the song selection to the set arrangement, every step of DJing has to be considerate. DJing is teaching me to be present in the outside world, which is the complete opposite when it comes to music production.
We can see and hear more and more ladies and queer artists from Africa doing electronic productions and DJ sets, with very interesting sounds. Is it a way to express a certain kind of freedom?
I wouldn’t call it like that. We are still a really long way from actual freedom. I can say that it has taken every queer artist A LOT to get to the point of being seen and/or heard. We are still really fighting to be where we are, so I would say it is mostly the determination and passion driving queer artists to break lots of stereotypes and barriers in the way of our advancement as well as an increase in access to these softwares and equipments that are propeling the scene for us. It is the age of enlightenment, as it always is, and there is so much that is now inspiring and enabling us to step into our fullest selves. It is the internet and the sponsored workshops that are bringing forth this growth.
Tell me more about your productions, how would you define your own style?
My current productions represent this new-found freedom I have found in my creation process. I was not a music producer before, now I am and I am exploring all the ways I can be authentic in a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). I’m having fun. I would describe my style as authentic African electronic music.
How much do you feel your Kenyan and Tanzanian roots within your music?
I feel them lots but I say that someone else could probably observe me and answer this question better than I could, because it is totally innate and subconscious for me. I allow it to come to life through me, all the ideas, sounds, textures and melodies that I hear in my head before I can put them into a DAW. I believe all those ideas are blessings from my ancestors, relatives and descendants. I am just an open conduit. I channel honestly and don’t have to question it too much.
1. Monomono – Tire Loma Da Nigbehin
2. Kimina – Nuru
3. Ze Spirits Band – Tucheza (Esa Extended Mix)
4. Tshala Muana – Karibou Yangu
5. Destra – Lucy
5. Zé Da Lua – Ulungu Wami (The Busy Twist Remix)
6. Gan Gah, Cardi Monae & Kampire – Gatluak Remix
7. Onipa – Sohaa Gb3k3 (XOA Remix)
8. The Busy Twist – London Luanda Part 4 (Africa Ritmo Olha O Pica Remix)
9. Mamman Sani – Gosi
10. Lokassa Ya M’bongo – Assitou (Uproot Andy Remix)
11. Village Cuts – Chomekaaa!
12. Gafacci – Mama Yie x Mala (Changes Edit)
13. Mbongwana Star – Nganshé