Photo: Alexa Vachon (Sky Deep)
There is hardly a shortage of festivals in Berlin, but only a few that consciously focus on otherwise marginalised artists. With Reclaim The Beats however, the DJ and Reveller founder Sky Dietrich alias Sky Deep brought together a diverse roster of artists for live performances, workshops, movie screenings and DJ sets last year. The festival’s 2017 edition will take place between October 5 and 14 in venues like Gretchen, Werkstatt der Kulturen or Burg Schnabel and focuses on what Dietrich calls „Music Restoration“, the lost or hidden histories of genres and subcultures. Before she takes the decks herself along other artists such as Bodycode alias Portable and Jenifa Mayanja, Sky Deep blends the distinctive voices on the Reclaim The Beats line-up in one soul-touching mix.
What was the original idea behind Reclaim The Beats?
The idea of this festival was motivated by my desire to reconnect the people of color and queer community to their history in music. I personally find that the more I learn about my personal history, whether it’s in my immediate family or my ancestry, I feel more excited, inspired and empowered to pursue things in life that relate to some of those things. Knowing my history makes things accessible to me that I hadn’t thought of before. I wanted to remind everyone of the origins of several music genres and help them see that it is still for them. I also hope inspire music lovers and the media industry to give more access to modern POC/queer artists on equal terms.
This year’s motto is Music Restoration. What does that mean?
Well I like to think of House – Techno – Rock and various genres as ancient, precious artifacts. Sometimes history is lost or hidden. Then many years later when explorers find it, they try to create a story around the artifacts they find. They also try to restore the item to its authentic original quality. For the context of Reclaim the Beats 2017, we are continuing to uncover music that came from faces like ours but have become heavily gentrified over time.
Apart from yourself, DJs like Bodycode and Jenifa Mayanja will perform, hold lectures, give workshops or participate in talks. What were your criteria when booking artists for Reclaim The Beats?
For the music program, I was looking for artists from different regions and backgrounds that consider themselves as people of color or queer. Not exclusively one or the other. I could probably write an essay about all the artists but ultimately, I listened to lots of music and booked artists who I felt have a great sound and individual style. Musically, I wanted to cover a full spectrum of styles but I wanted to make sure the acts complimented each other and would fit well in a line-up together so we could have a flowing night. Booking Kiddy Smile was important because I wanted to pay homage to his modern work and to pay homage to the ballroom scene. My first experience with the ballroom scene was through attending a mini-ball in Newark, NJ back in the early 2000’s. I have had the great opportunity to meet people in that scene in Berlin and from Paris. The ballroom scene was always and still is important with it’s own special beats and connection to house music. This year I wanted to book a combination of artists that have a long track record of producing great music. I loved the sound of Bodycode and was super happy when things worked out to have him headline our closing night. I also booked local acts who are up and coming artists because I aim to support the growth of their careers. For the workshop program, I brought in Shanti Suki Osman to curate the workshop program. I have worked with her in the past and we have great communication. In general we talked about offering a program that offers interactive discussion spaces which tackle relevant topics as queer and POC people in Germany. We are providing a space for discussion and discovery.
You’ve put together an exclusive mix in anticipation of the festival. Did you have a specific concept for it in mind?
This mix was super fun to put together. The sounds of the artists work really fluidly somehow. My concept was to find a common groove or a traveling vibe to move between each other and to inspire. It was like telling a story between past and future. There are a lot of different types of vocals in this mix but I still wouldn’t say that it’s totally vocal driven because the grooves of these artists are so powerful. For example, Mandel Turner has amazing vocals. So does Jenifa Mayanja, Bodycode and Aérea Negrot but they work so in sync with the other sounds… I just hear it all as musical instruments. These artists touch my soul.
Last but not least: What do you anticipate to be your personal festival highlight?
WoW. This is a hard one to answer but I would have to say Opening night has my heart fluttering with excitement. I’m looking forward to hearing words from Lakuti and honoring her before we start our stellar music program. And I’m also especially excited about seeing the double concert with Aérea Negrot and RENU at Werkstatt Der Kulturen. Also Be Steadwell from NYC is an amazing performer not to be missed. She plays on the 14th OCT with As//IS.
Stream: Sky Deep – Reclaim The Beats Festival Mix
01. CUBOP – Fear Elementum
02. Odete de Pilar – No Porao (DJ Grace Kelly Remix)
03. This Frozen Lake feat. Kinoo (Bodycode Remix)
04. Jenifa Mayanja – Channel Through the Roots
05. Underverse feat. Mandel Turner (Adam Port Mix)
06. Kiddy Smile – Let A B_tch Know (Original_Mix)
07. Bodycode – Body To Body feat Lerato (Original_Mix)
08. Mandel Turner & Steph Le Bellec – Stay close (Main) [unreleased]
09. Aerea Negrot – Planta Baja (Original Mix)
10. Sky Deep – Authenticity
11. PHROND – T17029 (Unreleased)
12. RENU – Boys
Groove presents: Reclaim The Beats Festival 2017
October 5 to 14
Line-up: Lakuti, Yuko Asanuma, Reveller Crew, Sky Deep, Bodycode, Jenifa Mayanja and others
Tickets: festival pass 42€, single events from 12€