Photo: Nikki Cardona (Akua)
Akua has a vast knowledge of dance music’s past and can make forgotten gems shine again. The New York-based Discwoman affiliate and Bossa Nova Civic Club regular’s approach is both experimental and joyful, uncompromising and captivating. The same is true for her mix for our Groove podcast, which you can listen to below our interview with Akua.
First off, how are you doing and what have you been up to?
Trying to stay sane and have been practicing a lot of radical self-care during the last few months.
In an interview with Truants, you’ve spoken about a “nostalgia [you] have for a time that [you] never got to experience but remember and connect with so fondly.” What exactly is it that you associate with that time?
It is difficult for me to put into words the exact spiritual connection that I have to music from the 90s era. However, I do think DJing and music production during that time was approached more with a sense of playfulness, less rigidity and more authenticity. I see that because of the technological advancements made with music technology since then, DJs are so attached to having every single mix and blend be perfect and attempt to add all these effects or whatever they can to achieve an ideal that may never be fully attainable. Also, with the lack of communication technologies – i.e. no advanced cellular devices or social media pages to promote -, I want to believe that artists spent much more time invested in their promotion and that it was more meaningful to them as it was more laborious, thoughtful and it wasn’t something that could be done with a random selfie at the click of a button. I also imagine it forced their audiences to be more attentive during gigs and fully immerse themselves in the music. In general, I do think that with techno from the 90s especially, artist’s productions were much more varied. I would also like to assert that in the present day there’s a level of uniformity that exists, and with the barriers to entry being so low for people with privilege, some artists who may desire wealth and/or being in the spotlight can just attempt to duplicate whatever style is hot or trending in order to stay relevant which is just lazy and boring.
The COVID-19 pandemic has effectively put DJs out of their jobs from one day to another and it is still not clear when clubs will be able to open. How have you and the community around you been affected, and what possibilities do you currently see for audiences and the scene itself to create support systems for each other?
Of course it was sad to lose shows due to COVID-19, but I am grateful to have not had any other major losses. The collective grief of COVID-19 in addition to the pandemic of continued racial oppression that plagues the states and this world has been a lot to deal with. Here in the states, cases of COVID-19 are still on the rise and our government is not doing enough to help its citizens during this time. It’s really frustrating especially since the pandemic is harming Black and Brown folks at higher rates than other groups. It’s been bittersweet trying to find a sense of community through virtual interactions. The community here in Brooklyn has really been good with supporting one another. Many collectives have been taking part in organising, working with mutual aid funds and constantly sharing important resources for dealing with the current moment. It’s been nice to see support systems created through live streams and music releases with artists and collectives fundraising for artists who are in financial need or for various organizations. I think it’s important for audiences to share what funds they can for these efforts. Outside of my immediate community, I’m not sure if the global scene can provide a sustainable amount of support to one another. I’m not sure if all the people involved with the global scene are as empathetic and progressive as they want to believe they are. I’m not really sure how to distinguish what is authentic versus what is performative these days. I feel this way this primarily with people who are non-Black and more privileged in this scene as these people often have the tendency to only support those who they can immediately benefit or extract some form of social capital from. There’s all this talk about saving the scene during this time but things within the scene had already been corrupted for a while. I do hope that this time away from clubs, festivals, and a high volume of hollow in-person interactions helps people recalibrate, so when we return this scene has a stronger, more equitable foundation to be rebuilt upon.
The Black Lives Matter movement in the US and elsewhere have sparked an overdue discussion about the inequalities and the institutionalised racism within the dance music community. Which changes do you think are necessary within the global dance community for this to be tackled?
All non-Black people within the scene need to deeply think about how they have been complicit in upholding white supremacy through their engagement with dance music. These people need to also thoroughly educate themselves on the Black roots of dance music. Non-Black artists, booking agencies, publications, clubs, festivals, etc. all really need to take a hard look at themselves and take accountability for how they’ve neglected to honour the roots of dance music. They can go ahead and make all these plans to “do better” in 2020, showcase these plans on their platforms and aim to be more inclusive as a means of protecting their status, but these groups need to do the work, follow through with concrete actions and truly listen to all the criticisms that come their way and not run away from them. These people need not to treat this moment as if it’s just a trend. They need to commit themselves to bringing lasting change to the scene. These groups also shouldn’t expect their Black peers to hold space for them or educate them during this time either.
What was the idea behind your contribution to our Groove podcast?
I guess it is a journey through a sonic vortex which represents the thoughts and emotions I’ve been lost in during the last few months. It has many erratic moments that are very disorienting. Some uplifting and optimistic moments that don’t last long. Very much like my current reality right now. Making this was very cathartic though and I danced a lot while recording it in my bedroom studio.
Last but not least: what are your plans for the future?
Some music releases eventually. I’ve had more time to focus on music production over the last few months and it’s been fun to be making tracks including my contribution to the HAUS of ALTR 10 compilation. Other than that, continuing to care for myself the best way I can and continuing to focus on having more compassion for myself and others around me during this time.
Stream: Akua – Groove Podcast 265
01. Dream Sequence Feat. Blake Baxter – Modulation
02. The Vision – Virus-4-9K561
03. Max Watts – Forward Step
04. Mike Dearborn – Fear Me (Crimson Remix)
05. Jasmine Infiniti – YES, SIR
06. D. Strange – Antiscan
07. Shawn Rudiman – Passcode
08. Ignacio – Organa
09. DJ Ze Mig L- Da Bang
10. MoMA Ready – Uneven Pressure
11. Chris Sattinger – Energy
12. Akilah Bryant – Ruff Sex
13. DJ Capricorn – Mentality
14. Fast Fingaz Franky – Badweed
15. Yazzus – OPER8 THA MIXER
16. DJ Argonic – Untitled A2
17. Ben Ritz – Unreleased
18. Escaflowne – NO GUD
19. Isabella – Unreleased
20. Random XS – Inevitable Decline
21. Space DJz – Creeping Depth
22. Aural Traxx – Brainstorm
23. Paresys – Blind Mill
24. DJ Skull – Distortion
25. Tim Baker – Drama
26. Gendered Dekonstruktion- Don’t Compare Yourself to Me, Ever
27. Lester Fitzpatrick – L’s Revenge