N.E.GIRL – The physical effect of bass-heavy music (interview & mixtape)
Interview by Alexander Julin Mortensen, photo by NONO GIGSTA
The Copenhagen-based DJ Esther Kakai – aka. N.E.GIRL – has become a renowned DJ in the city. Having played numerous shows in Copenhagen since 2018, she’s been an important figure in what feels like a new blossoming of bass-heavy styles in the city’s club scene. This seems like no coincidence, since soundsystem culture and the sensuous physicality of the bass have had a deep impact on her musical upbringing and the styles she’s since become so committed to as a DJ herself. As she explains in our interview, “I find the physical effect of these frequencies on the body fascinating, as they tend to elicit reactions. It’s also kind of romantic as these genres represent a part of British culture that shaped my upbringing. Influenced by a combination of African diaspora heritage, being self-sufficient, and finding creative ways of getting things done.”
In addition to her musical upbringing and expertise, Esther Kakai tells more about her talk series “(Other) Scenes and Spaces” and work as curator for Strøm as well as her view on the challenges of today’s club culture in Copenhagen. As an accompaniment to her interview, she also put together a mix of dubby tunes, sub-bass and melancholic tracks, as she puts it herself.
Read the interview and listen to her mix below.
P/A: While many still associate Copenhagen with its fast-paced trance and techno scene, your sets draw heavily on genres such as D’n’B, grime, jungle and dubstep. What inspires you about the particular bass-oriented genres that you’ve become known for as a DJ?
EK: “These were the styles I was exposed to growing up. One of my first significant memories of music was hearing a pirate radio while my older cousins babysat me – I was about 7 maybe. It was quite inaudible and the technique was different from what I’d heard on commercial radio. From 15 I mostly went to bashment and dancehall parties. The soundsystem was as important as the music, which has naturally influenced my love for pressure-weight, sub-bass-driven music. Its soundsystem culture.
I find the physical effect of these frequencies on the body fascinating, as they tend to elicit reactions. It’s also kind of romantic as these genres represent a part of British culture that shaped my upbringing. Influenced by a combination of African diaspora heritage, being self-sufficient, and finding creative ways of getting things done.”
P/A: In addition to DJ’ing, you also work as curator at STRØM Festival and as a promoter. What do you wish to add to the electronic music scene in Copenhagen through your different roles in the music scene?
EK: “I enjoy programming lineups and creating new concepts. Like many other people, I appreciate a lot of different styles of club/dance music which is what motivates me to showcase underrepresented music styles and communities. I want to inspire both myself and others to embrace curiosity and creativity beyond the confines of traditional dancefloor purism.”
“My goal is to share not only knowledge and resources but also the experiences of others in my position.”Esther Kay
P/A: Back in June, you hosted your first talk at AIAIAI under the series “(Other) Scenes and Spaces” about the relationship between artistry development, music identity, music industry structures and community. Why is it important to you to facilitate a conversation on these topics?
EK: “The talk was designed to give advice and guidance to anyone new to the city or scene, helping them navigate the space, build a network, and hone their craft. I realize that the opportunities and experiences I’ve had could be valuable to anyone in the same position I was in 5-6 years ago. Relocating to a new country and embracing a new culture while pursuing creative endeavours on the side is a unique experience, and I want to keep facilitating these talks in a non-academic way. My goal is to share not only knowledge and resources but also the experiences of others in my position.”
P/A: Would you say that the electronic scenes that you’re working with in Denmark have changed in any interesting ways in the last years?
EK: “I think generally in the past 5 years It’s been really interesting to hear a shift in music styles on the dancefloor (more breakbeats) and multi-genre mixing, new DJs and promoters creating fun events, with a focus on how we party.”
“There appears to be a lack of commercial interest in supporting the growth of nightlife in the future.”Esther Kay
P/A: What – if any – challenges do you think club culture currently faces in Copenhagen, either politically or creatively?
EK: “Limited space to host alternative events is a challenge facing many cities and Copenhagen. There appears to be a lack of commercial interest in supporting the growth of nightlife in the future.
Additionally, navigating the representation and safer space policies is also a challenge for club culture. These political aspects can influence the decisions made by commercial players, who adopt them as marketing strategies or on a superficial level. If you decide to engage with this agenda, consider collaborating with individuals who have informed knowledge about these matters.”
P/A: Can you tell a bit about the mix you’ve made for P/A?
EK: “I’ve recorded a progressive mix that diverges from my typical live style of mixing. I’ve selected some dubby tunes from artists who aren’t afraid to explore new sonic territory (Om-Unit, Shackleton, Iceboy Violet and more). It does have a moody vibe, and it includes elements that could be recognizable to anyone familiar with my style. For everyone else interested, expect sub-bass, melancholic tracks and occasional tempo shifts. I hope you enjoy.”
Kincaid – Sight [Grid]
Aa Sudd – Pselum [Midgar Records]
Forest Drive West – Sustain [ILIAN TAPE]
Theory – Rastafari [Rupture LDN]
G_H_O_S_T – Caught Slipping [Goldman Records]
Lårry – Uniform Uninform [BRUK]
Renslink – Silence ft Nivalis [Infinite Machine]
Iceboy Violet – Ekklipse
K.O.P. 32 – Chasm [Annulled Music]
Shackleton – The Rope Tightens [Skull Disco]
Ehua – Helios [Fabric]
IYA SHILLELAGH – WaterWeight (ft. How Du) [FELT]
?? – Dark Details
GOTH-TRAD – PSIONICS [BACK TO CHILL]
Geiom – Dangerous sea [BERKANE SOL]
Om Unit + TM404 – London Stock [Acid Test/Absurd]
Kode9 & The Spaceape – Quantum [Hyperdub]
Human Space Machine – Sigh [re:st]19 worriedaboutsatan – The Woods [This Is It Forever]