Unsound opens its 2020 program with a conversation on the challenges Black music industry professionals face and the importance of forming alliances for better futures.
The inaugural panel was curated and moderated by Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson, a booker for Bossa Nova Civic Club and one of the founding members of Discwoman, and the driving force behind New York's Dweller festival. Titled "Black Techno Futures: Local And Global Perspectives," Hutchinson guided the five panellists through a conversation on the difficulties of thriving as a Black artist, the consistent discrimination Black music professionals face both on and off the dance floor, performative allyship and the importance of forming global alliances between Black artists, bookers, collectives and others in the electronic music community to share ideas and uplift each other.
Joining the discussion was DJ producer and New World Dysorder founder Jasmine Infiniti; Dance With Pride co-founder, researcher and community organizer Axmed Maxamed; promoter, DJ, agent and Uzuri Recordings founder Lakuti; BATEKOO resident and Projecto Soma producer Ønírica; and artist, producer and DJ Authentically Plastic, organizer of roving experimental club night ANTI-MASS.
On the topic of challenges preventing Black music professionals from thriving at home, Infiniti explained that, in New York, one of the biggest hurdles she faces is dealing with security at her gigs. She detailed multiple instances of anti-Black transphobic abuse carried out by bouncers who made lewd comments, were physically violent or refused to allow her entry or re-entry to her own show. She then noted during some of these altercations, acquaintances prioritized gaining admission to the club over taking supportive action or challenging security, before maligning the experience of "Always having to be in warrior mode, even in my employment."
Lakuti, who moved to London and then Berlin via South Africa, spoke about discrimination Black artists face before they even get to the club from the perspective of someone touring in Europe with an African passport. Prevalent racism towards African people on the continent means that on work trips she's regularly subject to strip searches, pat-downs, visa conflicts at airports, ogling and acts of aggression, whether in the DJ booth or while grabbing dinner before a show. Despite the trauma and pain of these experiences, she outlined the harsh reality of still having to "stand up, go to the gig, and pretend I wasn't hurting."
Maxamed connected one of Lakuti's visa issues—caused by the Ukrainian embassy in Berlin, who insisted she did not need a visa to play in the country when upon arrival she found she did—to the greater problem of institutions centring Whiteness."When you call the embassy automatically they think of it as a White person, so they answer that way," he explained. Maxamed then went on to impress the importance of Black people uplifting, amplifying and centring each other's experiences. "I'm not focused on making myself acceptable to those that are othering me," he said. "Standing in all my intersections has been my path for the past few years, and it is so freeing."
Ønírica shared the impact a recent piece Maxamed published with co-author Mathys Rennela in Dweller titled "A Conversation On The Bleaching Of Techno: How Appropriation Is Normalized And Preserved" had on them seeing the full breadth of appropriation happening in their home country. Over the years they've watched as White DJs from both in and outside Brazil swiped genres like Baile Funk from Rio de Janeiro's favelas and profited off them while ignoring the more skilled Black DJs who've spent entire careers working with these sounds. "I'm sick of White people playing our music and making lots of money off of it when we play the music better at our parties, and they don't care about it," they said, adding that now is the time to form exclusive Black and queer spaces free from the treatment of racist White people.
Authentically Plastic went on to illustrate how recent of an introduction repetition is to the European musical repertoire, noting that repetition, a defining characteristic of genres like techno, is something very much integral to certain African musical traditions, like that in Northern Uganda. Authentically Plastic's home of Kampala, Uganda, has become a hot spot over the past five years as the groundbreaking experimentations of artists from the local scene have reached a global audience. This popularity has meant an uptick in White voyeurism and music tourism in the area. It's something they bump up against when trying to strike the right balance of European and American tourists admitted into ANTI-MASS. Authentically Plastic started the party as a place where they could program Black music like techno, vogue, house or singeli while also creating a comfortable space for queer people. Drawing droves of White fans can bring unnecessary attention to the party and cause safety risks; moreover, it clashes with their door policy, which is driven by an explicit desire to no longer allow experimental music to be coded as White.
Unsound will announce more open-access discussions in the coming weeks. The remainder of the LAB program runs from September 19th to 20th and again from September 26th to 28th as a number of limited-capacity workshops.
The above is merely a re-cap of the topics discussed. Watch the full video.