in the sydney dj scene, the future is female

Meet the women fighting to keep sydney open, safe and banging.

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25 July 2016, 3:20am

As anyone who stays up late in Sydney could tell you, the city's party scene is a wonderland of evocative and ever evolving female DJ talent. While being a woman in music isn't always a cakewalk, the city has cultivated a community of women who are working together to create one of the most exciting and supportive scenes in Australia. With a focus on helping each other through collaboration and promotion, these women aren't only hyping their own crews. They're ensuring the city has a heritage of female talent that will last long after the lights come on. 

This is all visible on the dance floor every weekend, but when the Keep Sydney Open and Reclaim the Streets protests drew international attention earlier this year, the world was presented a front of united party babes who did more than spin. They were also taking a stand to ensure that the world they love was preserved. Beyond the lockout law debate, they're doing their bit in ensuring that their parties are safe, inclusive and world class. 

Matka

How do you describe what you do?
I DJ around Sydney and sometimes Melbourne and Brisbane. I play everything from bass, alternative rap and RnB to break beat, vogue and footwork. I try to be unpretentious, I just want to make everyone dance till they're sweaty.

A year ago, I founded a party called Honey, which I co-run with two amazing females. It's a series of events championing the music and creativity of women. That means our performances and DJ sets are 100 percent by those who identify as women or GNC, and so is the music that we play. In short, I cultivate a good (creep-free) time.

You're very engaged with supporting female talent, how do you feel the experience as a DJ is different?
Being a woman on a stage is seen as an implicit invitation to men that you're up-for-grabs and can be treated as such. I also think women have a hard time feeling they're allowed to aspire to sit alongside men in these dude-dominated industries. It used to be that female DJs (and musicians more broadly) were basically pin-ups, thankfully that's changed a bit now, but we still have a long way to go.

What do you think is going to be the next big thing?
Grime is coming back in a big way. Also dressing like you're going to The Love Parade in 2001.

@matkamusic

FlexMami

How do you describe what you do?
I'm a social media manager by day, a DJ and radio presenter for Sidechains on FBi Radio the rest of the time.

How did you get into DJing?
For selfish reasons! I was, and still am, convinced of my increasingly refined and aesthetically delicious sonic tastes. Plus, I wanted to be the one on AUX cord duties everywhere I went.

How is the Sydney scene unique?
It's diverse, enriched and, contrary to popular belief, still thriving despite the current club climate.

As a woman, do you feel your experience in that scene is different?
Not at all. I mean, statistically and generally speaking, being a woman in the industry is technically a hinderance. But as for my personal experience; I've been super blessed to be surrounded by a community of supportive, like minded male and female industry people.

What are you passionate about within music?
The fact that something as simple as a few slaps of an instrument has the ability to make you feel, think, act and reflect. It's wizardry at least, and absolute sorcery at best. Sensational. 

@flex.mami

Andy Garvey

How do you describe what you do?
I'm always working on a million different things! During the day I'm at Future Classic and coordinate FBi's female DJ mentoring program Dance Class. At night I DJ, host a show on FBi Radio, go to gigs and make music with friends.

Do you feel there's a community of women DJs in Sydney?
Yes, there's a really lovely online community where everyone is incredibly supportive and willing to give each other opportunities and advice. It was only through co-ordinating Dance Class that I realised how much women can flourish with the right support networks of other women. Female role models are incredibly important and I feel there are a growing number of female DJs and producers seriously killing it globally. A few of my favourites would be Jayda GAvalon EmersonLucy Cliche and Umfang.

Tell us about your participation in the Keep Sydney Open movement.
Knowing that I was on the front row of 15,000 protesters at the rally earlier in the year still gives me tingles, especially standing next to my favourite clubbing companions aka Valerie YumNite Fleit and Bobby Vibe Positive. We also had a float at a recent Reclaim the Streets with Pelvis.

It's so important, especially in the current political climate, for young people to express their views and to be surrounded by like minded people. Seeing that kind of community in action that day was incredible. Tyson Koh (one of the main people behind KSO) has done an absolutely amazing job for the movement.

Do you feel that action and opposition has brought the scene closer together?
I do! We're all fighting the same restrictions, we're all feeling the nightlife seeping out of the city. There's no one within the music industry who has gained from the lock out laws. We're all feeling it and there is no reason for anyone to start playing any sort of blame game on anyone but the state government and the Star casino.

I urge anyone who misses the nightlife that Sydney use to have to not give up on it! We really need people to keep going out to the bars and the clubs, to keep seeing the bands and DJs play late at night.

@andygarveyandygarvey

Nite Fleit

How do you describe what you do?
Force people to dance.

Do you feel as a woman, you have a different experience of the scene?
Yes. I don't know what my experience would be like if I didn't identify as a woman, but none of my male friends are told they're "really good for a guy", or had drunk creeps yanking the XLR cable out of their mixer five seconds before they play in front of 3,000 people.

There are heaps of other, more subtle, things women deal with too often; but on the whole being a DJ is the best thing in the world. All those shitty things are a blip on the radar compared to everything else.

How have you seen the lock out laws impact your job?
The last figures I saw show over 40 bars and clubs have closed since the lockout laws. The few venues still in operation can only really trade until 3am, which means less gigs for established DJs and far fewer for up and coming DJs with little experience and no way to get any.

Tell us about your activism around the lock outs.
My friend Bobby (Vibe Positive) helped organise the Keep Sydney Open protest and asked if I would be a marshall. I was a bit hesitant because I'm not that keen on ushering people and commanding they move along. But on the day, drunk on the energy of over 15,000 people, I grabbed the megaphone and marshalled my little heart. It was pretty magical.

Keep Sydney Open and Reclaim the Streets have been essential in bringing people together to let politicians know this is not the city we want to live in. They've also brought together groups of creative and intelligent people from many different scenes and I am so stoked to be involved.

@nitefleit

Luen Jacobs 

How do you describe what you do?
I work in music as a nerd, obsessor and curator. I share the music I find through radio, DJing, zines and mixtapes.

Tell us about the community of women DJs in Sydney?
The community of ladies is strong and building: a lot of peeps come to be DJs through their friendship circles and people they know teaching them. I think that structure wasn't as attainable for girls a while ago. But as more ladies learn, that community of female DJs are teaching their friends. Then in turn female promoters booking their friends to be on line ups - regardless of gender. It's hard for promoters to ignore talent. The more we teach our friends and hype them up the more the scene will flourish, it's totally our responsibility.

How have Keep Sydney Open and Reclaim the Streets brought the scene closer together?
Those rallies have a rock band, a dubstep DJ, deep house and electronica all on one bill - united in the pain of misunderstanding from the government about what we are doing. It's cool to see people who usually complain about each other's genres standing together. Anger unites.

What are you excited about?
Playing in Dubai next month, and traveling to Portugal in October, Berlin and London to go digging, clubbing, learning and discovering other amazing local scenes and artists.

@luenjacobs

Credits


Text Wendy Syfret
Photography Chloe Nour