meet the female and non-binary djs diversifying berlin's dance floors
No Shade — a DJ collective, club night and training program — is transforming Berlin nightlife one rave at a time.
Photography Cassidy George
Berlin’s nightlife scene is still dominated by techno — and Berlin’s techno scene is still dominated by white males. Here to inject some much needed diversity, vibrance and queerness into the city’s club culture is DJ collective No Shade. No Shade’s mission isn’t just to contradict norms, it’s to provide aspiring DJs with the equipment and guidance they need to succeed in the industry. Beyond operating as a collective, No Shade includes a training program, in which members are given intensive lessons and access to CDJs. No Shade then throws a monthly party where DJs can showcase their talent.
“We wanted to focus on female, trans and non-binary beginner DJs for the mentoring program, as a local attempt to help even out the current gender imbalance within the DJ world,” says co-founder Linnea Palmestål. “Another big motivation for me personally was the frustration of my own limitations as a beginner DJ, with no access to new equipment for regular practicing and no real mentor for learning CDJs properly.” In one of the most musically competitive cities in the world, No Shade is committed to promoting the success of underrepresented demographics. i-D spoke with the No Shade founders and collective members about their various sounds, career aspirations, and hopes for the future of Berlin’s dance floors.
Age: 27. What do you do? DJ and producer, DJ teacher and mentor, No Shade co-founder. Where are you from? Gothenburg, Sweden. What's the most rewarding thing about running No Shade? Sharing knowledge and contributing to other people’s growth. Giving someone the tools they need to skip months, or years, of confusion and doing things in an unnecessarily complicated way. How do you hope to see No Shade grow in the coming years? I really hope we’ll still keep our intimate and friendly vibes within the collective even as we grow. I’m hoping to see interest from our new DJs to start teaching as well. I would love it if we could create sufficiency via subgroups within the local collective and it would also be amazing to see No Shade spreading to other cities and countries. What advice can you offer to aspiring femme/non-binary/trans DJs? As great as it is to feel strong and independent by accomplishing things on your own, if you feel like it’s overwhelming to figure everything out by yourself and you feel held back as a result of that, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Asking for help shouldn’t be seen as a sign of weakness when so many things around us and in our lives could never have been achieved by a single person’s efforts.
Age: 27. What do you do? VJ and digital designer. Where are you from? Szczecin, Poland. How would you describe your aesthetic? It’s serious and silly at the same time, kinda like shamanistic visions in a candy store. I’m moving between very hyperreal, shiny stuff and cheap-looking ghastly mutants. Think cave paintings of the digital age. Who or what are your visual influences? Recently I’m into old cartoons and am now addicted to Moomins. I really like the juxtaposition of European text with Japanese animation and sound design, it creates something kinda eerie. I love hyperreal and future tech stuff, ancient alien documentaries and cave art. Also clickbait game ads, dog Instagram feeds, plants, and bad graffiti. How do you hope to see Berlin's club culture change in the next five years? I really hope it still grows to be more diverse, inclusive and freaky. I want to see the standard club party format expand to new dimensions, and transform into a multi-sensory feast. What's happening in Berlin right now that everyone should know about? There is a really awesome exhibition called Palettes by RuoHan Wang and Zebu at Weserhalle that I’m super eager to see. Other than that, I think winter is close in Berlin and we should all get a SAD lamp.
Age: 25. What do you do? DJ/artist. Where are you from? Singapore. How would you describe your sound? Dark, nostalgic, sexy rave music that makes you wanna dance and cry. Who are your musical influences? Growing up with a strict Asian mom, music was filtered and Western music was often not allowed. I remember buying the most notorious album, by t.a.T.u, and smuggling it home. Now I am tapping back into my Asian roots and recently bought a record by a Malay artist called Junainah, which incidentally was what my mom listened to when she was younger! What makes No Shade so special? The strength and support of a crew of badass femme and non-binary DJs changing the club scene and killing it. How do you hope to see Berlin's club culture change in the next five years? To be a safe and positive place where anyone of gender, colour and sexual preference can rave and express themselves openly.
Age: 28. What do you do? Visual artist and DJ. Where are you from? Porto, Portugal. How would you describe your sound? I mostly play my home country’s rhythms mixed with global bass. I like to make booties bounce and bodies get closer. My sets are free, loud, and noisy. Who are your musical influences? BlackSea no Maya, Jowaa, Ikonika, Imaabs, Dj Sottão, DJ Veneno, Dia e Noite, DDG crew, Delroy Edwards, BadSista, Dis Fig, STK, and Nidia. What makes No Shade so special? We fully support each other taking a step further without expectations or judgements. Everyone helps build a safe space where we can all explore and challenge ourselves, discuss and bring ideas, be creative, develop new skills, explore boundaries, and have fun! How do you hope to see Berlin's club culture change in the next five years? I would like to see it being more friendly and inclusive for everyone. What's happening in Berlin right now that everyone should know about? Laws are getting more severe with heavier punishments.
Age: 24. What do you do? DJ and presenter. Where are you from? London. How would you describe your sound? Eclectic — I play everything from trap to bass, grime, hip-hop, club, techno and more. I just like to play music that people can dance to, however you can definitely hear the UK influence in my sound. Who are your musical influences? I can’t put my finger on one particular musical influence, I get inspired everyday. Even just watching other DJs play and observing the different ways they interact with the crowd, use their equipment and make their selections inspires me to think outside the box for every set. This is why going B2B is one of my ultimate favourite parts about DJing. How do you hope to see Berlin's club culture change in the next five years? I personally hope to see the diversity that is currently thriving in a select few underground parties push through to the mainstream. In terms of gender identity, race, ethnicity, body type, sexuality — a wealth of people from different backgrounds drives the culture to continue to evolve for the better.
Age: 29. What do you do? DJ and producer. Where are you from? Porto Alegre, Brazil. How would you describe your sound? My sound is a mixture, like my own self. A combination of what could be called conventional and unconventional. I mix sounds that have a more international status with Latin and especially Brazilian elements. Who are your musical influences? Brazil is very rich musically and rhythmically and has a very musical culture in general. Hip-hop, rap, R&B, and Brazilian funk are definitely part of my foundation. In recent years there has been an amazing boom of exciting electronic producers and collectives in different parts of Latin America reviving sounds and pushing the boundaries of club music. What makes No Shade so special? No Shade defies the status quo of the scene by definition and practice. An all female/non-binary collective in a scene that is progressive but still mostly male dominated, for example. It's genre-open too. Techno is a big reference in the club scene in Berlin but there’s a lot more going on. What's happening in Berlin right now that everyone should know about? Gentrification and community/collective efforts against it.
Ace of Diamonds
Name: Clarisse. Age: 27. What do you do? DJ. Where are you from? Berlin, Germany. How would you describe your sound? I focus on dancing and mix everything in a way that makes you go crazy. I play 24/7 club music only. Who are your musical influences? Bass and rhythm across the globe. What makes No Shade so special? It’s special for developing a club culture beyond techno (which is still by far dominating Berlin) supporting artists who struggle to establish themselves inside established structures, and attracting a diverse crowd. How would you like to see Berlin nightlife change? I hope to see club nights and events that are not divided by the need to affirm identity politics — more space for underrepresented identities without that differences divide.
Age: 29. What do you do? Live artist and project manager. Where are you from? Grinder, Norway. How did you get involved with No Shade? I joined a bit later and got introduced to the project through living with Linnea, but I was always part of or working with feminist projects like this to push for creating the spaces I missed myself, and wish were there when I grew up. What’s the most rewarding part of your job? Being part of a collective like this, hanging out and working with so many amazing creative kickass people and see our femme-run space succeed. No Shade makes an impact and changes the narrative visually and musically. What’s your best advice for aspiring DJs? Keep focus, you know? It’s OK to be a bitch sometimes, to know your worth, and tackle your confrontations and fears head on. Focus on what you want for yourself and put the work in, then don’t take anything less than what that’s worth back for it.
Age: 22. What do you do? DJ. Where are you from? London, England. How would you describe your sound? Dark, playful, and unpredictable. Who are your musical influences? Right now I’m really into Slikback, but this month I’ve been listening to a lot of Fatima Al Qadiri, Dean Blunt, and Juicy J’s It’s On. What makes No Shade so special? It’s a proper family, I’ve met some life long friends here. How do you hope to see Berlin's club culture change in the next five years? I hope it becomes more colourful. What's happening in Berlin right now that everyone should know about? The Arthur Jafa exhibition on at the Julia Stoschek Collection. It blew my mind.
Age: 28. What do you do? Producer, provocateur, DJ. Where are you from? New York City. What inspired you to start No Shade? I wanted to link with local talented friends and give more people opportunities. It was organic. What's the most rewarding part of your job? Teaching people to count. It’s equally the most challenging part too. How do you hope to see No Shade grow in the coming years? I hope to collaborate with more artists, have more varying genre events, and to curate a festival stage or host our own festival. What advice you would offer to aspiring femme/non-binary/trans DJs? Give it your all, leave nothing left after your set.
Age: 25. What do you do? DJ, and Jr. Label Manager at Beatport. Where are you from? Izmir, Turkey. How would you describe your sound? Bass-heavy, restless, diverse. Who are your musical influences? I guess it's easier for me to say where instead of who. I don't remember having idols or top threes. There are so many great artists out there! Bristol and London sounds have always been my favourite. What’s so special about No Shade? Doing a training program in addition to being a collective. Additionally I love how diverse our backgrounds are and that our similarities bring us together. It's very colourful in here! How would you like to see Berlin nightlife change in coming years? More gunfingers! What should people know about Berlin? There are so many new collectives and parties bringing new club sounds and more bass to Berlin. Underground is growing!
Age: 23. What do you do? DJ. Where are you from? Hamburg. How would you describe your sound? Euphoric and sentimental. Who are your musical influences? As far as artists go I suppose Blümchen, Chief Keef, Daniel Johnston, Future, Hot Sugar, Scott Brown, and Young Thug. What makes No Shade so special? I really like how accessible the program makes everything to the participants. There's no fee to participate, it's not based on who you know, you get access to CDJs to practice as well as having an event to play at. What's happening in Berlin right now that everyone should know about? Dice festival and conference is something I'm excited for. Apart from that I'd like to shout out Strip Down, New World Dysorder, and Foryoukatrina.
Age: 30. What do you do? Co-founder, DJ, overall mommy. Where are you from? Tallinn, Estonia. What's the most difficult aspect of your job? The most challenging perhaps would be to maintain the integrity and personal touch, the heart of the project as we grow bigger. How do you hope to see No Shade grow in the coming years? I hope we keep challenging ourselves as DJs and producers and continue offering something new and fresh to the local scene, and to stay relevant. I'd like to see us spread out and create new contacts and partner groups around the world to work with. What's the best bit of advice you would offer to aspiring femme/non-binary/trans DJs? All the classics: don't second guess yourself, don't let other people rain on your parade, do you, practice, improve, experiment, create your own journey. From a more professional angle: bring a positive attitude, answer your emails and don't get lazy, because there's someone around the corner ready to snatch your gig if you do. No Shade.
This article originally appeared on i-D US.