“To be honest, the hardest thing about being a dj that’s female is the gimmick aspect of it! Can’t we just be DJs? And leave gender out of it?” – DJ/Producer Gina Turner in The Pulse, 2017
I think about the term ‘female DJ’ the same way I think about the term ‘female doctor’: if it’s not redundant, it should be. So, with thanks to Kendra Jones at UNT records for her input and a nod to Nicole Moudaber (whose music I adore but who has refused to be a part of any gendered list) here is a list of DJ’s making amazing music – as well as impacting their communities in powerful ways that you should know about if you don’t already.
Like a doctor is a doctor, we don’t need to harp on the gender/gender identification of these DJ’s. We just need to learn and listen – to the music and the message, support, and dance.
Cindy Li spoke on a panel discussing the creation of safer spaces in electronic music at Vancouver’s New Forms Festival in 2017, describing the ways in which promoters must take responsibility for the safety of women and LGBTQ members of their audience. Her efforts have significantly raised the safety standards of underground parties in Canada. After publicly calling out a promoter who had booked yet another all-male line up at a Toronto event, she created a list to answer those who questioned whether there were any ‘female DJs’ out there to hire. If you’d like to see the (incredible) list of women, femme and non-binary DJs, go here.
For some serious drum & bass, go here:
The Black Madonna (techno/disco/house)
Madea Stamper, The Creative Director and talent buyer at Chicago’s Smart Bar, MixMag’s DJ of the year for 2016, and voice for women, people of colour and the LGBTQ community, said it like this in a 2014 interview with the Phoenix New Times:
“Dance music needs riot grrrls. Dance music needs Patti Smith. It needs DJ Sprinkles. Dance music needs some discomfort with its euphoria. Dance music needs salt in its wounds. Dance music needs women over the age of 40. Dance needs breastfeeding DJs trying to get their kids to sleep before they have to play. Dance needs cranky queers and teenagers who are really tired of this shit. Dance music needs writers and critics and academics and historians. Dance music needs poor people and people who don’t have the right shoes to get into the club. Dance music needs shirts without collars. Dance music needs people who struggled all week. Dance music needs people that had to come before midnight because they couldn’t afford full admission. Dance music does not need more of the status quo.”
Now that you’ve read that, listen to this mix, and do your best not to feel like you can take on the world (because you can): https://soundcloud.com/home-taping/the-black-madonnas-love-or-perish-mix
DJ Minx (house, deep house)
DJ Minx, whose birth certificate says Jennifer Witcher, was included in Time Out’s 2016 list of Best House DJs of All Time of all time AND the Mixmag list of 20 Women Who Shaped The History of Dance Music – and for good reason. After almost three decades behind the decks, Detroit’s ‘First Lady of Wax’ has released her creations, as well as other’s, on her Women on Wax label – which came out of the Women on Wax Collective that she founded in 1996. Both have a focus on Detroit artists. Minx also created a sub-imprint of the label called W.O.W. B.A.M. (Women On Wax Bangin’ Ass Music), and continues to collaborate with, produce on, and remix for a number of labels.
It’s only been in the past few years that DJ Minx has played outside of her hometown on a regular basis, but if you’re not familiar with Minx, start with this Detroit City stunner of a set: https://soundcloud.com/platform/dj-minxbr
Monika Kruse (techno)
Active since 1991, Monika has been described by Pete Tong as ‘techno royalty’. She has her own label, Terminal M, as well as a charity called No Historical Backspin.
Founded in Germany in 2000, No Historical Backspin fights racism and homophobia. “It’s sad and ridiculous that people still get beat up, or in some countries even killed, for being gay. Or get treated badly because of their skin colour, or gender, or because they’re a refugee” she says. “But it happens. Sharing and caring is the only way to make the world a safe place for everyone. It is important for DJs to show they respect everyone.”
Do your best to sit down and keep still: https://soundcloud.com/monikakruse/hyte-berlin-nye-2016
Esette (tech house/house/techno/4/4)
Isis Graham, who also works under the moniker of Esette, travels the world and brings the magic home to a thriving electronic scene in Calgary, AB. Experiencing more and more success worldwide, her dedication is based in a desire to give local artists opportunities at home. One of the founding members of Girls On Decks, the longest running female identified DJ collective in Canada, combined with her work as co-owner of Calgary-based Substation Recordings, and as co-founder of the Alberta Electronic Music Conference Esette is on the forefront of cultural growth in her city and beyond.
Honey Dijon (house/techno/disco)
“When I started clubbing, I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time during the cultural movement that we now know as house music. It was predominately heard and played in gay black clubs at the time. There was Rialto’s on the South Side (of Chicago) and Club LeRay’s on the Northside. The latin gay bar Normandy’s in Boystown and the trans club Cheek’s in Lincoln Park. All types of people went regardless of sexual orientation or gender. What was so special about that experience was that the club was like a temple. Sometimes I still feel that today: that escape from the oppression of being a marginalized person, freedom in a place that celebrates diversity, openness, expression, and sexuality. The DJ was the shaman guiding you through a portal of connection through sound. At that time, there was no superstar DJ. The music was the star. In fact, you rarely even saw the DJ. They were usually hidden in the back of the room or high above the dance floor, an invisible force of nature. DJs earned their stripes through their selections, and their skills, nothing more. No waving of the arms, no fist pumping, no pyrotechnics. The music had to stand on its own, and it did.”
tINI has played with pretty much every superstar DJ in dance music but puts a tremendous amount of energy to give a platform to artists – some virtually unknown – that she has come in contact with over her decades in the scene. If you head to Ibiza, look for her tINI and The Gang events. There are very few ‘stars’, no VIP tables and no cover. Why? tINI herself explains it best:
“The overpacking of clubs with the big name DJs, run by promoters who see the Euro signs flashing before their eyes, makes the dance floor uncomfortable. I’m speaking in general, but I’ve seen it all, and I think you should always think of the people on the dance floor first because that is who it’s all for. It’s their free day. This is very important for me as a DJ to keep in mind: that you’re there to make those peoples’ lives a bit better during those hours, and you’re not there to just show off your ego—it’s a get-together.” – From a 2015 RA interview with Carlos Hawthorne
Speaking of explanation, her Twitter bio says it all:
“if you’re a sexist, racist or homophobic: please unfollow me.”
Celebrate inclusion with this mix:
Gina Turner (house/techno/yoga)
DJ. Yogi. Producer. Label boss. Radio host. Mother. Gina Turner proves you can have and do it all. Whether she’s playing a club or facilitating transformation with The Divine Movement, she’s leading the new wave of consciousness on the dance floor. Voted ‘Best DJ in New York’ by the Village Voice, her unstoppableness comes through loud and clear on her label releases, which include ltra Music, Nervous Records, Ministry of Sound, Mixmash Records, Pssst, Defected, Snatch!, Sound Pellegrino, and her own self-started imprint Turn It Records.
Turn it, indeed: