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JAHCOOZI INTERVIEW

[Artists, Events]

 

Having been a proper music junkie ever since she got hold of her first Sony Walkman and pirated cassettes as a kid in London, it seemed inevitable that Jahcoozi singer/songwriter and front woman Sasha Perera would at some point want to get up there and share her unadulterated passion for music with the other club kids. Thus Mother Perera the DJ was born.

It was in 2008 at her friends’ parties in Berlin that she started DJing for fun occasionally on the weekends that she wasn’t touring with her band.

Her DJ sets are in the same strain as her musical instincts. Encompassing everything from future bass, UK bass, tech-house, dubtech, neo-2step/garage, post dubstep, glitchy hip hop and IDM. Other urban musical escapades, syncopation, sound texture and organics are the key.  Her motto is: Just say no to plastic and dance dance dance! Original, unforgettable and incredible diverse, this matriarch’s DJ sets do damage with warmth, depth and a raw energy like virtually no other.
It’s the freedom of not being a full-time DJ (instead, being a full-time musician with Jahcoozi), that actually really gives Mother Perera the room to play whatever she wants and that with a huge amount of honesty.  She gathers all the club kids under her favourite tree and shows them how true love of electronic music really works. In this interview with Hennessy Artistry India, Sasha Perera discusses growing up and growing into music.

Having grown up in London during the ’90s, how would compare the scenes in the two cities?
London in the ‘90s was a bit like Berlin before around 2005. It was the time before all the proper money started turning up and yuppies and lifestyle found a proper place in the central areas city and thus property prices were hiked up. London in the ‘90s was more affordable so more freaks lived in the centre and had space to make their mark on the city. In Berlin, rents have increased around 30 to 40 per cent in the last few years.

Before that Berlin was more of a rough diamond, people outside Germany didn’t know anything about it and thought it was a bunch of October-fest Germans or something.  They weren’t really aware of Berlin’s creative output because people from the New York Times or the Guardian were not constantly writing about it’s every move. Nowadays, everyone’s mum wants to go there!  I hope they don’t all come!

Some advantages of Berlin opening up to a bigger audience is that the food has gotten better and it’s more multicultural.  I guess there are a few more jobs. One shouldn’t forget that Berlin has an unemployment rate of almost 20 per cent, something London hasn’t ever had. It’s one of the reasons that Berlin parks are full of people enjoying their lives on a sunny day rather than sitting in the office like a bunch of monkeys in suits!

Was there any clash of cultures for you moving to Malaysia, Singapore, London and then Berlin?
Yes, and no.  I’m used to moving around and I am lucky to have been exposed to a lot of different things when I was a kid. It probably made it easier for me to simply up and leave London for Berlin at a time when there was no internet to assure you that your friends in London were just a click away.

When did you start recording / singing?
In London, I wasn’t in the zone to start writing which is the first point at which I became a vocalist. I wasn’t ready. I was merely an avid consumer of music. I was just busy growing up. And most people I knew in London were consumers, promoters, party-goers or just DJs. I’d talked about doing stuff with a drum n bass bedroom producer mate of mine but it was all talk in the end. It was probably because I hadn’t started writing yet and because he had a day job. And we probably just partied too much. In Berlin, I started writing and found jobless mates with home studios and became more productive creatively.

Where does Jahcoozi place itself in the landscape of the music scene in Berlin considering you’ll overlap several genres and styles?
In our own living room. But we have lots of mates who like to pop over for tea, biscuits and bass! In a way we are very ‘Berlin’ because we have always released our albums on Berlin labels like Kitty-Yo or Bpitch Control and over the years we’ve collaborated with a variety of Berlin based artists like Modeselektor, Barbara Panther, RQM, Siriusmo, Chris de Luca & Phon.o, Sick Girls etc.  There are actually many, many scenes in Berlin. It’s just that the techno scene get the most spotlight which can sometimes create a rather biased picture.

How does the songwriting process take place for a Jahcoozi track? Can you give me an instance with say Black Barbie?
I had a vision just before I moved to Berlin where I wanted to a bootleg that line from ‘Oh Carolina’ (yes, by Shaggy) and change it into ‘mi Ketaminah’ as a tongue-in-cheek ode to the drug of the time.  I, of course, forgot about this for about a year-and-a-half until I built it into the song, ‘Black Barbie’, which I’d started writing in Berlin.

It started as a little poke at the perceptional cliché that embodies an exotic looking woman. For example,  the whole Josephine Baker stereotype from the 1920s or even the  portrayal of women in dancehall, reggaeton, gangster hip hop / RnB videos nowadays.  Having had an idea of the vibe I wanted I asked Robert to make me a dance hall beat. The song ended up as a lo-fi dada island pop track – pretty wonky and weird sounding. The chorus melody is a bootleg of ‘Black Magic Woman’ by Santana too. So the whole song is full of twisted cultural references, a bit like our band name Jahcoozi.

Not many Jahcoozi tracks are written like that though. Often, Robert gives me a few beats or full instrumentals to choose from and write to and then I just go for it with whatever inspires me at that moment.  We have no strict method of who starts a track or formula for making music, we’ve used various methods over the years.

How did the transition from DJing for fun for friends to playing club gigs happen? Did you have to pay more attention to certain aspects of it?

I was shit scared while I was DJing at the start. I found it more stressful to DJ than to play a Jahcoozi show.  In a Jahcoozi show, I’m using my voice/ presence whereas with DJing its all about technology. So it took me a while to feel as comfortable with that as I do with my voice. But it was exciting to get stage fright again!

You’ve had some strong opinions on the recent vaginal whitening advertising campaign in India.
Do you think they could give me an endorsement? They could put a ‘Before and After’ picture of my intimate zone on the packet?!  I would need buckets of that shit!


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