Felicitas Sophie Van Laak speaks to the Worldwide FM DJ about jazz and gender
WORDS BY FELICITAS SOPHIA VAN LAAK, IMAGE BY JOE MAGOWAN
Tina Edwards and fellow DJ Charles Vaughan recently hit London’s Peckham Audio with their spectacular Worldwide FM show, Universal Sanctuary. Here, Tina chats with DIVA about jazz, queer visibility in the music scene, and breaking people’s Shazam.
DIVA: How would you describe your sound?
DJ TINA EDWARDS: Jazz at the centre but always being able to dance to it, I just love a really animated dance floor. The fun thing with DJing jazz is the improvising that comes into it – the same way that a jazz musician would improvise; I love to pull inspiration from different kinds of sounds and genres.
What sort of reactions do you get doing your show at different venues?
Jazz can be quite an unusual thing for some people who still have an outdated idea of what the genre is all about. The kind of people that I’ve been trying to spread the news to, are those who really understand the joy of breaking down genres – showing them that you can dance to jazz and that it’s a really different field to what we’ve had in the past. The reactions have been great so far and so many people have come over and said, “What do you call this kind of music?” or, “My Shazam isn’t working – what’s this song?”, which is lovely.
The music scene is well known for its sexism. How do you deal with that?
I think with jazz you still have a representation issue. Certain media that I follow in the jazz industry for example cover female jazz musicians but – there’ll be 18 male writers and only two female writers. And not only is it important that women are being documented, but also that they are the documenters, because we don’t just want the male perspective. I had a conversation with a promoter in Amsterdam recently who was saying that he’s been doing his dance night for 15 years, but he’s only found two female DJs to play. This really angered me and left me kind of flabbergasted. I would love for promoters to take more responsibility in representing a diverse range of artists on their programme.
Your show is called Universal Sanctuary. What does that look like?
It’s somewhere where you don’t have to be drunk or be drinking to let your inhibitions go – I actually rarely drink! You can dance and not be concerned about how people might be looking at you. You don’t have to particularly know anybody; it’s just a room of friends that you haven’t met yet. That’s what a sanctuary is to me, going somewhere that feels as comfortable as home. My way of doing that is by trying to be the most myself that I can be when I’m playing, because it allows other people to be the most themselves that they can be. When Charles is playing, I get away from the decks and dance with everybody, because I don’t want to segregate myself behind the decks.
Do you think that LGBTQI+ people are still excluded from certain clubs and music scenes?
I haven’t had an adverse reaction to me dancing with my partner at a club, but I know that I’m very lucky and I’m one of a few. I’d love to see more queer DJs and broadcasters visible on mainstream festival line-ups and media. It’s incredibly important for us to have our own safe spaces – but it’s also imperative that we’re visible, and not restricting our queerness from view. It’s a courageous thing, and DJs and musicians in the public eye have a responsibility to stand up tall and say, “If I can be here, so can you”.
How do you feel about gendering DJ and DJane?
I’ve never ever thought to use the term “DJane”. I would hate for someone to go into a club and feel like they get a certain experience depending on what gender the DJ is. It’s important for us to be as visible as possible if we are not another white male. It’s important to talk about gender and music, but I wouldn’t want to separate myself from other DJs just for my gender.
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