One of Toronto’s rising stars on how her Caribbean roots shape her approach as a DJ and producer.
In her debut EP Infinity Club, Toronto-based artist BAMBII’s productions are as discursive and innovative as her work as a DJ, inviting the listener to think about the euphoric release made possible when we find ourselves under the sway of a beat good enough to dance to. “I’m not a pseudo-spiritual person, but I found the right group of people,” she says. “ The things I was trying to do took off. I had a very open heart and things kind of flocked to me. I feel very lucky to be able to say that.”
In this In this interview with BAMBII – a short extract from a longer feature published in the new F/W 2023 issue of Fact’s print edition – she talks to Gazelle Mba about her debut EP, her philosophical approach to the club and how her background shapes her approach as a DJ.
Gazelle Mba: You’ve spoken a lot about the really powerful, liberatory emotions the club opens up for you. Could you talk more about that?
BAMBII: I think about it in a sociological and philosophical way. For me it’s like, what are we trying to do when we turn off the light and pack a bunch of people into a club? What is that primordial human instinct? I’m always thinking about that because I find it so strange. It is functionless and transient; it’s so fleeting but it’s the thing that everyone will do and has been doing and will continue to do until pretty much the end of time. When we are heading into futures in urban centres that are really unlivable, with very harsh economic conditions, there is a very important need for this kind of catharsis. I’m looking at the future we are heading towards and it looks very grim and I’m always thinking about that primordial need to create that space of catharsis. It’s also a bit of mystery, it feels vaguely supernatural, the magic trick or transformation that occurs when people are dancing in the dark.
GM: Taking further this idea of clubbing and the supernatural or otherworldly, could you talk a bit about why you named the EP Infinity Club?
B: Infinity Club grew out of the title track on the EP, which was something I started years ago. I thought of an idea for a music video and the place that existed in the video I called Infinity Club which is what I’ve chosen to call this project. It touches on what we just spoke about, the idea of having some kind of third space, and exploring that as a function, feeling, and myth. It’s an ongoing project, not just as an EP.
GM: How does your background and your ideas of the world shape your selections?
B: Being Caribbean, I’m interested in street music, what’s happening on the ground—the music that gets made with nothing, the music that’s unapologetic and comes from subcultures. For instance, the thing that draws me to dancehall is the guerilla style. I’m interested in that style as a global phenomenon. The function remains the same even if the cultural context is different. That’s shaped my overall attitude towards music. I don’t start from a place of pretension, or formality or theory, because Caribbean music and specifically dancehall is like the opposite of that. It is so much more intuitive and inward facing. Jamaican people were really just making music for each other. It was hyper-localised and there was nothing about like, oh what does this mean on the world stage or how does this look? Is this appropriate or not, or is this commercial enough? There was no respectability. I view that spirit as my starting point that informs how I approach music from other genres.
GM: You recently collaborated with Kelela on some songs for her album Raven (2023). How did you find the process of contributing music for someone else’s project as opposed to making music for yourself?
B: It was definitely very nerve-racking because I’m a new artist. I’m a DJ first and producer second and I still consider myself a newcomer. But it was a good exercise; it was invaluable. I do believe spending time with ourselves and our own work is important but we must be able to translate it other contexts. Kelela is an amazing songwriter and she’s really excellent at arranging her songs. Seeing her process from beginning to end really influenced me.
GM: What would you say is the most difficult thing about being a Black artist and what is the easiest or best thing about it?
B: The most difficult thing is how outward facing it is and how content-hungry the era we currently live in is. There is a lot of pressure to engage in social media, to pose, to look a certain way. We are part of a superficial industry that is playing off a very particular desirability politics. I think if you are a man you can get away with a lot of things, but as a dark-skinned woman I am able to observe a clear hierarchy of visibility that exists for women in the industry. It is difficult to navigate the fact that what I look like affects my career. The best thing is people. The people who support me, it makes me cry. Seeing people in the spaces I make or curate, watching how music affects them. I’ve not been proud of so many things in my life but I am so proud of making people happy and making people feel something. I’m not one of those people who thinks music is the whole world. I think music is everything and nothing, you know? But watching people feel like they got something from what I am doing is so invaluable to me. I also feel like my whole career is based around Black women because there is so much opposition to Black women existing on a certain level, but the other side of that is the way that Black women will prop you up—you can’t trade that for anything. You can’t put a price on that.
WORDS: GAZELLE MBA
PICTURES: KIRK LISAJ
This feature was originally published in Fact’s F/W 2023 issue, which is available to buy here.
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