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Making female DJs normal, not a novelty

IQ talks to the team behind Red Bull Music’s Normal Not Novelty workshop series that's building a new generation of female DJs and producers

By Anna Grace on 17 Jul 2019

Normal Not Novelty

Participants of Normal Not Novelty's May workshops

image © Rianna Tamara

Red Bull Music’s monthly Normal Not Novelty returned this week, hosting workshops for aspiring female sound engineers, producers and vocalists.

Launched in 2017, Normal Not Novelty aims to educate and inspire the next generation of female producers and DJs, in a subset of the industry that is particularly male-dominated. A recent report revealed that, over the past seven years, only 2% of producers appearing in Billboard’s Hot 100 year-end charts were female.

“Normal Not Novelty provides a space to make women feel comfortable in pursuing a career in music,” says DJ and producer Bamz, who recently led a Normal Not Novelty workshop at London’s Red Bull Music Studios.

“People tend to presume you are a singer or a songwriter. We are trying to lessen this divide so future generations can look at us and see it’s possible to be whatever you want to be,” states Bamz.

For Karen Nyame, who DJs under the alias KG, Normal Not Novelty is integral for “removing misconceptions where women are concerned.”

“I’ve had to deal with a lot of covert misogyny – people assume I don’t have the knowledge based on my gender”

“I’ve had to deal with a lot of covert misogyny – people assume I don’t have the knowledge based on my gender,” explains Nyagme. “They still want to work with me, because I am good at what I do, but they are patronising at the same time.”

For both producers, the networking aspect of Normal Not Novelty is the most important. “Music production shouldn’t be an isolated process,” says KG. “It takes the pressure off to find other women with like-minded goals all in one place.”

The topic of gender-neutral line-ups has been at the forefront of conversation this festival season, and has divided opinions across the music industry. Primavera Sound presented its first gender-balanced billing this year, telling IQ that “the ‘pale, male and stale’ paradigm” needs to change.

“It’s down to laziness and apathy,” says Nyame in reference to male-heavy line-ups. “There are amazing women out there and a strong influx of female DJs coming through, but we’re not getting a look in.

“To compensate, organisers often bunch us all together on female-only stages, which defeats the whole point of integration.”

“There are amazing women out there and a strong influx of female DJs coming through, but we’re not getting a look in”

Rather than setting quotas or shoehorning female artists onto specific stages, the producer believes more balanced line-ups will only result from “bookers and promoters being willing to go out of their way to take risks and remove the predictability from line-ups.”

Looking to the future, Bamz says a change in attitude towards women in the industry “will come from basic education and hearing anecdotes of women who have succeeded in whichever part of the industry they work in.”

Bamz adds that “giving confidence to younger people, providing positive role models and teaching them to be in control of the art they make,” is the key to achieving more equality.

The next Normal Not Novelty sessions are taking place as part of London’s four-week Red Bull Music festival, with a Notting Hill Carnival special on 20 August and an event on 10 September in conjunction with local label Hyperdub, at the Red Bull Studios in Covent Gardens.

Pictured: (left to right, top) Bamz, Tash LC, KG, Katie Tavini, Kamillah Rose (bottom) Valentina Magaletti, Marta Salogni.


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