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DJ Haram on the Politics of Club Music

DJ Haram ft. Moor Mother Goddess “Basic”

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Philly DJ discusses the meaning of global bass and the importance of gear

/ November 10, 2015

DJ Haram, also know as Abdul Kadir, is a Philadelphia based DJ and noise artist. They spend a good amount of time carving out space for diy artists by means of  Philadelphia venue Lava Space and other off the grid spaces. They’ve put together hard hitting mixtapes for Mask Magazine and Browntorage and released live mixes of her residency events. We had a conversation about club music, hacking electronic software, the politics of global bass music, and the future of dance music. Check out the magic below.

CAMAE AYEWA: Can you explain the class disparities between Baltimore and Jersey Club music?

DJ HARAM: I can’t really speak to the disparities between the two but “club music” is blowing up all over the world right now. It seems like Jersey gets a shout out maybe half the time and Baltimore even less than that. And shout outs are capital but it’s pocket change. It does seem like Jersey has more cultural capital than Bmore club but I think the real disparity exists along the lines of white supremacy and anti-blackness…people who (re)contextualize club music against the backdrop of whiteness seem to capitalize the most off of it. Who knows how much money people are really making over the hype. 

Global bass is popular all over the world–do you see any international DJs using global bass as a opportunity to speak out about world issues?

Not really. In general, I think global bass is really celebratory, not critical and not necessarily speaking about real shit. Of course, there’s exceptions to every rule and that’s why I fuck with it as a genre. Sometimes it offers diasporic artists a place to narrate their experience and ideas for themselves. That’s what I try to do with DJ Precolumbian in our #diasporafeels dance party “Stage Fatality.” Global bass maybe has the possibility to be a collaborative narration of solidarity across struggles globally. Not sure yet, though. Global bass can be a lot of white/euro-centric “expertise” in music and theft/degradation of indigenous sounds. 

To be honest global bass is like this vast sound ocean of claiming entitlement to and sometimes assigning value to the sounds (and other aesthetics) of Black and Brown peoples cultures from everywhere and my participation in it feels a little bit like drowning. Coincidentally “speaking out about world issues” kind of feels like drowning too, so maybe something else is going on.

Global bass maybe has the possibility to be a collaborative narration of solidarity across struggles globally. Not sure yet, though.

As a noise artist can you explain the importance of making your own electronics and/or hacking software?

I don’t make my own electronics or hardware and all of my software is pirated so…I don’t know. What’s important is getting around the fact that having access to noise-making mechanisms and amplifiers and the ability to move that shit around (to record, for shows, to play music w/ others, etc) is a lot of money. What’s important is remembering how dynamic your content can be even compared to “peers” who got the capital for hardware set ups, studios, and musical training worth thousands of dollars. I struggle with not feeling limited by the small amount of gear I have, the quality of my gear, and usually not having the option to bring much gear to gigs, especially outside of Philly. To deal with this I’m trying to get more into making noise on software (mostly Ableton) and fantasize about race/class warfare popping off in the favor of poor people of color in the noise scenes across the US. Maybe I can learn to make my own oscillators, if that’s what you’re suggesting. And then I’ll make my own car. Or ideally a motorcycle with customized synth rack and built in bass amp. DIY is hard.

Lets travel ten years into the future of dance music do see it as a utopia or dystopia? Please explain.

Right now dance music to me looks like some people trying to survive this hell world and thrive about it, and then some ideological tourists who are actualizing dystopian realities for fun and can it honestly get worse than this? In 10 years hopefully everyone who’s being expansive and fake out here today will wake up and realize they don’t actually like music and quit the game. But that’s hopeful. I’m saying in 10 years how many of us people who fuck with dance music are gonna be able to afford to live in or close by cities where dance music is from and is played in clubs?