Because music is still a field largely dominated by men, Femme Electronic is a project aimed at Ugandan women that allows them to learn the art of DJ’ing, production and everything related to the industry. One blog that I follow regularly by Tony Face Bacciocchi featured an article from the Il Manifesto, an italian newspaper, and the okayafrica.com portal. The curiosity to investigate was what led me to contact the creator of the project Rachael Kungu, aka DJ Rachael, who was immediately available to talk about the project. Before inviting you to read the interview, I would like to thank Michela Maria Marconi for her help in translating from English to Italian. Here it is our conversation.
Firstly, tell me something about yourself as a musician. What made you want to become a DJ?
My name is Rachael Kungu, aka DJ Rachael, a Ugandan DJ, producer, rapper now based in Los Angeles, California. I do music production and have been a dj for more than 20yrs. I love to make afro-ethno or ecletic sounding music leaning towards electronic vibes and most of my sets reflect that sound. I’m versatile and very adventurous with my music; you will find me doing a rap verse in a hip hop track or just chanting into some ethnic drum beats or creating random sounds.
From where did the Femme Electronic originate?
I started the Femme Electronic project in 2016 with the help of Goethe Zentrum Kampala and Santuri East Africa, who gave me a platform to showcase and space to teach upcoming girls/women in the field of Djing and Electronic music production with an African flair. Through the years I felt no effect was coming from my country on the women Dj front and I thought it was about time to make them shine and so I began the process of creating that ripple effect. With the help of Goethe we got some influencer Djs from Europe to help lend their knowledge to the project.
Did you run into any problems?
It was quite hard getting the girls motivated to sign up because some Ugandan families do not take Dj’ing or music seriously and some girls were too distracted to complete the process. Some took it as a pass time amd gave up midway. Collecting music was another hurdle coz in Uganda we dont have any real music stores and most music is pirated; buying music online is too expensive for the average African DJ.
Do you feel that your project is misunderstood? Is it hard to find collaborators when making music this original / different?
Yes the project was very misunderstood by so many in my country. I got some resistance from certain anti-women groups and conservatives or moralists who thought we were training and/or recruting people into an LGBTQi movement simply because of the name DJ Rachael.
It was hard finding collaborators but it’s getting easier because there is a rising interest in the world in East African musical themes and lots of creators or producers are looking for that vibe. But it’s still hard to get the right people to work with who won’t rip you off for your talent. Worlwide music festivals are also quite tricky naviagting with this kind of music and it’s not easy getting a slot on these platforms especially for African women musicians or DJs.
I got to know about your project through an Italian blog, Tonyface, that reported the article of the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto, and of the Okayafrica.com website. Was the project covered enough by the media?
The project has gotten some coverage internationally and recently CNN did an interview which was aired on CNN-Inside Africa 2021, but I feel like we need a lot more coverage still to reach and influence more women in the world with spirit, similar projects and talents and show them that they can achieve greatness in their own space and into the world.
What’s the project structure? Which social media channels do you prefer?
Initially the project was more about Learning physical Workshops, Curating and Showcasing paying events and social gatherings to make it more inclusive and a bit profitable for the members. Currently due to the pandemic, we have had to cut down on such associations and taken the workshops online and the project and members have suffered more from this because it was a growing project which had begun picking up momentum nicely and gained some recognition. We use Facebook: Femme Electronic & Instagram:femmeelectronic_official
It seems to me that your project is an important tool for women’s emancipation. Do you consider music as a privileged medium to promote certain social changes in such contexts like Africa?
Yes I think music is a very important and powerful aspect in any society and with this project women are empowered to influence social change and also change the status quo in any given. Femme Electronic was founded with the aim of changing the status quo in the music industry to give women equal space at the table but it has influenced other spheres globally in so many starter projects and created a boomer effect especially in Africa. Using Uganda as an example, almost all major underground or mainstream events before the pandemic: Nyege Nyege Festival, Bayimba International Festival, Mirembe Rhythm, Femme Famous, Ladies Affair (International women’s Day), Rise & Fall of the Berlin Wall (GZKampala), had a woman DJ on their lineup since our project started. The African world has gradually realised that women have more to give than superficially earlier imagined coz they project wholly when dedicated to their craft.
Does the project consider the possibility of collaborating with other projects and/or associations?
Yes we definitely encourage it and will try to reach out to collaborators and associations in all forms. It could be musical, knowledge wise, equipment handing outs or showcase opportunities or even financial aid to help boost the project. Native Instruments has been a constant in the Femme Electronic project by donating DJ and musical equipment for use for the start up. I want to reach out to more collaborators enabling the women to benefit and become the epitome of such projects.
Does the project lend itself to integrations with other cultural forms, such as writing and/or video making?
We have worked with several cultural festivals like Bayimba International festival and several individuals on the DJ and Production front. Presently we haven’t fully immersed ourselves into these forms but we are in the process of spreading out.
What’s the future for this project?
My dream is to see all the women in the project become fully successful and influential in their own right in the Electronic music business and headline major international festivals/events. I want to get them involved with anything and everything on the electronic music scene. I have a future plan of integrating the music to revolve around the fields of photography, videography, Art, Graphic designing, backstage engineering and song writing to work/collaborate in all forms of music production/events and backroom spaces for the women on the larger electronic music scene. A bold plan if I may say. Fingers crossed thumb broken..!!
Link: Dj Rachael Facebook Page