When thinking of a Berlin DJ, what quickly comes to mind is a shaved guy in a black t-shirt, spinning minimal dark techno with his tattoo-sleeved arms. It’s a cliché for a reason. But, during the past years, a counter-culture has arisen.
Ahead of the movement is the female and non-binary collective No Shade. With their mentor program and parties, they are not only challenging the male hegemony of Berlin’s club scene but also bringing their own eclectic sound.
We met up with four of the members to get the lowdown on the collective and learn more about the people behind the DJ booths.
Dancer, DJ and producer Carmel Köster is one of the co-founders of No Shade. It all started back in 2016 when she joined forces with DJ friend Linnea Palmestål, who was then running the Sister parties, to help her organise and re-shape the events.
It’s hard to scroll by a No Shade post in your feed without noticing it; their bold aesthetic demands attention - just like the collective itself. With 15 DJs, a VJ, and members with other responsibilities like Shaun Boss, the graphic designer behind the visuals, they are a force to be reckoned with.
“It's a cool dynamic because everyone brings their flavour to the collective. It's like being in a band. You vibe off each other,” Carmel says.
During her childhood years in Tallinn, Carmel was surrounded by music. Both her aunt and mum were dancers, and it didn’t take long until she became one too. In her 20 years long dancing career she has explored all kinds of styles, spanning from Hip-Hop to Contemporary to House and on.
This reflects on her DJ sets. Instead of being bound by a genre she focuses on building a sound that’s primal to the body and makes it move.“I like to shake people up; I don’t want my sets to be background noise - I want them to invade the space and spice things up.”
Driven by a need to be involved in creative processes, Carmel takes an active role in all her projects. No Shade is no exception. “I’m the producer, the mummy,” Carmel says and laughs, “I do everything from general organising to planning the events to bookings.”
During the past year, Kikelomo’s name has been an almost constant feature on the party posters plastered around Berlin. When asked what gigs were the best, anecdotes start flooding out of her.
She speaks without punctuation as she remembers the party at Prince Charles where she played an intense Grime set, ignoring whether the crowd would be up for it or not; Splash! Festival where she was invited to play at the Hoe_Mies stage; her first headline gig at a small place in Stuttgart; The No Shade party at Griessmuehle during Red Bull Music Festival; and on and on and on.
“No Shade was 100% part of making this possible. Immediately as I started the mentor program, the collective connected me to the booking community, and it’s also been helpful in terms of visibility,” Kike says.
She was selected into the No Shade Mentor Program in September 2017. During the four-week training, the DJs get private lessons with No Shade co-founder Linnea Palmestål and other DJs, access to practising the CDJ at ACUD, a lineup spot for the next party and of course a ticket into the collective.
“It’s cool to have a network around you, opposed to just been taught DJing and then sent off on your own. No Shade is more than that. We’re like a little family; sharing experiences and supporting each other.”
As a born and raised Londoner the sounds of Garage, Grime and 2-step are natural habitats for Kike. But she is not one to stick to just one style; her sets are mishmashes of genres like Baile Funk, Hip-Hop, Techno and more. “I like playing the unexpected. If someone has a cool Disney remix, hit me up.”
Kike has been involved with music her whole life. She’s sung opera, played the piano and been part of an acapella group. She also knew from a young age that she wanted to get involved with radio. Currently one of her side projects is her living that dream, as she’s hosting her show Pass The Aux', on the independent station Cashmere Radio.
“I like the feeling of sharing music, whether it's on a platform like Cashmere Radio where you can interact with the artists, or it's in a club dropping a tune that no one knows and you get to see the reactions of the crowd. I love that.”
Back in 2017, Clarisse wasn’t able to plug in her controller at a gig and was forced to play on the club’s CDJ instead. “It was a catastrophe! I was playing with only a few YouTube tutorials in the back of my mind - the dancehall was quickly empty,” she says and laughs at the memory.
After this experience, she realised that she needed to learn the CDJ to get further in her career and that’s when she applied to the No Shade mentor program.
Her sets are always different from one another, and she aims to give the audience the tracks they don’t know they want. This results in an unpredictable sound, keeping the audience on their toes. “I've learnt to make playlists that are tight. I don’t want a single second of my set to make the audience feel like they can go and chill,” she explains.
As both a DJ and party organiser, it’s clear that Clarisse loves clubbing. She talks about it as a transformative communal experience, in the sense that it’s all about forming, transforming and reclaiming identity. “Somehow it’s about resisting,” she says. “Resisting because you’re something that society has no room for.”
When asked how No Shade contributes to this transformative notion of clubbing, Clarisse explains: “The music industry and clubs are totally man-run spaces, by changing the infrastructure to non-binary, female and queer, we are breaking this patriarchal structure. The dismissal of societal rules opens up for a new kind of clubbing experience.”
Over the years, Clarisse has seen her hometown of Berlin change; she remembers when there were underground raves every weekend, and squats surrounding streets rather than corporates. “It was easier to find spaces for parties before, everything is more regulated now,” she says and continues: “It’s good in a way because the abandoned buildings would be a drain after some time, but the way the spaces aren’t negotiated means it’s basically selling out the city.”
Ezgi seems to live and breath music - spending her days finding new tracks on her commute to her daily work as a Junior Label Manager at Beatport, running to the office CDJs on her lunch breaks to practice and playing at parties all over the Berlin. “I'm interested in every aspect of this thing - from a sample to the DJ floor, to a record shop, and it's just amazing to get to learn it all,” she says.
Her DJ career started at the beginning of 2018, as she entered the No Shade collective, but her passion for music has been there since her childhood days in Izmir, Turkey. “We had music nights at my school, and I was in each of them! I was singing in the school band, trying a bunch of different instruments and playing on Turkish tv - it never stopped.”
Needless to say that it was Berlin’s music scene that drew Ezgi to the city. “I was working in the music distribution industry in Istanbul, but it wasn’t enough for me. So I said fuck it; I’m going to Berlin.”
When Ezgi moved to the city she had a strong desire to DJ but no equipment or contacts - that’s why she applied to the No Shade mentor program. “ If I were all on my own I don’t think I’d be able to play at this capacity,” she says and continues: “It’s also exciting seeing the other girls play - it’s a colourful experience.”
As a fan of many genres, she doesn’t want to claim a sound. But her bass-heavy sets are often filled with music from the UK; other local influences are Lisbon and Ghana. “I don't know how to explain it, but you know, some tracks just get you inside. I do love a good drum and bassline, but sometimes the lyrics are what gets me.”
One of her favourite gigs was at OHM; she describes it as one of those nights when everything comes together. “I could really connect with everyone there, and people couldn’t stop dancing,” she says and continues: “When you see people enjoying what you're playing it's just amazing.”
While struggling with anxiety, it’s sometimes hard for Ezgi to get up behind the DJ booth, but she isn’t someone who’d let that stop her. “If you don’t challenge these things you’re not getting anywhere,” she explains. As her career has progressed she’s learnt ways to deal with the stress: “One solution is to drink four beers in ten minutes and boom that's the key to success and happiness in life,” she jokingly proclaims
courtesy NO SHADE
photography GIL CORUJEIRA
words VERONICA JONNSON
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