Interview: Sky Deep (female:pressure)

female:pressure is an international network and database of female musicians working in electronic music and digital arts. They also put on countless events, generate reports that exhibit the bleak truth about the under-representation of females at festivals and on record label rosters, as well as running a number of campaigns.

Rojava is their latest campaign, centering on the Northern Syrian region of the same name. Part of the campaign has involved the collation of music, media and sound art on the subject of Rojava – you can check out a wonderful 30-track playlist here.

Below, I speak to Berlin DJ Sky Deep about #Rojava, the work of female:pressure and her own work as a purveyor of sensual, galatically-bound Gangsta-House.

Let’s start by talking about the #Rojava campaign. What are the YPJ, and how did you find out about them?

The YPJ are a defense and protection unit made of women in Rojava. They autonomously organize to obtain and preserve safety and equal rights for women in the stateless democracy that the Kurdish community is building and fighting for. I first learned about the YPJ from my friend Hevi, who is passionately connected with the Kurdish movement. We met during my first few months living in Berlin.

What’s the aim of the campaign?

The campaign’s purpose is to raise awareness and support for the  revolution in Rojava through music and visual media. Music and all art forms are amazing tools that affect hearts, minds and actions on this planet. By pooling our energies and talents, we can spread the world internationally about what is happening there. By connecting with people directly related to the revolution there, we can share the authentic truths about what really matters to the YPJ and hopefully redirect the media’s glamorization of the women fighters there.

You’ve composed/released a track as part of the campaign called “The Woman & The Gun”, featuring the activist known as Hevî. There’s a bubbling tension to the track; it seems to be gathering momentum toward a breaking point that it never actually reaches. Was there anything in particular you were trying to convey through the movement/behaviour of this track?

After listening to Hevi and the many recounts of time spent journeying to and contributing in Rojava, I was compelled to attempt expressing the feelings that emerged from these conversations. In hearing these experiences, I was quite speechless. Because I express myself better and more deeply through art, this originated as a gift. Hevi is really into music and we had already discussed doing a project together. When AGF of female:pressure initiated the campaign topic, it was really perfect timing as Hevi had just returned to town. The experiences were fresh and raw. When Hevi heard the raw unfinished music, she told me it reminded her of a life threatening point in her saga while on the road returning from Rojava.

Your track also forms part of a wonderful #Rojava playlist, featuring 25 tracks dedicated to Rojava. I assume you must be pretty happy with the submissions you’ve received so far? What do you think it is about Rojava that has inspired such a powerful and diverse array of material?

Well AGF mostly curated for this but as I have listened to the various works, it makes me happy to see that the news is truly spreading.  It’s really interesting to hear the different points of views through music. Depending on which part of the world and society someone is in when hearing about Rojava, definitely colors the perspective of their art. The curation process has opened up discussions within female:pressure that help us all seek more truths about the revolution. At first, people are interested for  a variety of reasons. It could be because of their passion of feminism OR perhaps other political views OR the glamorization of women fighters in the mainstream news but once interest is raised, we all have the opportunity to lend ears more directly to what the YPJ stand for through human connection, study and action.

You were recently involved in a presentation on #Rojava at Berlin’s CTM festival. How did it go? Were you able to get a sense of how attendees responded to the campaign, and what they took from it?

I know the room was so packed that many people had to stand. They got to hear from the mouths of women directly connected to the experiences of the Rojava region. From what I heard, the panel speakers were clear, unapologetic and uncompromising with their presentations and answers to audience questions. I’m not sure exactly what other people took from it but I would guess that they may have walked away feeling compelled to take more action in their local environments and to do further research on the topic. What the women are doing in Rojava is an example for us all.

In your own opinion, what can be learned from Rojava?

We don’t need to wait on our governments to support our own communities. True freedom lies in our own hands and the only possibility is through unification of people with various backgrounds toward a common mission.

How can people get involved in supporting #Rojava?

First, learning is key. To begin, there are many resource links we compiled here.

Also, reach out. Spread the words in your communities and also connect with people from backgrounds different than your own. Ask questions.

There too is the possibility to donate funds directly here.

How and when did you start to become involved in female:pressure?

I joined f:p in January 2015 after hearing about it from Bella Cuts, a DJ who was already involved.

Last year you released an updated version of your 2013 report, which gathered statistics on the prevalence of females vs. males on festival lineups, record labels and club nights. From what I could gather, there has been little progression between 2013 and 2015 – all of the categories were male-dominated, and several festivals had absolutely no female presence whatsoever. Do you have any thoughts on why this bias isn’t shifting?

Personally, I think many people, men and clubs are uncomfortable with change. They are accustomed to following a certain agenda.  They are on autopilot. What they don’t realize is that without change and growth, everything can become quite cold and lifeless at a certain point. So while some are keeping a tight grip on “what was”, all the possibilities for new sounds, vibes and party development will remain primitive and unidimensional.

Are there any particular festivals or record labels setting a positive example by trying to redress the balance?  

Some labels that I think are doing well in this area are Through My Speakers, Monika Enterprise. And Reveller Records is my label, which has a female heavy roster. I didn’t do it with the specific purpose of redressing the balance though. For me, balance and equality is something I strive for as a daily principle so naturally this shows up in everything that I do. On the female:pressure website, we have a large database of females in the electronic music industry. It is also searchable by profession.  There are at around 100 members that are label owners.

I understand that you’re currently working on a full-length record. How’s that coming along, and how do you think it’ll compare to last year’s G-Space EP?

I’m really excited about the progress on my full-length work.  It has many dimensions and it contains all of who I am. I reach into the depths of every cell in my soul and body to express myself in a variety of ways. On the G-space EP there was a lot of exploration. Each aspect of my new work is very deliberate.  I am conjuring a multi-media potion to move bodies and spirits.

You’ve living in Berlin for a couple of years now. How does the electronic music scene compare to back in Brooklyn?

I love the freedom that I experience here in Berlin. People always seem ready for something new and that encourages me to stretch my limits even farther.  In NYC, there is a ton of great SOUL music. There is a certain type of Funk in Brooklyn that I will always love. In my perfect world,  I would combine the two elements for the richest music.

As always, it looks like female:pressure has plenty of events lined up for the immediate future. Could you pick out a few highlights?

We have meetups and round tables in Berlin for f:p members, such as the Female DJs’ & artists’ roundtable: every 2nd Thursday  At Bar ohne Namen, Oppelner Straße 44. People also organize similar events in other cities.

For March 8th there is a call/petition for DJ Charts that are dedicated to charting women on this day on all platforms such as RA, Beatport, etc. Go here for more information.