The female DJs changing the face of Adelaide’s night life

Image Source: Alex Kay’s Instagram @lovelaex

By Faye Couros | @CourosFaye

From an outsider’s perspective, DJ’ing is a cool, niche vocation that most of the population will never be able to get in to.

While the occupation can be overly exclusive, a few inspiring female DJs in Adelaide are cultivating inclusive spaces for females and non-binary people to enter the industry.

 

Nelya Valamanesh (DJ Pillow Princess), Push Popp:

Nelya first found her way to the decks almost by accident, after she created a playlist celebrating women of colour for an event at the Chateau Apollo.

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Image Source: Nelya Valamanesh’s Instagram @dj_pillowprincess

She used an app to teach herself how to DJ, and put together a set full of music created by people from various countries and in several different languages.

After the gig, Nelya was approached by one of the organisers at Rocket Bar who asked her to send him a mixtape.

“I was so out of my depth… I don’t even know how to DJ properly at all. I kind of just play music and fade it out, and totally Spotify, but human,” she said.

Nelya spent an afternoon at Rocket Bar learning the ropes and since then, she has DJ’d at Sparkk Bar for a female DJ night, the Rave Cave at Groovin the Moo, and many other venues.

Nelya’s group ‘Push Popp’ was formed a year ago when she met Daria H Koljanin (DJ Bad Babu) at Ancient World on Hindley Street.

Without necessarily intending to, people like Nelya are creating spaces for women to play tunes, and are providing a fresh take on the Adelaide nightlife scene.

‘Push Popp’s’ gigs at Sparkk’s female DJ night are one of the few of their kind, but Nelya is eager to create an array of inclusive events.

Nelya said ‘Push Popp’ are trying to create a community of female DJs, and make a place where people “that want to DJ can come and practice and learn together”.

In an effort to start creating these spaces, Nelya helped coordinate a DJ workshop for females and non-binary people called ‘LOOP IT!’ at the Lion Arts Factory.

Creating spaces like this for women and non-binary people to learn a new skill nurtures empowering environments.

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Image Source: Nelya Valamanesh’s Instagram @dj_pillowprincess

Although DJ’ing is a male-dominated industry, Nelya believes the most significant barrier is not gender, but the ability to access equipment.

“It is a bit of a boys club, but I think we realised that it is really hard to get in if you don’t have access to the equipment,” she said.

Nelya said that because a lot of female DJs go interstate, venues are searching for female and non-binary performers; but she is critical of how they demand a certain type of performance from them.

“People are looking for these DJs, but saying at the same time… we need this specific sound; you need to be in this little box,” she said.

Nelya said ‘Push Popp’ are trying to “open those doors for people” to create space for more female and non-binary DJs.

But in the meantime, Nelya has several exciting and unique projects planned to teach Adelaideans about unique musical genres.

“I will be starting up a New Orleans bounce and Jersey trap club night, so I will be making a little playlist for people to follow so they can be exposed to that kind of music.”

 

Alex Kay, Five Four Entertainment, Transmission, Taking Back Saturdays and No Scrubs:

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Image Source: Alex Kay’s Instagram @lovelaex

The story of how Alex Kay began her DJ’ing career is a funny one.

The first time she DJ’d, Alex was already working at Five Four Entertainment and attending a gig organised by the company.

“One night my boss was DJ’ing and he had to use the bathroom, and he was like ‘could you cover me for a minute?’,” Alex said.

This moment was Alex’s first time playing a set and, after a quick lesson from her boss, she was on the decks.

“He didn’t come back in time, so I took over, and that was the moment I started DJ’ing and didn’t stop,” Alex said.

“I ended up DJ’ing every club after that.”

Alex said her experiences as a female DJ have been positive and liberating.

“It is actually fantastic… it just feels really good to be up there in front of everyone, and being a girl and saying I am doing this,” she said.

However, like in any industry, she has also had to endure some negative experiences during her sets, especially when male partygoers have provided unwanted advice.

While this may not happen often, the instances when it does illustrate the barriers female DJs may face, particularly with how they have to deal with their skills being questioned.

“I will be there at the decks at a night that I invented and created that people have been coming to consistently for three years, and a guy will approach me and say, ‘maybe you should play this, maybe you should do that’; and it has happened to a couple of my female DJs,” she said.

It is indicative of the female experience to not feel good enough, underestimate our abilities, or feel we have to be the best for our work to be valid.

“We are constantly led to believe we are not good enough and to underestimate our ability… people saying you should play this or that; they walk away and, whether you are confident or not, it always makes you think, ‘should I have played that song?’” Alex said.

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Image Source: Alex Kay’s Instagram @lovealex

In Adelaide, the community of female and non-binary DJs is growing and with events like ‘LOOP IT!’, more spaces are emerging.

Alex is enthusiastic about the community’s growth and how supportive the environment is amongst the DJs.

She said the ‘LOOP IT!’ workshop “was a really positive and fostering environment”.

Like Nelya, Alex said access to equipment and resources is a significant deterrent for people looking to pursue DJ’ing, but ‘LOOP IT!’ may offer an opportunity for those curious to get their hands on a deck.

The team is expecting to put on more workshops in the future.

“I think hopefully we can put more of those on and start fostering some more positive experiences,” she said.

Alex said that venues need increased accessibility—echoing Nelya’s criticisms—because this excludes people from cool events, explaining that Adelaide’s venues need to upgrade their infrastructure to improve inclusivity.

“It’s hard for people to go out and have a good time. They have to think about whether or not it is going to be a good place for them,” she said.

Alex’s sets have spread fun vibes throughout the country, selling out venues all over Australia, with capacities of up to 500 people.

Her number one piece of advice for girls and non-binary people who want to get into DJ’ing is to “do it now!”.

 

You can check out Nelya and Alex’s upcoming projects on their social media accounts.

 

 

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