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Every month on her NTS Early Birds Residency, OK Williams treats our ears to everything from finger-on-the-pulse US rap to deep house, techno to jungle and UK funky. Before the pandemic postponed the London club scene, Kanyin’s sets were some of the most talked about and we miss dancing to her selections. Despite being physically separated, we asked south London-based photographer Dexter Lander to shoot Kanyin at home in her pick of the latest pieces to drop on LN-CC. As we share her store mix, Kanyin talks us through her on-decks-epiphany, tells us how the pandemic has altered her approach, and just how much she misses the club.
Firstly, how are you, where are you and what have these questions interrupted you from?
Hi, I’m good. Just at home, as we all are in London. You haven’t interrupted me from much. Mainly smoking and listening to the radio.
This year LN-CC turns 10. What were you like aged 10?
Happy birthday LN-CC! I definitely can’t remember what I was like when I was 10 so I asked my mum and she said I was very sure of myself. She used the example of her buying me clothes and if I didn’t like them, I wouldn’t wear them. I’d just look at them and leave them there with the tags on. I’d like to think not much has changed, but there’s been a lot of second guessing myself recently. A lot of over thinking.
If you could go back and speak to 10-year-old you, what advice would you give them?
I think I’d tell my 10-year-old self to keep hold of that self-assured spirit. Hold it tight lol. Believe and trust in yourself. You can do ANYTHING you want to.
In an excellent gal-dem interview from last year, you described how your DJ-as-career epiphany came late and over the course of the summer back in 2017, you found real happiness honing your talents on the deck. So I’m going in deep... how did it empower you then, and what are its effects on you today?
I think when I first started DJing there was this real feeling of self actualisation. I was like, omg this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I felt so free and powerful. Like this is something I can do that no one else on this earth can do in the same way. Which is true, no two DJs are the same (if you’re good). And it came so naturally! I’d been on the outside looking in and I was finally part of this elite circle that I’d been watching for so many years. I think the shine has worn off a little bit, haha! My feelings towards DJing have changed majorly over the last year. No doubt because of a global pandemic that made clubbing impossible. But also, I think it’s made me think about how significant it actually is, because for me, in the blink of an eye my whole world disappeared. So how viable is something that can be wiped out just like that? I think I used to get a lot of fulfilment out of DJing, and I placed a lot of my self worth on all these things that I was doing, so when that all stopped I was kind of blown away. Maybe I’m going a bit too deep, but there has definitely been a major energy shift. I’ve been focusing a lot more on production, finding my voice and how to express myself. Understanding what I want to be and what’s important to me.
Watching your sets, you obviously take great joy in seeing people move to the music you’re playing. How has this lockdown-dominated year impacted this connection, both with the audience, and the joy? What, if anything, has this period taught you or revealed to you?
Yes I’ve always been very focused on making sure people are dancing when I DJ. As a DJ I think you’re there to get the party going. If they’re not dancing, I feel like I’m doing something wrong. It can be a bit anxiety inducing. Making sure every tune keeps the energy up, constantly watching the crowd, reading the room. I actually really respect DJs whose main focus isn’t that. I rely too much on the crowd, I get my energy from them. I care too much about them and in that you end up making sacrifices. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like DJs that are like fuck the crowd it’s all about me, but sometimes I would leave a gig feeling like that was great the energy was good, but have I actually said what I wanted to? Have I actually expressed how I feel deep down? People aren’t actually getting my true essence. There are so many tunes that I think are amazing that have never seen the light of day because I think they’re too risky. What even is risky? We’re in the club/ listening to the radio because we want to hear new things no? I think it's all about saying something about yourself and I realise that for me, just because you’re in a club doesn’t mean it always has to be with dance music. The best DJs know perfectly how to satisfy themselves creatively, but they also hold the room. They keep people tuned into everything they’re doing. That’s the best. Damn I miss the club. Luckily, I’ve been able to stay connected to people through radio. It’s been really nice to explore the depths of my music collection and develop a bit of a listener base. I put a lot into my shows and it’s always amazing to see how people respond to them.
What excites you most about a future beyond lockdowns? What are you most looking forward to seeing and doing once it is safe to do so?
Of course the obvious things. Freedom, the club, hugs, going out to eat. Looking forward to having some spontaneity back in my life. I can’t wait to leave the house without a plan and see where the night takes me. Looking forward to seeing my loved ones obviously, but also people you don’t make the effort to see but there’s a mutual like. Those ones you see on a night out or at work, that you truly get on with but you know it’s nothing more than that. Looking forward to being in people’s personal space without the fear of transmitting a potentially deadly virus. Yeah all of that.
Previously, you’ve expressed a hope that your experience will inspire more young black girls to get into the music scene. Is representation in the industry changing for the better? What advice would you give any young talent who either thinks or are told that they don’t belong?
Yes representation in the music industry is definitely getting better. There are a lot of black and poc people that are doing a lot right now and it’s really inspiring. I feel like if it was like this when I was younger it would have been very encouraging. I do however think representation is not the solution to imbalances in the music industry. I think the real solution is black and POC people having power. Of course, representation in terms of artists is great, but there needs to be more people involved behind the scenes. Black people having their own nights, labels, platforms, etc. Institutions that are the taste makers of the industry are mainly still in the hands of white people. I think there’s a lot of reasons for this, a big one being that black people have less economic power, so are less likely to do these things. But these are just my thoughts. I in no way claim to be an expert in anything other than music. But to any young people wanting to get involved in music I’d say just do it and do it authentically. If you don’t see a space for yourself, make one.
What changes would you like to see and how can we support because we’d love too?
If I’m honest, there’s no way of addressing imbalances in any industry until the imbalances in everyday life are fixed. Inequality anywhere = inequality everywhere. The changes I’d like to see are much bigger than the music industry.
Beyond shopping at LN-CC, what would like listeners to be doing to this mix?
What would I like people to do to this mix? Transcend haha. No honestly I’d just be happy if this mix makes you forget about the shit show that is this world for an hour.
What would you like listeners to take away when they press play?
That there are no limits! The possibilities are endless. There’s no need to follow any rules, you can really do what you want. The limitations are all in your head. That’s what I get from this mix anyway, lots of genres all stitched together in whichever way I could think possible. Maybe a bit of a reach lol.