Functions Of The Now XVIII: DJ Haram

Functions Of The Now is a mix series charting modern developments at the innovative edges of dance music. Originally conceived in 2013 to shine a light on the once-again fertile grime production scene and its influence, the remit of the series quickly widened to incorporate all manner of interesting manipulations of existing club modes. Whether it’s Air Max 97’s “oblique club trax”, E.M.M.A.’s baroque grime or J.G. Biberkopf’s deconstructions, it all has a home in Functions Of The Now. We hope to draw connections between these often disparate forms.

For the final Functions Of The Now of the year we travel to Philadelphia to meet Jersey club experimentalist DJ Haram. As with the recently FOTN-profiled Malin and Rushmore, DJ Haram brings what can end up being internet-based music into physical space with her “club-not-club night” ATM, a party she runs with recent Halcyon Veil mixers SCRAAATCH (plus_c and E. Jane) and performance artist Marcelline. Splitting her work between the DJ Haram and Abdul Kadir aliases, her music encompasses everything from noise to club bangers, via fiercely political collaborative work and Middle Eastern bootlegs. Those bootlegs are central to much loved, bridge-building mix series Identity Crisis, the second of which we talked about last month. DJ Haram is also one of the creators of Bros Fall Back, a widely circulated zine that took aim at poisonous bro behaviour in DIY scenes and laid out guidelines on detoxifying noise and punk spaces. We’re thrilled to have her in the series: excitingly her mix is one of the wildest we’ve had, with lots of new DJ Haram/Abdul Kadir productions, a collaboration with Fade To Mind rising star Rizzla and mind bending noise from exciting new face N-Prolenta. No soundfile round up this time we’re afraid: we wanted to give her the space to talk in depth.

Hi DJ Haram, how’s everything going? “Hi. Everything is going pretty terrible everywhere. Or everything is going, which is terrible. I’m doing okay, though, thanks for asking.”

Perhaps you could tell us a little about ATM: how did it start?  “ATM started because the kids wanted a place to live, you know? plus_c found me on Soundcloud and hit me up because he’s a DM queen and soon after coincidentally showed up to a house party in West Philly I was djing. I got real hype because his Beyonce edit was the first track I played in 2015 at 12:01 AM at my New Years Eve party and I was shaking him by the shoulders, like, “DO YOU KNOW HOW SPECIAL THAT IS?” Anyway, dorky emails were exchanged, I saw SCRAAATCH perform out here at one of King Britt’s events, and finally met up with E and I was all heart eye emoji like y’all are actually about this dysfunctional noise/club freak overlap, militant friendship shit, (as E describes) fugitive shit AND you are very ready to make things happen, so we made it work. ATM is a young party, we’ve been doing it for around 6 months. We use #ATMdata to tag all of the content that is made, documented, or related to ATM.

What would you say the ethos behind the night is? “One time I was going to DJ this party in NY and they completely freaked me out by emailing me the genres I should make sure to play. ATM is the opposite of that. We encourage people to come play ATM with the set of their dreams that they worry no one will vibe with. Instead of defining the boundaries and limitations that other parties create and then trying to slowly break them down, we build up a playhouse of sorts where we can pretend we’ve got this clean slate with no rules and the sounds can travel as far from expectation as the artist wants to take it. ATM for me is a series of glorified last minute decisions, also known as an improvisation.

At ATM we are interested in disrupting the integrity of functional dance music, we are interested in femmeness and selfies, we are interested in honoring the resilience and promoting the power of people of color. We want to enable an environment of true experimentation. I like to think of ATM as a space where for better or worse we are all in free fall; we are indefinitely struggling to let go of old urges to categorize, quantify, respect, legitimize, and limit ourselves so far that we are falling, falling and coping moment-by-moment with an uncontrollable environment.”

I think a lot of people were introduced to you through your Identity Crisis mixes: they’re really fun as well as being interesting conceptually, what’s the background to their creation?  “The idea is mixing Middle Eastern rhythms and sounds with Jersey, Bmore and Philly club. The first one deviates from that sonic guideline a lot more than the second, Sustained Crisis. At a basic level they’re talking about how my heritage interacts with my american upbringing. There’s no identity spectrum with influences from the US on one side and influences from the Middle East on the other, right, they’re all just rolling around my head like waves. The mix series tries to connect these sound components as seamlessly as they exist in the ocean of less strict identity rules. The mixes also discuss how music from Middle Eastern pop culture and folk tradition interact with Black american dance music and culture. I don’t believe that these thing have to be or are necessarily separate things; there are plenty of Black folks of Middle Eastern heritage in the States, there is also a very rich history of Afroasiatic culture with a musical traditional that is present in both the Mid East and US.

That said, in my experience, Middle Eastern model minority type 1st and 2nd generation folks very frequently having a starting point of hostility with Black americans. It’s a fucking disgrace and to be honest I am deeply ashamed of the horrible things Middle Eastern people do to Black folks. This must be why I’m some kind of of bootleg nihilist, I just saw solidarity not existing before I learned it was supposedly a thing. How many Black folks have been harmed by the State because an owning class ass immigrant called the cops on them? It’s sickening, 9/11 or more recent terrorism hysteria bullshit should have been the wake up call for my people (lol sheeple) but I still grew up with family members telling me stop hanging out with Black kids because it’s changing the way you talk, getting mad at me because I listen to hip hop and preferring that if I insist on listening to american music let it be the docile (mostly non-Black) popstars. I’ve been in all of the conflicts with the diasporic community since what feels like forever and I will always have a lot of unpacking to do personally, being told some nasty racist shit as a young person and operating with the benefit of light brown ass skin isn’t something that disappears ever. I know my Identity Crisis mixes have a joyful turn up vibe but I also hope that my mixes remind all the Brown kids listening that they owe their joy to a Black legacy, too. And I hope they confront their ignorant elders; one time Moor Mother Goddess (MMGZ) told me that sometimes mothers have children in order to save themselves and I was like :O

On the posi side of things, I also like to hope that these mixes and the Middle East Jersey club type tracks I make are an attempt to do more than just take from Black american culture and try to forge authenticity but bring something to the table, too, like sounds that I can defend so called entitlement to. Because part of the hostility between Brown people and Black people is Brown people hoarding resources (cultural and otherwise) because we’re entitled to them, they’re ours, we supposedly deserve them, right? Entitlement is a fucking joke and people who get mad at Black people who get into music perceived as exclusively Brown people music are stupid and probably racist. Putting these sounds together just makes sense to me; that zurna on Jayhood’s Bish Whet track are you kidding me? It’s kind of an optimistic wish that Black and Brown solidarity could be realized, that we could take this shit the fuck over together.”

The mix you’ve made for Functions Of The Now is excellent, and goes in a very different direction to the Identity Crisis series: could you tell us about the inspiration behind it? “Thank you. This mix, which I’m also calling jp_xp, is basically something you could expect from a DJ Haram @ ATM set with the usual jokes and secret messages. I just wanted to make y’all something that gives people a taste of Abdul Kadir and DJ Haram and how we all live together in the same body that is called Zubeyda Muzeyyen. I’m not so secretly a noise head, I would be all up in the noise scene if it wasn’t full of literal fascists who want to worship (just playing I mean fetishize) me because I’m a mean bitch and “oriental.” Lol. If you’re in or peripheral to a noise scene you know what I’m talking about. This is why Abdul Kadir collaborations both with Moor Mother Goddess and Mhysa are such a dream!”

Could you explain a little bit about your role in the Bros Fall Back zine? “I started using the phrase “Bros fall back” on flyers when I was putting together noise and punk shows in Philly 2012. People were saying really frustrating basic shit like “Well what’s your solution to this bro problem, huh?” and equating BFB with other “safe space” type politics. I figured to use it effectively I needed something to contextualize the phrase and also wanted to have something to give to haters who think a kid has time to explain 1 on 1 why they’re an unwanted presence. I hit up some friends like Yung Nila aka ninjabikeslut to write something and a I wrote a couple things myself. Then the team ripped hundreds and hundreds of copies because we were like “well fuck the copy shop anyway what have they ever done for us” and distributed them. After that it was an anonymously penned zine in the hands of hundreds of people (many of which made hella more copies) and my role was over.”

Bros Fall Back was aimed at the punk and noise scene: how do you feel the arguments transfer to the dance music world you find yourself in now? “Well, first I’m just going to say BFB is a really basic text; it was made for a very specific context in the simplest and briefest words possible so that anyone who came to a noise/punk show who has no social justice context (or whatever) could make some sense of it. No one intended or particularly wanted it to spread so far and at this point I think it’s more useful to phrase fresh and context specific critiques of the dance music world. But.. Bros still out here. White people still out here with excuses and no self awareness. People still think we can promise “safe spaces.” The social capital hunt is still the name of the game.”

In your interview with Spark Mag you criticised what they called “global bass music” for lacking a critical component: do you see it anywhere in contemporary dance music, or perhaps at least the possibility for it to arise? Do you have any ideas of what this might look like if not? “Yes, critical components are everywhere. Even sometimes in global bass, which I also said in that interview. The fact that the dance music world is subject to the same dynamics of oppressive power as every other corner of the hellworld necessarily means that there are instances of resistances. People doing exploitation comes with at least some people being aware of their exploited condition. The tricky thing now is that it’s really hot to be “radical” (whatever that means) right now and figuring out who’s a fake opportunist and who’s sincere is pretty difficult.”

In the same interview you released a great new track with Moor Mother Goddess (shout out Nicki roasting Rosenberg): how important is collaboration in your work? “Collaboration is the most important! I’m so new, how would I finish anything without collaborators? If I didn’t have MMGZ asking me for beats when I didn’t know how to make shit for a rapper, I wouldn’t have been motivated to make anything.”

From the outside it looks like there’s a network of like-minded Philadelphia-Based artists working in and around experimental dance music: can you tell us a little bit about the creative community you’re in? “I don’t really like the term community because it has been overused to the point where people say it when they mean to refer to a scene or a network but want to be personally associated, to express entitlement to influence, or silence people who deviate from the alleged community because infighting is bad or some shit. Like my bank sends me emails telling me I’m their community, people get told to stop calling shit out because we should only say nice things to our community, and in my experience in general the people who are most ready to say “community” are actually people from somewhere else and who are too busy to get to know people on an individual basis but still want to convey a false closeness and solidarity. My friend Jade turned me on to being ready use the word “scene” instead. It’s very useful.

The scene is relatively small, much smaller than the scene of terrible old white people who I swear ride the septa just to give dirty looks and say racial slurs. Anyway, I love all my friends and collaborators and I hope our scene grows big enough to sustain us and traveling artists. I also hope that more people develop an interest in pooling our resources so we can all survive/thrive without competing against one another.”

What do you have planned for the near future? “I have some music coming out on “dismiss u” a Tobago Tracks compilation curated by 8ulentina. I got this Abdul Kadir x Mhysa show on December 17th. Over the course of the winter we’re doing ATM twice a month. The (f)LAWLESS team is putting together a dope New Years Eve party in West Philly. I always have 1,000 things planned, it’s all out there on my internet look me up.”

Are there any shout outs you’d like to make? “Yeaa shoutout to Jerseeeeeeeeey! Kay Drizz and Unique are two of my favorite producers hands down so shout out to them forever. I been fucking with Dj Kala and Dj Popbang’s tracks a lot lately, too. I’d also like to shout out my future investors – What are you waiting for? You know she has ideas on ideas living inside of ideas.”

 

Tracklist: 

pssy grwl – abdul kadir
crying bb autotune – dj haram splish splash remix
half time – vjuan allure
hreams’ dreams – n-prolenta
atm bitch – koppi mizrahi
waronus – kala
lord knows (instrumental) – meek mill
youngin’ (fake loop) – dj merks
let me thru (the bus is leaving !! abdul kadir edit) — toxe
she from jersey – dj jayhood
nail m1 – stress
lose my breath (instrumental) — destiny’s child
attn plz loop — nazar + rizzla + abdul kadir
bbhmm – mhysa x abdul kadir remix
fighting music – deep space crime (bka counterfeit + abdul kadir)

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Artwork: Joe Jackson

DJ Haram: Soundcloud/Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr

Simon Docherty
Simon Docherty

@srdocherty

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