This week, we have New Yorker Gabrielle Kwarteng delivering a thrilling podcast. Gabrielle is known for mixing up soul, funk, disco, and house with finesse. Her repertoire includes everything from ‘80s South African kwaito, Chicago house, broken beats, Japanese funk, & acid records. Gabrielle masters a variety of genres and always has the perfect track ready to be played at the right moment.
Q1: Hi Gabrielle, we are super happy to have you. Before we dive into your music - how are you doing right now?
A: Hi! First off, thanks for inviting me to be a part of your podcast series. It’s been a wild year, to say the least, so it’s humbling to still be able to connect with music platforms and their audiences during this time. I’m currently at home in Berlin navigating the country’s second lockdown. Not to mention awaiting the US presidential election results, like many others around the world, over the course of the last five days. But there’s finally a huge defeat to celebrate now. It’s definitely been one of the most surreal years I’ve experienced yet.
Q2: It's been a strange year... How has this pandemic affected you personally and as an artist? Has it had a positive or negative effect on your creative process?
A: There’s been a mix of emotions since the pandemic began that I’m sure many of us could relate to. I moved to Berlin the summer of 2019 and had goals of regularly playing across Europe and the UK throughout 2020, but for obvious reasons, that didn’t happen. I have found solace through music, books, and writing, which propel me through any low periods. My monthly Lot Radio show, which has always inspired me to dig for music, has done so even more now whilst remaining connected with other music lovers. Having the opportunity to contribute to mix series and platforms, like DGTL, as well as participate in a few live streams, have kept the creative juices flowing. Of course, nothing beats playing in front of a crowd of people, but after experiencing this unpredictable roller coaster of a year, I think it’s safe to say that these virtual happenings have kept the collective energy alive across the industry.
Q3: You started your music career early by burning mp3's to CDs as a child. You also got served a healthy musical diet from your parents. Could you tell us a bit more about your musical background and how you initially got into DJing for the ones who don’t know?
A: Actually, before I began burning mix CDs, I was recording over blank cassette tapes (well, I once accidentally used a tape from my parents’ collection -- sorry, Mom & Dad). My parents had a huge cassette collection that was often being played on the house stereo system or in the car. It ranged from Ghanian highlife to afrobeat to disco and soul to jazz and so on. We also watched Soul Train on Saturday afternoons, which was one of my favorite programs. Everything from the music to the fashion to the dancers intrigued me about the show. But unbeknownst to me, the day that I would come across the record button on the boombox would be the catalyst for my selector days. I must’ve recorded dozens of cassette tapes that had music ranging from ‘90s - early 2000s hip-hop, R&B, dancehall, pop, rock, and old-school funk and soul. The tapes naturally transitioned to mixed CDs when that became in vogue and I was given my first CD player. By the time I was in uni, I had joined the college radio station and was also regularly playing at campus house parties. It was solely just an impassioned hobby, as I loved to share my music discoveries with the people around me. After returning to New York City, following a brief stint in London post graduation, I found myself behind the decks again, whilst my vinyl collection kept growing. I haven’t been able to stop since.
Q4: We are very curious about the music you were burning on the CD’s, care to share a short tracklist?
A: Songs off of this tracklist would be found across various CDs burned between 2002 - 2004:
1. Aaliyah - Try Again
2. Outkast - Roses
3. Missy Elliot - Gossip Folks
4. Ja Rule ft. Ashanti - Always On Time
5. Blink 182 - I Miss You
6. Sean Paul - Like Glue
7. Pharrell - Frontin’
8. Lil Kim - The Jump Off
Q5: Any hopes and dreams for the upcoming two years? Something you’re chasing after/working towards?
A: I’ll admit, it’s pretty hard to envision anything past the next couple of months, especially being back in lockdown. There’s no doubt that the world is going to look very, very different once the pandemic is under control. I’d truly just be grateful to learn that clubs could safely open up next spring, as well as some scale of festivals being able to take place through the summer. Playing for a crowd of people in 2021 is a huge yearning that I’ve been holding on to. I miss being able to travel and connect with new people from various backgrounds through music. Hoping to cross more continents and countries off of my list (Japan and Brazil are currently in my top five) once we can safely travel again. Here’s hoping for a much more exciting (and Covid-free) next year.
Thank you so much for participating!