We spoke with our London expat, Berlin-based friend Kike about her musical inspirations, creative collaborations and what she gets up to on a regular basis.
Here’s a big shoutout to our good friend, London expat and current Berliner, Kikelomo, for being a creative powerhouse and all-around radical chick. We met up with Kike in Berlin to have her show us around her daily life as a radio presenter for Pass the Aux as well as a badass DJ from the No Shade collective.
There were more than a few takeaways from the day and from our cozy sit-down chat: namely her amazing T-shirt design in collaboration with Overkill, her diverse musical inspirations and what she gets up to on a regular basis.
Hey Kike. First things first, what is the inspiration behind your awesome T-shirt design? It’s a collaboration with Overkill as well as adidas x Girls Are Awesome.
Honestly, I had a bit of a creative block with it at first, but I definitely wanted it to have some deeper meaning to it, which is where the “Still I Rise” part comes from – the poem by Maya Angelou. She’s a big inspiration.
Also 2018 was a year of polarity for me – the first part of the year was sort of really really bad and then the second half was really really good. One of the best years of my life and one of the worst years, so the message of rising from adversity works on that level. Then the design on the back is a reference to my roots, which is Nigeria. The circles are one of the many variations of the traditional Ankara designs.
Awesome! What about musically? You’re a DJ and radio presenter here in Berlin – how did this all start?
To be honest, it all kind of happened by accident. When I was younger, since about age sixteen, I always wanted to be a radio presenter, which I am now. Back then I was studying integrated engineering and I started doing radio on the side as well at the University station. So I started DJ-ing there and I had a few lessons from friends and such, but never really got into it.
When I moved to Berlin a few years ago, I still wanted to pursue it, so I reached out to a radio station called Cashmere Radio. I pitched a grime show to them that’d focus on UK bass music, so like grime, garage, two-step – “urban” music, I guess. And as I started working there, I realized most of the DJs were mixing, as opposed to playing a song, you know, talking about it and then playing the next tune. So it inspired me to “properly” learn how to DJ, in a sense. There’s a Facebook group called “Sister” which is a sort of a support group of female-identifying musicians, creatives, basically anyone working in the music space. Through that, I found a DJ training program through No Shade here in Berlin, where I learned to play on club equipment. At the end of my training, I had one of my first ever gigs and yeah, it just sort of blew up from there!
What about your musical influences, past or present?
Growing up, it was a lot of soul, jazz, old school stuff – I think it’s called like “new Jack swing” – a lot of Bobby Brown-type-stuff because that’s what my parents were listening to. I remember a very pinnacle moment, though, when I was sitting in the back of a car, and I remember it was on an old Sony Ericsson and one of my friends, on bluetooth, infrareded me the Arctic Monkeys album Favorite Worst Nightmare, and then that kind of completely flipped and I went through my whole, like, emo indie rock phase. There was a lot of events at Redding festival, a lot of that going on.
And then, I’d say coming to Berlin was another pivotal moment in my influences, hearing the more electronic vibe. But definitely my main influences are sounds coming from the UK, so garage, bass, two-step – anything that’s high energy. I was thinking recently that funky house is sort of the perfect genre because it’s sort of the perfect fusion between those percussive African beats, but then the techno vibe and then the bass from the grime and garage scene. But anything with bass and percussion is definitely up my alley.
What inspires you most about the Berlin music scene?
The experimental nature of it – the fact that people are so open to try new stuff and are down to just have a good time. Even though a lot of the stuff I play is quite UK, even if the crowd isn’t primarily from the there, they’re still super down with my sets. But yeah, beyond that, there are a lot of opportunities here and people are really down to support you however you are. The environment here has helped me in my DJ career a lot as well. I think I’ve gotten more connections in London, living in Berlin, than if I would’ve actually stayed in London, so there’s that. Overall, people are just very open minded and down to support you. I’ve gained so many friends and mentors and people just making sure everyone has good opportunities and everything.
So you moved to Berlin from London. How did that go down?
I remember I graduated from Uni and then I binge-watched all thirteen seasons of Grey’s Anatomy in two weeks – one of my greatest achievements: thirteen seasons, twenty-four episodes in a season, forty-three minutes each, I was watching it for hours. My parents were like “are you gonna get a job?” I was like “shh, I got this.”
No, but in all seriousness it was a number of different things. The Brexit vote happened and definitely pushed me a bit to get the best out of my EU citizenship and I got a job offer which started one week later, so it was all quite fast, actually. I think I appreciate London more now that I’m away, but I was definitely looking for a change of gears and the sort of limbo state between finishing Uni and wanting to start my career definitely fueled me to make the change. Berlin is great and I haven’t looked back since!
What about the No Shade collective? How has that shaped your experience being a part of that crew?
One of the things that empowers me about No Shade is how ecclectic it is and how everyone sort of has varying music taste for DJ styles, but it still kind of comes together, in a way. I remember my Mum came to visit a couple of months ago and she came and hung with the collective and one of the things that she said was that what drew everyone together was just the love of music. And yeah, everyone is just super down for the collective to grow as well. So it’s also super supportive for connecting people with gigs and beyond that, it is a mentoring program too. It’s not just like “here’s some DJs, here’s some equipment, see you later” – it’s more hands on and like a little family. We had a Christmas dinner a while ago, that was nice and yeah, it’s like a support network as well.
Any advice for people looking to self-produce, switch gears in their career or learn a new skill?
Say it! Tell people what you want. Talk to people, spread the word out about what you want to do and where you want to go. Most of my experiences have come from being open and honest with people and letting that lead the way. I don’t wanna say “networking” because that sounds strange, but if you are passionate about what you want to do and that energy comes across, then somehow you’ll make it happen.
I think putting stuff online is really good as well. Joining groups like the “Sister” network and yeah, just talking about what it is that you want to do.
How do you feel about the nightlife in Berlin?
We’re almost spoiled for choice in Berlin. Whenever I go to other cities I feel like my standard is so high because I’ve lived in Berlin for a while. At the same time, I feel like there’s almost an energy missing sometimes. When I play to a London crowd, sometimes I feel like it’s a bit less about being seen than it is about just having a good time. And this definitely exists in Berlin as well, you have to seek it out a bit and I’d love to see more as well.
All in all, though, club culture is so good here and it’s integrated into the society as well. Comparing to the UK where many clubs have shut down because it’s considered a ‘nuisance’, in a way, Berlin is so open in embracing and welcoming it. Through local government as well, with loads of funding and support.
So, how did your show “Pass the Aux” become a thing and how has it developed?
Kind of! I think I got lucky to be honest. When I look at the process now for getting a radio show to air, it’s become a lot more extensive – there’s an application process, trial shows, etc. But I just sort of was looking towards my passion and goal of doing radio. So yes, I reached out to them, did actually do a trial show and it went from there.
Now I’m part of the committee, actually, for a formal membership we’re doing and I’m one the representatives of the programmers, which is cool. What we’re doing is helping to shape the station and expand our reach. Honestly, Cashmere is one of the biggest reasons I’ve stayed in Berlin for as long as I have. It’s so unpretentious, in a way – it’s like a little home space. It’s really helped to shape my own style and reputation as a DJ so yeah, I owe them a lot!
Do you feel like you can express yourself more through the radio show?
Yeah, definitely, because I fully just do what I want. With a live show there’s more of an expectation and specific goal in mind while with the radio show, I can just be like “you guys should be on this artist, here you go”, kind of thing, which is fun. It’s just what I’m vibing with at the moment.
What’s most important to you when you’re performing? What is the message you want to leave the audience with?
I think one of the things people comment on most when I perform is my energy. There is so much footage of me straight up dancing, standing up on the booth, talking so much rubbish into a microphone. So that’s – I think I just want people to have a good time, you know? Like when you as a DJ are having a good time, that sort of projects onto the crowd as well, as opposed to just the music that’s playing on the speakers.
I used to get very anxious about making sure my mixes were perfect and I still do strive for perfection, but I think that 70% of DJing is selection, so I like to just pay homage to new artists that I think are cool, and old songs as throwbacks, as well as a good amount of R&B bailefunk, whatever, just it’s about making sure the crowd is having a good time, I’m having a good time – because that’s obviously important as well, and just sharing good music, to be honest that’s the number one thing!
So lastly, all the proceeds for your T-shirt are going to the charity you chose, which is GLADT e.V Berlin. Tell us why you chose them!
I picked GLADT e.V Berlin as my charity because as an organization for and by Black and of POC members of the LGBTQ+ community that engages on different levels in the fight against racism, sexism, trans and homophobia, ableism and other forms of discrimination, they showcase the importance of intersectionality when it comes to engaging in social activism.
Yes! So how are you feeling about this whole thing? Are you happy with the design and the process, etc?
The whole experience has been pretty surreal! It felt so good to see how my idea for a design came to life in a tangible piece of clothing. I won’t lie, having a camera crew follow me around for a day was a bit strange, but it gave me the chance to work with a variety of genuinely cool and inspiring people, and I am so appreciative of the opportunity this project has given me, particularly having a platform to represent something outside of mainstream standards (especially as a black woman) and inspire others too.