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Why Throwing Shade is inspiring a new wave of producers and DJs

26 Jul 2017

In many aspects of our lives, we look to disparate places and cultures to inspire our own direction. Be that the thriving nightlife scene in Amsterdam and Berlin, the music that we listen to or even the Thai curry we cooked up last night. Our radio show, ATLAS, was born out of that same inspiration.

 Nadia, who is of Lebanese descent, grew up with the sweet vocals of Fairuz filling her living room, while Rosie’s parents’ time living in Ghana injected her childhood with the sound of drums and polyrhythmic patterns. There was a richness and a story to the music that we both listened to; at that time that was so much more impassioned than the Brit-pop and jingles we often heard on the radio. When we met, we quickly found that our tastes were very similar because of the global sounds that sound carried through our childhood. We wanted to discover and share music from all corners of the globe, be that techno or folk or mambo. In our experience, finding another female who truly has a passion for similar music to you and wants to do something with it is a rarity.

After our show got off the ground, we wanted to involve musicians, artists and DJs who shared a similar vision. We’ve always been fans of Nabihah aka Throwing Shade’s work. A DJ, producer and radio host, she’s been rising up the ranks for over four years now. In 2015, she signed to Ninja Tune, releasing her ‘House Of Silk’ EP, a synth drenched four-tracker that reflected on the internet frenzy that incarcerates us all. And there’s more music on the way. Nabihah’s debut album is in the making and, she tells us, it’s very different to anything she’s released before.

Aside from her production feats and genre spanning sets she’s notched up over the years, it was her steadfast residency on NTS that kick-started it all. Nabihah’s bi-monthly show – a mainstay since 2013 – exhibits her passion for weird and wonderful global sounds and a thirst for knowledge that goes above and beyond most. On NTS, she plays anything from old field recordings to Inuit throat singing (with some Prince thrown in for good measure), and her background in ethnomusicology sees her delve into the history and context of the records she plays.

Her shows are well-known for being guided by themes, so after she agreed to join us on our own bi-monthly show on Reprezent Radio, we opted to play music from the Middle East. But how does she choose these themes? Where does she take her inspiration from? She explains that it’s all dependent on what is interesting her at that time. She mentions the success of her Muslim Jazz special, an hour of music from artists who’d converted to Islam during their careers, which also marked the first day of Ramadan a few years ago.

We moved on to an important subject for any woman working in music: “what is it like being a woman in the industry?” This is a question we were sure Nabihah had heard countless times, but a recent video she’d posted about a terrible gig experience made us broach the subject. We asked what women could do if they encounter prejudice from men in the industry. “It’s important to not feel threatened by it or weakened by it,” she says. “Stay professional but also think about where you stand and what you deserve in terms of treatment.”

As well as sharing her experiences, she’s been sharing her knowledge through Red Bull’s #NormalNotNovelty workshops. Nabihah recently led a production workshop, one in a series of events that Red Bull are hosting to inspire the next wave of female producers, DJs and engineers. We talked about the importance of having these types of events; they are places to ask advice, learn judgment free and make new friendships with like-minded women.

We need more of these female-led initiatives and we need more women like Thowing Shade pushing forward in the music industry. Passionate, unafraid to play what they want and, most importantly, willing to challenge the status quo in music.