The DJ curator of our brand new For The Honeys mix Volume 9 is MATKA, whose bona fide event reputation and commitment to promoting visibility for marginalised groups makes her a queen of the scene. We spoke nostalgia, non-Western music, and why XXL’s latest Freshman Class list needed a response from the Honeys.
Listen to For The Honeys Volume 9 now!
You moved to Melbourne recently from a vibrant scene in Sydney, which you were actively shaping. How do you find the creative environments differ?
I’m actually from Melbourne, but I lived in Sydney for around five years and I started out DJing there, so it’ll always be really special to me. To be honest, they’re completely different places and I don’t like being asked which I prefer because both are great. But in Sydney there’s this energy where if you consider yourself genuinely creative, you’re sort of forced to be punk in opposition to this all-business, probably corrupt, draconian government.
In Melbourne, there’s a sort of motherhoody, “Yes, we love art! Do it for the culture! Look at our laneways! Fucken, how good is street art!” It feels a bit like art here is a tourist project sometimes. I feel like I’m gonna get crucified for saying that. I’m not saying it’s bad – it’s incredible that you can get funding to do really cool shit in Melbourne and get paid for it, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. But in Sydney everything has always felt DIY and underground and illicit. That was a lot of fun, but of course the government’s gone too far now.
Now that you’re back in Melbourne, how are your parties exploring ways to encourage and promote female and gender-non-conforming artists?
I’m working with DJ Sezzo on a project called PRECOG, which is about exploring the club as a theoretical and physical phenomenon – especially for people of colour, and queer and non-binary people. I used to run a party in Sydney called Honey, where we only played music (generally within the hip hop sphere), that was by women, and we booked women to perform, but I started to get a bit disenfranchised by this kind of fashionable-feminist booking style that started to emerge a year or two later.
There was this gimmick, like: “Ladies’ night! Chick DJs! Ladies get in for free! Ladies get a free cosmo on entry!” I was like, fuck, is that what my event looks like? That was not the intention at all, so I phased it out when I moved back to Melbourne. [With PRECOG] there’s more of a focus on sound art, and experimental performance, and live performance as well as having DJs. It’s absolutely feminist, but it’s a bit more complex in its social dynamics.
You’ve mentioned how awkward the term ‘World Music’ is. Do you think these kinds of terms for music (‘World’, ‘Ethnic’) are going to be retired any time soon?
Probably not. ‘World Music’ is so weird and vague. It’s lumping all this beautifully disparate music into one catch-all genre, which is especially strange since most music is non-Western. But, like, it’s easy. For now, on a populist level, I think anything that diverges from this narrow sonic template will be considered weird or ethnic or niche if people aren’t ready for it. But I feel like the internet is taking things to a whole other level with how it’s enabling cross-cultural innovation to happen, and then once that starts to catch on, it becomes accepted by the mainstream.
Even in the pop charts, I think (at least in terms of visibility) it’s starting to get a bit better, like with Hip Hop adopting Dancehall and Afrobeats and a lot more intercontinental collaboration happening in those genres. It’s creating more of a palate for those genres around the world.
I mean, even Spotify will do an official Reggaeton playlist or whatever. So I feel like… different styles of global sounds are definitely starting to pick up some steam and move beyond the boundaries of their own regions as well, and younger people seem to have a greater awareness of it. I just hope it’s not just a 'Flavour Of The Month' thing though, like Drake doing Dancehall [laughs]. You won’t see it in my For The Honeys mix, but if you want a taste of some of these genres – everything from Gqom to Baile to experimental club music – check out my SoundCloud.
You believe in the power of nostalgia, particularly when it comes to remixes. What’s nostalgic for you, musically-speaking?
It’s a super weird combination. When I was 7 or 8 I got my first CDs, and they were Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. There’s the Macedonian/Yugoslavian music from when I was growing up. Then in the year 2000, my dad – who I thought only ever listened to Creedence Clearwater Revival and Cream – bought a copy of The Writing’s On The Wall by Destiny’s Child, and he would rinse it. So that became my favourite album of that year.
At the same time, my older brother and family friends were listening to Dance music and Hip Hop and I got obsessed with that: a lot of the Uplifting Trance and Techno, and also Rap like Snoop Dog, Mase, Nate Dogg, Dr Dre.
But then I had the ubiquitous Indie-Alt Rock phase before I got into Hardcore, and a bit of Metal. It’s kind of embarrassing to recount, actually, but a lot of music is extremely nostalgic for me. To say my taste (past and present) is eclectic, would be a huge understatement. It definitely impacts what I do, and means I have a lot of creative references to draw on.
The cause and effect of “if you see it, you can be it” is a super important principle for you. Who was it you saw, that inspired you to be?
For sure. When I was growing up (around 11 or 12 years old), the Dance music scene was dominated by dudes from the UK or the Netherlands – usually white dudes. I realised years later that since they were the status quo. I had this internalised misogyny about DJing and producing and other traditionally male jobs in music – so basically, everything other than singing or playing keys. The one female DJ I knew about as a kid was this Melbourne DJ called Bexta, and I never listened to her because DJing wasn’t a thing girls did. I assumed she wasn’t any good, that she was a novelty act – she [must be] doing the ‘sexy girl’ version of a dude’s job, like the sexy green M&M or the impossibly hot girl in a superhero movie.
It’s so horrifying to me to even admit I thought like that, but I think confronting this kind of shit is really important. I had to break free of the idea that there are only a certain amount of seats at the table, and that women who snagged a place were exceptions that proved the rule. I think we’re getting closer to that, which is great, and I think that’s why I’m struggling to think of any one woman who I saw who made me think I could ‘be it’. Basically, let’s bring on more diversity and representation into every industry.
Your mix showcases female or GNC artists from an incredible array of backgrounds and situations. What was your primary theme when compiling the list?
I made it in response to the XXL Freshman Class list that comes out every year. It’s always either entirely men, or maybe all men with one woman thrown in. I mean, one time they chose Iggy Azalea so I kinda doubt their credibility in general. But still, it’s a really popular list. It’s super influential in the scene, and it pisses me off that they just throw a token woman in there. They picked Stefflon Don this year, who is an incredible rapper and is definitely doing huge things, but at the same time she got that one spot when there are dozens of others who could’ve been chosen.
So I thought I’d compile a list of tracks by my favourite up-and-coming women at the moment to show that they’re just undeniable. And of course, I included Stefflon.
MATKA wears the Nike Air VaporMax 97 in Vintage Coral from Sole Finess.