ART:CAST & INTERVIEW Sooma

Berlin based producer and DJane Sooma is an allrounder when it comes to music. She composes melodies, writes song lyrics, sings and produces. Her release ‘Drained’, which is a collaborative work with David Mayer, will be out on Connected Frontline this Friday and is the second track, after ‘Bold’, the duo produced together. When it comes to solo-releases Sooma works closely with Berlin based label Through My Speakers that released her track ‘Dune’. But experiencing Sooma’s productions only is rather short-sighted since her DJ sets cover a wide repertoire of different genres yet all combined through Sooma’s individual selection. Shortly before Sooma’s second art:cast, Torture the Artist spoke to the talented lady to dig a little deeper into her life.

Torture the Artist: What sound do you wake up to in the morning?

Sooma: I’ve always enjoyed listening to a good radio station and am happy to have recently discovered Worldwide FM, an online music radio platform founded by the great Gilles Peterson. The selection by the various hosts such as Lefto, MCDE, Esa or Drummers Inc.- to name a few – is always on point and definitely satisfies my thirst for eclectic music.

I’d like to be able to listen to my own mixes and have that same feeling of an emotional storytelling.

Torture the Artist: It’s your second time around contributing an art:cast – one year after you did your first one. This is your second art:cast – your first was a year ago. What do you aim to achieve when compiling a mix?

Sooma: Much like when I sit down to produce a new track, I never really have a definite idea beforehand apart from a particular sound or loop that lay’s the basis.

For a mix I have the first track in mind as this will be my foundation and will set the mood. The key aspect of one of my favourite mixes I used to listen to a lot is that it told a story and never lost my attention. I guess it doesn’t matter if you are the DJ or a listener, I’d like to be able to listen to my own mixes and have that same feeling of an emotional storytelling.

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Torture the Artist: What’s your favorite dance move when spinning records?

Sooma: Since I mainly play music that features percussive and drum elements, a classic move of mine would be the ‘Air Drums’ holding ‘Air sticks’. I am also pretty good at wincing which is a habit I took on by listening to Blues, whenever the music’s too good and dirty to handle.

Torture the Artist: Do you dare to be the first one on the dance floor?

Sooma: Always! It never really mattered to me what people may think and an empty dance floor means more space to get my silliest dance moves out.

I couldn’t imagine myself working on music with someone if we do not connect on a personal level first.

Torture the Artist: It’s not only your second art:cast, but also your second time teaming up with David Mayer for your upcoming collaborative track ‘Drained’ on Connected Frontline. How do you choose your studio partners besides them being good looking?

Sooma: I am sure he will appreciate the compliment, however, it’s never been about the looks. I’m not sure if anyone ever liked a track better or less because of its artwork. I couldn’t imagine myself working on music with someone if we do not connect on a personal level first. There needs to be a safe space as I find trust and humor to be key to the creative process; to have a similar, but not identical, understanding and taste of music is of course, also important. Much like in love or in friendship, I guess complementarity is what you are looking for.

Torture the Artist: Who would you like to share a studio with in the future?

Sooma: I feel very lucky to be surrounded by good friends that are gifted with different talents and from whom I feel I can learn a lot. I owe a lot to the Through My Speakers collective that pushed me and gave me the opportunity to release my first track ‘Dune last September on the annual TMS Compilation. Walter Vinyl, one of the founding and key member of the TMS family is taking care of the mastering part, we were in the studio together a few weeks ago finalizing my second release which will be featured on the upcoming compilation, out later this month.

I’m excited and thankful to be able to take part of this project that is Through My Speakers and can easily imagine sharing the studio with each member, an eclectic bunch that has a lot of love for music.

I wanted to have music to lay my words on so that I started to produce my own tracks.

Torture the Artist: On some of your own productions you also sing or contribute the lyrics. Do you prefer producing over singing or the other way around?

Sooma: The thing is that I started singing and writing lyrics long before I started producing music. It’s because I wanted to have music to lay my words on so that I started to produce my own tracks (mainly, down-tempo neo-soul) and one thing leading to another, I moved to producing music that was not necessarily based on vocals and also more dance floor friendly. I can always decide to add vocals if I feel like it, it kind of goes hand in hand. However, I feel like those are two different worlds of mine, the more electronic productions I do today and the more classic Soul and Jazz singing I enjoy on the other hand.

Torture the Artist: How would someone describe your music?

Sooma: Oh no. I dread this question. It is a good one and I never really could answer it. I guess it is difficult for me to answer it, because I like to play different sets and if you take a look at my playlists, you will find anything between 100 to 140 BPM, and any genre is welcome. But if I had to label it, I’d say you can expect lots of percussions, funky and dirty baselines, world music and even disco. I don’t like to limit myself to a particular genre because someone might expect me to play an Afro-House set. I like surprises and dynamism.

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Torture the Artist: You recently played at the RISE Open Air in Berlin. What’s your relationship to African influenced music and drums?

Sooma: African music and I go back a long time. I’m not sure to what extent my North African roots play a role in this but as a kid I would listen (among other genres) to a lot of Gnawa music that was born in Africa’s Maghreb desert. As far as I can remember there were not a lot of kids at school that enjoyed this. I understand ‘African influenced music’ is a loose term, take Soul, Jazz, Blues, Hip-Hop or today’s Tech-House, all are, to some extent African influenced music. I guess it is the particular rhythms and sonorities that call out primitive instincts that particularly move me, both emotionally and physically.

Torture the Artist: If your music were poetry, what would be the opening verse(s)?

Sooma: It creates a story for everyone’s life

as if it understood your struggles and strife

it’s here for you to escape and feel safe,

to feel something bigger than yourself…

The fact that in 2017 we still have to discuss about gender equality is a mystery to me.

Torture the Artist: Why are you a feminist?

Sooma: Because if I wouldn’t be, it would mean that I would not be supporting equal gender rights. There is this negative connotation around feminism and the belief that only women can be feminists. I know a lot of men that call themselves feminists, it does not mean that they are lesser of a man, to the contrary. The fact that in 2017 we still have to discuss about gender equality is a mystery to me.

Torture the Artist: How settled are you when it comes to your mind/thoughts?

Sooma: I never really know what might turn up next so I’ve learned to go with the flow. This past year brought exciting things along, some were rather nerve wracking and some were amazing news.

I was invited to play in Los Angeles in November for this amazing event that gathers creative people from across the globe called Summit | LA17 and am excited to combine this with a date in Portland, Oregon. I definitely feel like a teenager again, not knowing what is happening but living every second intensely.

Torture the Artist: What’s the reason you get up every morning?

Sooma: I really can’t resist a good cup of espresso. <smiles>