MU in Conversation with TURKANA
As a DJ and Producer, TURKANA is a force to be reckoned amongst the innovative voices within Uganda’s innovative electronic music scene. The South Sudanese-Ugandan artist’s journey began following a workshop hosted by Femme Electronic in 2018. Since then, her talents have seen her deliver sets for Boiler Room, Nyege Nyege Festival, and shows across Europe while championing spaces for women DJs in the scene through her collective, 4 Many Sisters.
In this edition of MU in Conversation, TURKANA shares with us her inspirations, the importance of community for women in music, insights into the ever-evolving East African music landscape, and more below.
Interview by Ify Obi
MU: What are your biggest creative influences?
TURKANA: I have so many influences. When creating musically, I’m drawn to samples of African sounds. I sample them to see what I can create electronically. I’m also inspired by awesome bad bitches like Rihanna. I like Tems as well who’s able to create and sing on her own production. She’s incredible. Kampire inspires me in the deejaying culture as an underground producer and deejay.
I tend to think of my personal relationship with creativity as a spiritual experience that allows me to connect with myself and understand what I’m feeling. I try to be patient during the creative process. What I share with the world reflects my inner self.
MU: Community has been a major part of your career. How important is community for women in music?
TURKANA: Community has been such a big support in my career as an artist. The number of women who have recommended me for shows, shared their equipment and knowledge with me is amazing. In Kampala, we have such an interesting electronic music scene, where women support each other hugely. This shows that if women support each other, there is room for growth.
MU: Can you paint a picture of what the East African music industry currently looks like for women? Do you see growth from when you first started?
TURKANA: The music industry is growing, people are being resilient and making things happen for themselves especially within the electronic music scene. It is a fast-growing scene and new female artists are coming up while creating unique sounds and owning their narratives. There are also more spaces created for women to perform like Nyege Nyege, ANTI-MASS and events that give a platform for performances from new deejays and female producers.
MU: Who are the East African women in music we should know about?
TURKANA: You need to check MC YALLAH, she’s a dope rapper. Catudiosis, Hibotep, Makossiri, and Decay. There is a rise of powerful raging artists, producers and deejays pushing boundaries and creating new genres of music with references of what we know, and existing in their power. I think it is incredible how we are taking up space and putting out new music to the world.
MU: What advice would you give to anyone hoping to start a career as a DJ and producer?
TURKANA: Focus on learning and building your skill and your own art. Be yourself and find that element that makes you unique, then keep practicing because that’s the way to be good at what we do. Do listen to criticism and feedback but do not let anybody mess you over. Stay true to yourself and follow your instincts. Also, building good relationships is always important, we need communities to remind us of who we are and to support us. The journey is not linear and it’s important to have a couple good friends and a community that supports and encourages you.
MU: Plug the last project you did that you’re proud of.
TURKANA: I have released a couple of collaborative works with two of my closest friends on ANTI-MASS. I also have a collaborative project (compilation) coming out this March between ANTI-MASS and Never Normal. This project connects African artists in Kampala with artists in the diaspora.
MU: What’s next for you?
TURKANA: I have an upcoming Europe tour this May. I love touring. To have a chance to share good music with good people is always a great feeling. I’m 100% myself when I’m performing, like I’m living my dream and I’m so grateful for that.
I have a long way to go though. In these past few weeks, I’ve been attending a music production workshop in Nairobi and spending time working on new projects. I have an upcoming EP on our label ANTI-MASS. It’s split with Tayhana, a producer from Mexico that I admire very much.
MU: What are some lessons from last year that you will be implementing in 2022?
TURKANA: Showing up for myself first. If I’m not feeling the best, I have to take care of myself because I’m my number one support system. I hope to take care of my mental space because the industry can be crazy and I have to prioritize my wellbeing. I also hope to have a positive mindset and a sense of gratitude. I want to keep learning, practicing, and being patient with the process.
Thanks, TURKANA. You can listen to TURKANA’s mixes HERE, get to know a bit more about her story in our film, The Ones Who Keep Walking and listen to MU Say Her Name Vol.3 on Spotify below or on Apple music.