Some have already spent years in the shadows, waiting for the right moment - others have barely left their bedroom studios. Some aim for headlining festival stages, others aim for nothing in particular – but all of them have developed a sound with the potential to turn a lot of heads. With this feature we shine a light on some of the most interesting emerging new talents our tiny country has to offer.
Sometimes you are visiting an event and you realize that the DJ’s extremely varied selection and mixing technique is actually very, very good. So far nothing really extraordinary – but what if we told you that this DJ was only 17 years old? You can already imagine the surprise on our face at this first encounter with AliA. In the meantime, this lady has just surpassed the legal driving age of 18, but her dedication to soulful and electronic music in all its shapes is already astonishingly thorough. Even though her career is only just taking off with small gigs here and there, most people who know her agree on one thing: there’s a very promising future for this DJ on the horizon. Let’s get to know her a little better, shall we?
So, tell us, how did you start producing and DJ-ing?
"Well, I started when I was about 15 years old. Someone from down the street was selling his mixer, which kick-started my enthusiasm for DJ-ing. At this point I already had some interest in music, but that little mixer really got me excited to mix music together. Later on I bought a better deck and started playing out on my first gigs. Unfortunately, I haven’t put in the same amount of time and sweat in producing music. I fooled around a bit with GarageBand and FL Studios, which eventually lead to this first track I coproduced with the genius Trian Kayhatu, who played in a tasty bassline."
Which parties or venues ignited your spark?
"That all happened when I participated in ‘De Kunstbende’ (a funded project in which young and creative teenagers are given a chance to develop and expose their work, but which has ceased its operations nowadays, ed.) in Antwerp. After this I started digging deeper for new music and trained harder to get better at mixing whatever I found. Gigs presented themselves here and there – and Vincent Paolo even invited me to play Red Light Radio in Amsterdam (listen here). Throughout this process I met a lot of new people and that’s how it started really.
Which qualities do you strife for as a producer and as a DJ?
"I don’t classify myself as a producer to be honest. But as a DJ I feel it’s important to bring something new to the table. There are so many DJs nowadays, which makes it harder to distinguish yourself. That’s why I strive to bring in a wide variety of genres in my DJ-sets, never limiting myself to one style. Being able to tell a story through your set is crucial, without losing track of your audience of course."
What are your short term goals? And your long term ones? And what does it take to reach them?
"On the short term there’s some nice gigs I would love to play – but when I put things in perspective I believe playing out abroad is my main goal, although I mainly let things come my way for now. What’s important for me at this moment is to just do shows as much as possible and meet as many new people as I can. Eventually that will get me closer to my goals."
Which artists do you look up to the most and why?
"I’ve been following artists like Kaidi Tatham, K15, Yussef Dayes and IG Culture on a regular basis lately. These are all incredibly talented musicians respectively and I think their ability to combine funk, soul, jazz and broken beat is phenomenal. In terms of DJs, I look up to guys like Lefto, Gilles Peterson and Jarreau Vandal – although there are a lot more I forget to mention here."
What’s your opinion on the current state of the Belgian beatmaking scene?
"It’s very much alive and interesting in my opinion. For example: look at what the guys from Champion Sound are doing. To me, it seems like these kind of initiatives like beat battles are important for young artists in this scene; you can be sure to discover new talent every time. In this field I think Belgium is doing pretty well at the moment. LTGL, Le Motel, Toolbox, Pippin, Vicking Groovy, etc. Those are some people that have done great things already."
What are your next steps?
"Well, I just started to work with Loadstone Management, which means Joris Vaes from Tangram Records will take care of my bookings now. I believe that’s a well-needed push in the right direction for me: more bookings, more new people, etc. So I’m definitely looking forward to whatever is next to come!"