In Conversation With Afra
Afra – an artist and DJ driven by her passion for electronic music and the international club scene, shaping her exceptional talent and distinctive style. At an early age her musical fascination already unfolded in collecting vinyls and appropriating individual techniques. Subsequently, various clubs and festivals in the Netherlands became aware of Afra’s remarkable skills and her DJ career took off in full swing. However, due to her young age DJing imposed certain challenges on her and she distanced herself from the industry, instead followed another passion of hers–Jewelry design–which she still successfully pursues to date. However, her love for electronic music never vanished, instead returned even stronger four years ago. Ever since, Afra developed a unique musical style with elements from techno, electro, acid and EBM with a rousing punch and emotion, which she only mixes on vinyl. Together with Marsman, Afra also founded the record label Mindri in 2020, which is a sub label of Pinkman. Usually, Afra plays in Amsterdam, Berlin and Rotterdam, for example in Berghain Säule, Herrensauna or SPIELRAUM. At the end of November, Afra will perform at the first Boiler Room Festival in Amsterdam, and we are here for it!
During this inspiring conversation we talked about Afra’s artistic development, the electronic music scene, her exciting upcoming projects and much more…
How is it going for you, how is life at the moment?
I am doing very well! I am doing what is in line with my passions and I am not making any concessions. I think I am living a very exciting life. Being my own boss gives me a lot of freedom but also requires me to work hard. Because my passion is so strong, I manage to get a lot done and this gives me a great feeling. The pandemic came with its challenges and therefore I am very happy that it is over and I’m back to doing what I like most.
Can you tell me a bit about how your passion for electronic music and its scene evolved?
I have been interested in electronic music from an early age. My dad had a studio at home with analogue synths and other cool devices. As a kid I would tweak sounds using his devices, I think the interest started here. I bought my first turntables at 16 and started collecting records. I still remember the moment where, after a lot of practice in my room, I was able to mix 2 records successfully. I still think the feeling of playing with vinyl is magical and I hope to never lose this. I played in a club for the first time at 18. After that, things went very fast. Though I felt like I wasn’t ready mentally to become a DJ at such a young age. For this reason, I stopped in my early 20’s. After a while I missed it so much and started collection records again. Of course, this led to me giving it another try… and the rest is history.
What were the difficulties of starting it at such a young age?
I lost my dad when I was 16 and struggled with this a lot. The nightlife was a good escape but not the best environment on the long term for me back then. I personally wasn’t sure who I really was and felt this in my musical choices. Now that I am older, I feel like I know who I am a lot better and this translates back into my music.
What are some of the best parts of DJing? What motivates and drives you most, even in harder times?
I very much enjoy hearing my favorite records on a good sound system. The ambience that is created by the light, the space and the audience give it so much more layers. Besides this, I also very much enjoy the social aspect connected to being a DJ. You get to know so many people as music kind of works as a language. I missed this a lot during the pandemic.
Your style can be considered a mix of techno, electro, acid and EBM with a rousing and emotional energy – what influenced its development and what are some of your artistic inspirations?
I have always had a fascination for sadness and darkness. This can be heard in the music I play so I think the emotion comes from that. Another reason I started playing is Miss Kittin. She was a role model for me when I was 16 and I wanted to do what she was doing. I liked that she was playing very divers and is still doing this. I think a lot of DJs currently take less risk and focus on playing one sound that feels safe. I do not get surprised a lot when I go out. I always try to do this. I like to mix pretty drastic and change genre. I feel like it keeps the people present on their toes.
What do you love about mixing with vinyl and how do you select new vinyl records?
I buy my vinyl secondhand, on Discogs or Killa Cutz in Amsterdam. But, where I spent most money is at my favorite record shop called Clone in Rotterdam. The feeling that vinyl gives me cannot be beat. Things I love about vinyl are:
The thrill that it gives you when your record is almost ending and you have to put on something new.
The crackly that old records have.
The sound that vinyl has.
Digging in record stores.
The feeling it gives to put a needle on a record.
The hard work behind the turntables during a show, because I get bored quickly.
That my record cabinet is full of stories and almost every record gives me a feeling.
The lights of the Technics turntables.
In conclusion, I consider myself to be a true vinyl purist and would never want anything else. I will take high price for vinyl and the back issues at an older age for it hahaha.
You are mostly pending between the cities Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Berlin – what does each of them mean to you?
Amsterdam is the city where I grew up and for where my music obsession arose, this is where I discovered going out and that’s how my DJ career started. Rotterdam is the city where I come a lot since I was 19 and it suits me better musically than Amsterdam. It’s a bit rougher there and that suits me more. I went to Berlin a lot on my own to discover this musical part of the city and I got a lot of inspiration from it. I always enjoy playing there. The clubs there are just next level and the crowd is wonderful to play for. I think they understand it more there.
You are often playing at some of the most inclusive and safest spaces in the electronic music scene – how would you consider the state of the current electronic music industry/scene/crowds regarding these topics?
I am very proud to be playing at, what are to be considered, inclusive and some of the safest spaces. As a DJ you can really feel the solidarity on the dancefloor when you’re playing. I feel like people are becoming more aware of things such as house rules and awareness teams. Personally, I view this as a very positive development.
You are going to perform at the first Amsterdam Boiler Room Festival on the 26th of November – what can we expect from your set and what do you expect from the festival?
I expect its gonna be fire! I am really looking forward to it. I usually select my records a few days in advance because I play very diverse and I go by a certain feeling I have that week. But I’m for sure going to take some old acid records with me. Because I am only playing an hour, I want to keep the energy high.
We are very curious – are there some other projects/releases you are working on and that are coming from you soon?
Besides my work as a DJ, I also own a jewelry brand called Afra Amba. I design and create all pieces myself and sell them in my online shop. I enjoy the contrast from being in a club filled with people in the weekend to being by myself in my workplace creating jewelry. My new collection launched recently, and I am very proud. Next January will be the 3 rd release on my label MINDRI, that I have together with Marsman. It’s a sublabel from Pinkman. This release is an EP from The Hacker. He is a true inspiration/hero for me so I am also very proud of this release!
Don’t miss Afra performing on November 26 at this year’s Boiler Room Festival in Amsterdam. The tickets can be purchased here and, additionally, the full online program will be available for everyone to attend. We can not wait to see you there!
Words & interview by THORE DAMWERTH
In collaboration with BOILER ROOM FESTIVAL