Interview by Nadia ten Hove

FAUZIA is set to grace Berlin Atonal with her genre defying dj set, a significant milestone in her remarkable journey. Renowned as a cutting-edge platform for avant-garde sound and electronic art, the Berlin Atonal Festival has consistently pushed the boundaries of sonic exploration since its inception in 1982. Over the years, it has become a mecca for music enthusiasts, experimentalists, and those in search of boundary-defying auditory experiences.

In this dynamic intersection of art and music, FAUZIA’s performance promises to be a captivating highlight. Her unique blend of genres and innovative approach to sound align seamlessly with the festival’s ethos of pushing the limits of conventional music. As the festival’s stage lights up with her presence, audiences can expect a sonic journey like no other.

In the realm of music, FAUZIA is a multi-faceted gem whose talents shine across various domains. Hailing from a background as a skilled DJ, she effortlessly weaves the intricate tapestry of footwork, jungle, and more on her monthly NTS show, drawing in renowned artists like Mall Grab, Kode9, and DJ Taye.

In this exclusive interview, we delve into the mind of FAUZIA, exploring her journey from DJ to producer, singer, and the exciting path that lies ahead.

Can you tell us about your journey from being a DJ to a producer and singer, and how these different aspects of your musical career influence each other?

Well I always knew from a young age that I was gonna do music, I was yet to know what that would look like. I was always drawn to playing instruments. I used to sing a lot and write songs on guitar. I attempted drumming lessons but that was hard. But I would say that singing/playing was always instinctive to me. But coming from a working class background my family couldn’t afford for me to have lessons. And to study Music at college/university level you have to be formally trained in an instrument. So a teacher told me to consider Music Production and so I did that. I went on to study it as a degree and graduated with a BA in Music Production, but I didn’t enjoy the course that much. A lot of the modules were tailored to working in bands and live music, and at the time I was super into footwork and jungle and I needed a creative outlet. So I learnt to DJ. Now I’m at a point where I can embody all those interests. I started formally learning piano last year and it’s exciting to be able to encapsulate all of my interests into music. I don’t see any of them as separate entities, they all feed into each other.

Your monthly NTS show showcases a blend of footwork, jungle, and various other genres. What draws you to these specific styles of music, and how do they contribute to your unique sound?

I used to go squat raving as a teen and that’s where I first heard jungle and was like wow! I had a similar experience when I first heard footwork music – that was through GTA V on the FlyloFM station. DJ Rashad’s ‘it’s wack’ came on and immediately stopped. I was like ‘what is this music, I need to know everything about this!’. Sadly it was just after DJ Rashad passed RIP. But that set me off on my footwork journey. My early NTS shows were actually just footwork and jungle, I thought they worked so well together but only a small group of people were playing at the time. Now I’ve been on the station for 6 years and I play everything, Classical, club music, punk etc etc – I just play what I like which really isn’t tied to any specific genre. NTS is the best place for that. I think that’s reflected in my artistry, I don’t ever wanna be confined to one thing or sound.

The pandemic seemed to have a significant impact on your music, with releases like ‘Fragments’ and ‘time’ showcasing a different side of your artistry. Can you share how this period influenced your creative process and the evolution of your music?

I started falling out of love with DJing before the pandemic. The lifestyle and environment was too much, so in a way the pandemic was really good for me. I focused my efforts on producing music and it really paid off for me. I was able to experiment without any pressure. There was something freeing about releasing music straight to Bandcamp without considering all the other things the industry forces on us. I treated it as a sonic diary I suppose, it was all reflections of where I was at the time. But it also allowed me to figure out what kind of music I wanted to make. Through those releases I also found my record label. So I am grateful for that time. In terms of my creative process, I’m still figuring that out. I don’t think it’s ever one way. As for now, I write music on piano and vocally first before taking it into Ableton. But I’ve always been drawn to melody, so I guess that’s always my starting point.

Collaborations have played a role in your career, including working with artists like Kelela and Duval Timothy. Could you tell us about these collaborations and what you’ve learned from working with other musicians?

After I put out Fragments, Kelela hit me up to work on her album. I felt completely out of my depth and was like ‘are you sure?, i barely know how to produce’ and she was so certain and had complete faith in me. I appreciate her for that. I learned a lot from her during that album process. I was working on my next project ‘are you hoping for a miracle?’ and produced the track ‘When It’s All Over’ in 20 minutes. I sent it to Kelela to see if she’d be up for contributing vocals, and she said she had something. It came together so quickly and organically it was like magic.  That taught me that the best collaboration comes easy, and that synergy between artists makes for great work. So I don’t like to force any collaborations. I worked with Duval Timothy on his album ‘Meeting with a Judas Tree’ and the track we did together (Thunder) was originally just a live jam we did at his place. It was a lot of fun. He hit me up after to ask if he could put on his next project and I was like for sure. That taught me that there is beauty in capturing real life moments, unedited with all the intricacies. It makes the music human and allows people to connect with it in a different way. Both experiences taught me to believe in myself, and showed me that I have something unique to offer to the world. 

Your new live show debuted recently, and you’ve supported artists like Loraine James and Space Afrika. How has performing live compared to your DJ sets, and what can audiences expect from your live performances?

It’s funny because I don’t see the distinction between my live shows and DJ sets – it’s like two halves of me, and I have to give a different part of myself in both settings but they are both equally me.  I would say the main difference is the energy. My club sets are very fast, often very fun and I like to start at one place and get super fast by the end of it. But my live shows are quite intimate. My setup changes but usually cello, sometimes viola and I’m trialing out guitar at the moment for my Paris show. It’s very gentle and vulnerable and I like to think it’s a nice space for people to sit & reflect. Sometimes people sit on the floor which i love, cause i used to do that in my earlier shows. I would say expect an open space where you can feel without restraint. 

Selling out your headline show at Southbank Centre’s Purcell room is a significant achievement. What was that experience like, and how do you envision your future in live music and performance?

That show meant a lot to me because I was able to invite Somali pioneers Dur Dur band to join me for the night. Regardless if the night sold out or not, it was an honour to host them and showcase multi-generational Somali talent. Somalia has a rich musical history but due to colonisation it’s often portrayed as this ‘war torn’ place. There’s so much beauty in Somalia and I’m proud to be from there. But that was one of my first live performances and I was so nervous and scared. I have learned a lot since then, I have grown a lot as a person and artist since then. My future in live music is bright and I’m very excited! As I mentioned, I’ve been learning piano so I definitely see myself playing piano live for future shows. I’ve been learning how to orchestrate and will debut my first orchestra performance this October at King’s Place. It’s a collaboration with my band mate Maddie Ashman, and will include a vocal ensemble, cello, microtonal guitar, clarinet, piano and more. To be honest, I haven’t even begun sharing what I can do. I’m very excited for these next steps.