KALEIDOSCOPE OF RHYTHM AND A PIONEERING SPIRIT: CATCHING UP WITH MALA JUNTA COLLECTIVE AT DEKMANTEL FESTIVAL
This summer, Dekmantel opened its gates for the 9th time, allowing thousands of dedicated ravers from across the world to dance, connect and let go amongst the tranquil, serene setting of Amsterdam Bos. What makes this festival particularly captivating is the striking juxtaposition between the peaceful natural setting and the electronic, technical element of sound that transpires amongst the beating heart of the forest. Since its first 2013 edition in Amsterdam, Dekmantel has defied convention to pioneer a multitude of rhythmic expressions across the many fringes of music; from emerging artists to world-renowned DJ’s, the festival prides itself on its genuine passion for showcasing cutting-edge dance music from around the globe.
Photography by Martijn Kuyvenhoven
A collective that uniquely encompasses many different cultural influences with its sound is Mala Junta, the Berlin based collective that smashes through any preconceived notions of what to expect as they seamlessly deliver something fresh yet iconic with every set. Tied together by a fuck-it-up attitude and high-octane, fast, nu-old school vibe, the collective unequivocally evoke a sense of liberation and ecstasy with their sound, tapping into the roots of rave culture to present authentic opportunities for ritualistic dance sessions and united Queer expression.
Founded in 2018 by Hyperaktivist (Ana) Dj Tool (Joachim) and Nayme through a shared belief system and instant connection, Mala Junta came into fruition through spotlighting artists with a fresh perspective on music. With a small and humble start, Mala Junta began as a crowd gathering for an underground reverie at Diskothek Melancholie – an entrance hidden behind the doors of a fridge, an eccentric portal into their sonic wonderland.
“At a certain point, we realized there were many friends and upcoming artists who were making exciting new music which we considered to bring some freshness to the current musical landscape of the moment, they were lacking a space in Berlin to showcase their work.” Ana tells me about the genesis of the collective. “We felt it was important to have a time and place for our friends and the Queer community to come together, celebrate and dance as a way of protest, a space to support and highlight the talent from our community.”
Now five years down the line, Mala Junta has added three more residents to the roster; D.Dan (Ted), Why Be (Tobias) and Yazzus (Yasmine). As each artists offers a nuanced and diverse cultural perspective of sound, it’s no wonder the collective have only grown from strength to strength, playing in the hottest underground institutions across Europe such as FOLD in London, Ankali in Prague, Arsenal in Budapest and even touching the American scene with Basement, New York. Looking to the future, Ana explains “We are looking forward and planning to bring Mala more often in South América, Asia and around. Working hard to make this happen and to grow and introduce the Mala fam in new places around the world would be an absolute dream.”
As festival season draws to a close, Numero Netherlands catches up with the Mala Junta family at Dekmantel festival to find out more about their individual perspectives, wishes, motivations and reflections.
How did you find this year’s Dekmantel? How was your set?
D.Dan: I have to admit I was more nervous than usual while preparing and mentally visualizing my two sets for Dekmantel. It’s a festival I have been following for a long time – I attended it myself in 2015. My head was spinning around what I wanted to bring for the sets up until the night before when I finally realized I shouldn’t let overthinking get the best of me, just let go and follow my intuition when the moment comes. It sounds almost cliché, but it’s true. In the end I had a really great time playing both the solo set at the Radar stage and the B2B later that night with Freddy K who is one of my biggest inspirations. It was lovely.
Hyperaktivist: This was my first time playing at Dekmantel and I have to say the experience was absolutely great. Had the chance to play for the first time with my good friend Beste (Nene H) , who is a person and an artist that I truly admire – how she keeps it real, I find it very inspiring the amount of passion she injects into all of her projects.We’ve have had the chance to play many times in the studio or when hanging at home, but this was the first time we were playing at an event, the b2b came pretty natural, I think the way both of our musical worlds met and connected worked so well, we had a lot of fun, surprising each others with tracks and unexpected combinations.Closing the UFO stage was definitely a highlight of the year, I would absolutely love to do that again!!
Yazzus: It was my first time at Dekmantel so definitely a lot to take in especially with the fab weather… But, it was super cool. I loved how every stage had its own vibe and the crowd was going crazy all the time. My set was INSANE – it was the most Yazzus set I could have done, meaning I didn’t give anyone any time to breathe at all. Pedal to the metal. Banger after banger!!
In general, what’s your connection like to the Amsterdam dance scene? When was the first time you played here?
D.Dan: I love coming to Amsterdam, and the Netherlands in general. There is so much talent here and hard working people in the scene pushing interesting DJ styles, productions, narratives, and high standards for sound and production, not to mention a highly dedicated and educated community of dancers. I have met several inspiring, caring and supportive people here over the years that have made a positive impact on my life.
Hyperaktivist: Coming to play in Amsterdam is always a happy, very joyful experience and an opportunity to connect further with our friends, other artists and the crowd. I appreciate the high level of production standards in the Netherlands. People really care about important details and make you feel welcome. We often collaborate with our good friends from Spielraum and that’s also always been such a great fun experience both in Berlin and Amsterdam. Very happy to have and nurture the connections with our Dutch bebes.
Yazzus: My first time was last year at Garage Noord which is one of my favourite clubs in the city! I always have a lot of fun playing in Amsterdam, it’s a really good crowd – they are always open minded and up for anything.
What are your core values as a collective?
Yazzus: Diversity, inclusivity, fighting for freedom, friendship, breaking all the rules and doing things our own way!
How did you discover the synergy between one another that led you to join the collective?
D.Dan: It came very naturally. Luckily, I happened to go to the very first Mala Junta party when it was an extremely small, tight friend group – 100 people max. I was invited and put on the guestlist by Sugar from Fast Forward since we were in touch already and he was playing. I just fell in love with the party and felt so excited to finally have found a party and other people in Berlin playing the same kind of music I was digging. Over that year we were going to a lot of the same local parties and we just naturally became very close friends through the music and all being at similar stages of our lives in Berlin at that time.
Yazzus: I feel super lucky because I was brought on to play the first Berghain take over back in 2021, and it really just clicked instantly with the music and our personalities! I was manifesting becoming a resident because I really loved everyone and the party’s vibe – here we are now!
Each of you comes from a different cultural background, to what extent does this have an influence on each other, your sound and your collective in general?
D.Dan: We have all been able to provide each other with a diverse range of perspectives and worldviews. In this kind of constellation there is this dynamic that keeps you humble, to see past your own two feet, to have an understanding of different perspectives and opinions that can form around a common objective. There are many opportunities to learn from each other. I’ve learned a lot from the team and I feel like I’ve been able to expand my worldview through sharing our past life experiences and creating these new ones together. Having these kinds of relationships, the people you surround yourself with, they bleed into your whole being, the way you move through the world and the energy you embed into your artistic process. In my opinion this is just as important as the aesthetics of the art itself.
Hyperaktivist: I think getting to know more about each other’s culture, history, traditions etc has been one of the most beautiful and enriching parts of getting to know each other and of our friendship. This is reflected in the musical profile of the party and has clearly, nicely influenced the way we relate to each other and each other’s music.
Exchanging music and talking about the typical scenes of the places where each one of us has grown up; me in the Caribbean coast with the Latin percussions mixed with the African influences brought in the colony. The rhythms of Salsa, Merengue and Reggaeton. Joachim, the Punk scene, singing in underground bands and connected with the Trance scene. Nayme grew up with so many different influences in France. Ted, informed by his Korean- American roots, musical training as a percussionist, experiences in the Seattle DIY underground. Yasmine comes from the UK, introducing a much more breakbeat, bassy, jungle sound. Tobias, with an incredible broad knowledge in deconstructed club music, bass, House and more. All this, has definitely played a determining role in shaping and influencing our individual sound as well as the sound of Mala Junta. I think this is one of the most important and interesting roles we have with the party. Help making connections and creatingreate bridges that connect scenes that were not necessarily connected before.
Yazzus: This is why it’s so important having a diverse collective because we are constantly getting inspired from stuff which we grew up on and all bringing a different perspective. For example, I bring that UK flavour. Also, being able to share with each other our music and learn. I enjoy a lot of ana’s latin tracks and I play a lot of this vibe, so our b2b at WHOLE festival was a perfect mix of this!