As the Rakya crew headed to the UK capital for their first London showcase, I wanted to dig a little deeper into this relentless and hands-on crew. Events, vinyl only label, band camp releases, podcast series, booking agency, and more. They’ve had an exceptionally busy few years and I was keen to hear more. I sat down in their modest Shoreditch Airbnb with with Wendy, Nemo Vachez, Miclea, and Noé, half of the duo Charonne, as they slowly unveiled the stories behind this vibrant workforce.
As Noé sets his beer down, he begins to explain, “Rakya was created by our good friends, Stefan, Pierre, Louis and Alex (Charonne), and is actually the name of a Serbian alcohol. We used to give a shot of Rakya at the entrance of each of our parties. It became a bit of a trademark for us. We did this for about two, three years and then you grow up and unfortunately have less time to organise parties, it’s a bit stressful and a lot of work, so we evolved into more of a label. We were making music and became friends with the guys from Loop Exposure and then from a label we became a booking agency as well.”
Nemo continues with vigour, “Then I joined him, bringing these two with me,” he gestures towards his companions Miclea and Wendy. “They completed Rakya Records. Before that, Muelsa, Raphael Carrau and Idris had already joined.” Noé finishes. “We are a big family. We all know each other very well.”
“How a couple of us met is a funny story actually,” adds Wendy. “A few years ago, I used to organise parties in my mum’s office! My mum is really into her music. She had this amazing office in the heart of Paris near Notre Dame, and she would lend it to us to throw after parties. At one of these events I met Miclea and Nemo who were playing records. I loved their music so when I had the chance to bring guests to another label’s party, I thought about these two straight away. They didn’t know each other at the time but I guessed they would get along well”
“Now we are best friends!” Nemo proudly calls out.
I loved the idea of party goers using the basement of a dentist to continue the dance and needed to know more.
“It is literally in the center of Paris. Once a year, we have an entire day dedicated to music, the “Fete de la Musique”, which means “The Party of Music” in French. On this day, music and dancing fills the streets of Paris, and that’s when I had my biggest party over there. We put the setup in front of my mum’s office on the street and played records all day long. It’s the the only time of the year where this would be allowed. Then at 11pm, we all went into the basement and continued the party! There were so many people that it was spilling out onto the street from the basement!
“My mums really into music now, she even produces! She’s got her own sound system and she has soundproofed the basement so the neighbours won’t hear. It’s very well isolated. She’s also very supportive and often turns up at our events!”
Over 400 clubs had to shut down permanently during the pandemic in France due to the crushing Government restrictions, many of these being in Paris. Although this situation has led to more interesting venues being co-opted as party spots. “These days, the shift has been to following crews that organise the best parties instead of focussing on the clubs” says Wendy. “Before, you’d have the best locations, like Rex or Concrete, now you follw the the best labels and crews and any spot can lead to a great event.”
Something quite specific to Paris, according to them. I wanted to have their point of view on the London scene, and understand the differences between the two party cities. “It feels like there are many more venues available to be used in London. In the end, this really changes the scene because it gives many more possibilities for labels to organise parties,” says Wendy. “Whereas, in Paris it’s really limited so it’s hard for labels to exist through events.”
Noe continues. “It’s way more developed in London, it’s been going on for a lot more years. It’s a far more educated scene. It used to be Berlin and London as the dance capitals of the world for a very long time. But now Paris is really starting to catch up but it’s a lot more recent and as Wendy was saying, there are a lot less opportunities.”
“Also London has a party culture that France doesn’t match yet,” adds Wendy.”French culture tends to associate parties with drugs. So the French government censors and restricts the nightlife scene. Whereas, here in London, it feels like it’s more supported. Although this also can lead to more creativity too!“
Nemo points out that one of the specificities of the Paris scene is that it is extremely interconnected and community based, which leads to a great energy at the events. “At every party, we know half the guys so it makes the vibe really nice,” agrees Miclea.
I wanted them to expand on what makes Rakya different from other crews doing similar things at the moment. “I believe we kinda have a signature sound,” says Nemo. “We wanted to have only people that produced music. We wanted it to be filled with people who were all close friends,” adds Noé.
In that case, I thought I’d explore how well this tight knit group of friends know each other and their tastes so I ask them to describe one another’s sounds.
Miclea immediately kicks off: “Nemo’s sound is aquatic!” The group laugh as he follows up. “I don’t know the technical terms in English, but his music makes me feel like I’m underwater.” Wendy continues: “I completely agree with Miclea. What he produces is aquatic but what he plays is very festive, club music” Antoine adds: “I’d say Nemo’s music is very intelligent. He does it his own way, there will be a lot of events in the track, and you can guess the influences, but he really creates something new.“
Nemo takes control here to define Wendy and Miclea’s tastes. “It is some super weird 90s house from the depths. Completely undiluted sounds. It’s really nice because it’s also a source of inspiration for those of us producing music. They bring some stuff that has been completely hidden from everyone. I’m hearing stuff that makes me say ‘wow, I didn’t know this was even possibly in a house track.’”
“I’d say it’s something that also reflects his personality: something deep and intense, in a good way,” adds Wendy, talking about Miclea’s imprint. “Something a bit dark, special and completely original.”
It’s now Miclea’s turn to define Wendy’s sound, and he’s really thinking there. “It’s hard to describe. It evolved and became warmer maybe?” As everyone starts to take part of the debate on Wendy’s complex sound, they came up with this conclusion: “There are some songs that will sound more like the 90s, other sounds more like early 2000s, more precise, but it’s definitely some sort of warm and bumpy music.”
Finally, it’s Noé’s turn to be defined by the rest of the crew. Nemo takes over directly: “Noé’s music is super cool, it’s like mine!” He says, laughing. “No, more seriously, it’s super cool house music, with lots of emotions, of energies, he knows how to bring this particular touch. You know when you come back from a party with a melody in your head, that’s Noé’s sound.”
Wendy continues, “With Charonne, you can definitely hear the influences of two artists producing the music. Alex is building the rhythmics nicely and you can feel that Noé is doing all the melodies. It’s very well produced and there’s a special touch that makes you remember the music…”
“I think it’s hard to describe our style of music as young artists because we’re constantly learning and evolving.” says Wendy. “
I evolved a lot, I’m not listening the same music as three years ago, even though I still like it. Musically-speaking, I changed a lot. But there’s definitely still some sort of link with what we used to play, to listen and to produce, and with what we do now,” adds Noé.
So what’s next for Rakya? They’re working on an eagerly awaited VA release, comprised of six tracks, featuring Charonne, Nemo, Idris Bena and Muelsa. As they pointed out regarding the current delayed vinyl manufacturing times, we don’t quite know yet when this will be out!
In the meantime, listen back to their 44th Rakya Podcast finely mixed and selected by Donnie.
Images and Interview by Nick Beard
Produced and arranged by Clotilde Nogues