For the next episode of our ‘Rising Stars’ series, Trommel met Moroccan DJ, Malika, as she shares with us her passion for DJing, her endless quest for new music and her evolution through the underground scene. With a style very much of her own, largely influenced by House, Hip-hop and Jazz, Malika is definitely a talent to keep an eye on in 2022.
She is zooming us from her hometown, Casablanca, where she spent loads of time last Autumn due to passport issues. As she lights a cigarette on her sunny Moroccan terrace and puts on a big smile on her face, she starts by telling us about her love of traveling and her regular relocations to new cities. “I think I’ve moved almost every year since I was 18-year-old. Mainly around France, Spain, Germany and the United States” she says. “I’m addicted to the adrenaline of traveling, of arriving in a new place and having everything to discover. I cannot stay still. I just came back to Barcelona and I’m already thinking about my next destination,” she says, laughing.
As she moved back to Spain to work in Music Supervision for fashion and films in the Spring of 2021, she points out that her heart still belongs to Berlin, where she spent her last two years. “I think this is the city I loved the most, I really felt at home there,” she says. “It was 100% music all the time, most of my friends were in the music industry or other artistic fields, I was constantly stimulated on an artistic level. I’ve met incredible people and it was such a rewarding experience.”
Malika first encountered house music as a child, digging into her mother’s CD collection and trying to keep herself updated with music by any means available to her at that time. Growing up in Casablanca, she didn’t have many role models in the industry, but the passion for music was definitely there.
“When you grow up you often want to become what you see. Growing up in Morocco, although it was beautiful, it’s not like I was surrounded by many people, let alone women, DJing and producing electronic music,” she says. “I grew up thinking I could never be involved in music, I never thought any of those things would ever be accessible to me. So it took quite some time before I got into it and now I’m realising that actually, it’s all about making the first step!”
She bought her first pair of turntables in her early 20s by taking a loan while studying in Paris, and never looked back since. She began to practice, without really thinking she’d play in front of people at first – one of the reasons her DJ name is her first name. “I had not thought about a character or something like that, so the first time someone asked for my name as a DJ, I just said Malika,” she adds, laughing. Little she knew that few years later, she would be on festivals like Primavera Sound, Dimensions Festival or Oasis Festival in her home country.
One thing leading to another, opportunities to play publicly came quite naturally for Malika as she rapidly distinguished herself thanks to her unique style and authenticity. She “officially” started to mix in front of a crowd back in 2018 next to ISAbella in Barcelona, and got a few more gigs after that in Berlin and around Europe. By that time, she fell for the unique feeling of playing records for an audience. “It’s like a moment of total disconnection with the rest of the world, which is hard to get nowadays,” she says. “There is this moment when, for the length of your set, nothing but the place you’re in, the people, the music and the energy in there really matter.
“It’s funny because DJing can seem like a very straightforward activity: you’re a human being choosing and playing music for other people in a certain context, simple no? But there’s also something almost mystical about it, something that I still couldn’t find a logical explanation for: I feel like the more you are pleasing yourself and you are into the records you play, the more people are into it with you,” she adds. An experience that she recalls is pushing her to keep looking for music that she really feels connected to, hoping the crowd will connect to it as much as she does. But above all, she recalls being driven by the passion. Passion for the music, passion for sharing this music. “It is so rewarding, it’s almost like it gives you a sense of purpose and connects you with people on a level which totally unique,” she says.
Whether it is for her day-to-day job, for her DJ occupation or for herself, Malika is constantly listening to new music and looking for new tracks. And as she says, there’s always a new record that will make you want to build a new set around it or find out how, for example, a succession of records can create a specific vibe that none of them hold individually. A magic that keeps her going as it continues to unfold.
Her approach to digging new sounds particularly stands in her research for the perfect track, the perfect sound. “For me, digging music is about discovering new sounds, artists and growing your culture of course, but at times it does also feel like looking for the sound you want to create,” she adds. “It just requires time, practice and patience, but I mostly see it as a quest with no end!”
Even though she hasn’t released anything yet, and doesn’t want to say too much too soon, Malika started to learn music production in Berlin at the studio with The Pickle Factory resident Gwenan, now based in the German capital. “It is thanks to her that I finally put my hands into producing Music. The first day we met, she invited me down to her studio so I could use one of her machines,” says Malika. From there, they started to produce music together, became friends and found a new place to share a studio. “Gwenan has taught me a lot, she gave me the right tools to start. And for that I couldn’t be more grateful,” she adds. She suggests that her productions will probably sound like the kind of stuff you can hear in her sets or mixes: a mixture of electro and house, heavily influenced by jazz or hip-hop.
“I simply love the mixture of electronic and organic elements in music or, for example, unexpected progressions and rhythms coming from jazz. I guess you can hear those influences in the music that I pick but it’s not like it’s a conscious decision, it’s just what I naturally end up with,” she says. “And on the other hand, I really enjoy sample based music as I grew up listening to a lot of hip-hop. So I’m experimenting with that in my sets as well.” That’s how she ends up creating her own edits or mixing the different elements together. “I have some all time favorite acapellas or vocals and lately I have been very much enjoying layering them on newer and more instrumental-focused releases. I find it particularly fun to give a new context to these voices.”
Malika says she needs to feel inspired by the artists she plays with or by the location when she accepts a gig and prepares her bag of records for it. “I take in consideration lots of little details: the city where I’m going to play at, the influences, the people who invited me and the music history of the country. Although it might seem irrelevant in the globalised world we live in, for me it still makes a difference to a certain degree if I play in Germany, in Belgium or in England.” she says. “For me, music is a form of expression, it’s a language, and if I can share with people by speaking their language a little more while saying what I want to say, that’s ideal.”
All of those little elements help her get inspired and will influence the records she’ll put in her bag, even though it stays from her collection and representative of what she believes in and her current mood. “These things will often get me inspired to start with but then it all happens in the momentum,” she adds. “Especially for a place you discover for the first time. There’s only a certain level of planning you can make because it’s only when you’ll play the first few records that you’ll get a feel of what is going to make the crowd and yourself have a good time. At the end, it’s always a conversation really.”
You can catch Malika playing at E1, London, on 4th February 2022 alongside Apollonia, Sweely, Gene On Earth, Truly Madly and Massai.