Apr 5, 2023
Jonah Flint & Lissy Lübeck
5 min read
Growing up in the northern Italian city of Turin, Yassin Ligali Ali (also known as Yaya) is one of the brightest names in the world of minimal techno, afro house, and deep tech house. He began DJing at 17 and was soon discovered by legend Loco Dice who signed one of Yaya’s first records.
Coming up in a city rich with electronic culture would have been enough for most people to find a passion in the industry. Yaya, however, received a double dose, with his father playing a massive role in his musical upbringing.
“From my father, I learned so much about passion, rhythm, and grooves from his African heritage…My father was the lead singer of a group called M’Bamina. They were playing afro funk and afrobeat music… From when I was young, there were so many friends of my father at home, they were always around playing music, listening to vinyl. The house was always full of records and when I was super young there was just always music around me. It helped me a lot to discover an identity around music. I still have so many records from my father that inspire me today.”
When Yaya was 12, he started attending a club near his house in Turin every Monday afternoon. It was a techno/house party and love at first sight (or listen) for Yaya. Five years later, he began DJing and immediately spent summer after summer in the electronic Meca, Ibiza. The island has shaped and created many careers over the years, and Yaya’s experience was no different. There was a record store near his house and a plethora of clubs that helped him discover a breadth of music.
“I started producing music when I was 18 years old. My breakthrough was the record ‘Vecute’ in 2009. That was my first release on a bigger label. During that time period I was in Ibiza, I had a few CDs with my name and number on it, I went to Amnesia to see Loco Dice and Marco Carola. I gave Dice my music and he called me a few weeks later asking if he could release the tracks on his label. We went back and forth a bit and then eventually met up in person and began to work together. This was in 2008 and the record came out in 2009.”
Yaya returned to Ibiza for the next 14 seasons in a row. They were some of the best years of his life and it was a time he looks back upon fondly. Although he is by no means done with the island, as his profile has risen, he can no longer spend the entire season navigating the many pleasures of the island.
About seven years into his dance music journey, as his career and standing in the industry began to ascend, Yaya decided to found a label. Tamango Records isn’t just a home for his stunning dancefloor heaters. It’s a tastemaker in deep tech and minimal boasting releases from Luuk Van Dijk, Fleur Shore, Mason Collective, and Manda Moor.
“I started the label in 2016. I was wanting to start a label for a while but had to wait for the right moment. I began to collect my music, holding it back. I started to produce music just with the intention of releasing it on my label. I was also working on the team, you cannot just open a label by yourself. At the beginning the label was only vinyl but I began to release it on digital as well in order to maintain the consistent output.”
Being a label owner introduced new, unique challenges. As the lead curator for his label, he must consistently choose the right music. Although it sounds obvious, it’s not easy. He constantly receives unreleased music, and often finds himself playing out a track repeatedly, falling in love with it only to realize that just because it works in his sets, it doesn’t mean it works on his label.
Despite the personal responsibility he feels, Tamango has always been a team effort. Yaya relies on his team to help him stay true to the sound while creating unique vinyl and promo efforts. For Yaya, Tamango is about aligning with his sound, which ultimately is focused on creating happiness.
“When I play, I like to see people happy. I watch their faces and when they’re happy, I’m happy. My sound is about creating happiness.”
As Yaya has found himself living his dream life, he sometimes needs to step back and reflect on all he has accomplished.
“When you have goals and they start to come to fruition, it’s an incredible experience. I wanted to play all over the world, and I am. I wanted to start a label and I did it. This year I wanted to focus on building out events around the label. We did a tour around Tamango in South America and we are trying to continue to build off that momentum.”