SYREETA Says She's Still the Only Black, Female, or Queer DJ on Lineups
The music industry has always been one with a disproportionate representation of women, minorities, and marginalized communities. Women of color and those identifying as queer, non-binary or trans all seem to be less present on mainstream lineups, so much so that those who fall into those categories are no longer staying quiet. They’re making their presence known, and demanding their rightful place on lineups.
It’s almost as if people forget that techno and disco music originated in safe spaces. Queer folks, especially those of color, have a history intertwined with the roots of dance culture. Yet with the current climate of the music scene and festivals, those same people have to fight just to be included.
One person who’s taken notice is house and techno DJ SYREETA. She’s a Black, queer woman who has worked hard to get to where she is today, all the while pushing for inclusivity. Even with all that work, she says she still usually finds herself to be the only queer, Black or female artist on most lineups.
“I like to think that people now look a bit more closely at their lineups to ensure that they're balanced, they learn the history, and they create more diverse lineups,” she told Gray Area during our Spotlight interview. “Personally, every lineup that I'm on at the moment, I'm still probably the only female, the only black person, the only queer person, or all three. So yeah…there is still a lot of work to be done. But I'd like to think that better things are been being done at the moment.”
In some areas, better things are being done. Back in 2015, Vanessa Reed, former CEO of the PRS Foundation, started the Keychange Initiative, an international program geared toward investing in underrepresented talent. Expanding further on that idea is The Keychange Pledge, which was an opportunity for any festival, promoter or music organization to join in the commitment to gender equality and reduce male-dominated lineups by 2022.
Over 500 festivals and music organizations in the UK and Canada have signed this pledge, with MUTEK and SoundCloud among its supporters. Large-scale festivals such as Glastonbury and Barcelona’s Primavera, as well as some smaller events, have all succeeded in creating more balanced lineups, according to an article published in the British Music Collection as part of the BMC Future Views series.
All this is a step in the right direction, but like SYREETA says, it is by no means the finish line.
SYREETA is a current resident of HE.SHE.THEY, a crew who lives and breathes inclusivity. The event series, record label, and fashion label is as open minded as they come, and they strive to be as diverse as possible in anything they do. HE.SHE.THEY provides non-judgemental and non-prejudicial spaces for everyone, proving that they are one prime example showcasing why diversity matters.
SYREETA also has close ties to Jaguar, a Black, queer radio host and DJ who’s done her due diligence in researching this exact topic. She’s long recognized that the music industry has historically been a boy’s club and she’s here to change that. Along with FutureDJs, she created Future1000, an initiative focused on highlighting gender inequality in music. They set out to offer 1,000 women, trans and non-binary people career opportunities by offering DJing and production courses, in addition to teaching the ins and outs of the music industry. Jaguar then launched The Jaguar Foundation to dig deep and compile data to really show how large of a gender disparity there actually is in music.
These aren’t the only folks taking notice and making moves in the name of inclusivity. In the Key of She is a union of 250 LGBTQIA+ female producers and DJs created so that promoters, crews, and labels can add diversity to their lineups. Another crew hard at work at promoting the importance of inclusivity by offering opportunities to non-gender-conforming individuals and people of color is Femme House. Helmed by LP Giobbi and Hermixalot, Femme House is geared towards creating more opportunities for women and gender-expansive people in music, both behind the scenes and in the forefront through workshops, specialized coursework, a weekly radio show, and a bi-yearly scholarship program for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ creators.
But they are only a handful of the crews making an effort to do the work. In the overall scheme of things, more can still be done. More should be done.
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