House with spirit.
The latest addition arrives by way of Connecticut based Berlin regular Jenifa Mayanja, an East Coast DJ and producer who has been infusing her African roots with a distinctive soulful vision since the early 90s. Earning the praise and mentorship from legendary house figures like Joe Claussell as an up-and-coming artist, Mayanja is now behind a series of ‘organic deep house’ labels, such as Bu-Mako, Sound Warrior and the label she runs alongside husband Jus-Ed, EDJ Records. Known for consistently dishing up soul filled dance floor journeys of the highest order, her latest offering via the Bass Cadet Records’ Orbits series is currently doing the rounds, and she’s taken the time to offer us a deep selection, carefully packed with that familiar East Coast spirit.
Hey Jenifa, what’s been happening? I hear you and Ed recently hosted your second ‘Zuflucht’ party at Berlin’s Loftus Hall, featuring special guest Move D and the legendary Elbee Bad on live percussion. What can you tell us about the idea behind the party, and how did the first one go down?
Hey there, the party was our way of introducing and ultimately doing our part to grow the house community in Berlin with spreading house music culture, knowledge and community spirit that we are familiar with from the East Coast. Our parties are a success when we are able to break people out of their familiar ideas of “clubbing” and instead treat this time with us an experience with the potential to help you release stress, freedom to interact with people in an environment that respects you as you come, an opportunity to encounter people that you may not normally engage with, and maybe even gain some new musical knowledge. The party was a great success in these ways and we are hopeful more people in Berlin gravitate to what we are offering with “Zuflucht” -Refuge.
We brought as much as we could spiritually to create the kind of parties we have experienced on the East Coast as dancers and promoters. Elbee Bad brought his special vibe with his son on percussion, there was some free food as is tradition, some sensory stimulations in the form of incense oils, and original artwork to transform the space done by our resident opening DJ Radio Hobo, I think we are adding something meaningful to the dance scene in Berlin.
Your latest record marked the second chapter for the Bass Cadet Records’ sub-label Orbits, following on from Ron Trent’s timeless first up offering for the series. You’ve mentioned that you wrote the record with the label’s musical vision in mind… did Ron’s EP or his output more generally help to inspire the soulful direction of these tracks?
I was honored to contribute to Orbits as Etienne and Laura from Bass Cadet have been supporters of me as an artist. This was the guidance as a creative person to be able to give back and do something that was worthy of their label. My inspiration was knowing they have great music taste and my contribution should be a release that would be timeless and collectible.
I quite enjoyed reading your ‘Mentors’ piece on the artistic lessons you learned from Joe Claussell back in the 90s while working at his NYC record store Dance Tracks. I can imagine the experience you had would resonate with any young artist dealing with how to accept feedback on their work, while also trusting their own instincts. What would be your major piece of advice for young producers trying to have their own artistic voices heard today?
I would tell any young producer to literally sequester themselves for a while in a remote location (not literally) and just spend a year just making music without the intention of releasing of it! That would be ideal just so they could grow creatively. Of course that is not practical! So the best advice in my humble opinion – at least during the time you are actively working on a project – is to listen to any other kind of music other than what you are making. I say this only so you give yourself the space to find your true sound as a producer/artist. This I say only for those really in the early stages of starting out with production, so you can come up with something that is true to yourself.
It seems as though your label Bu-Mako Recordings had a little hiatus last year after consistently releasing music from yourself and likeminded friends since back in 2007.. What future plans do you have for the label, and can we expect any new Bu-Mako material from yourself again in 2017?
The label didn’t actually go on a hiatus, just output slowed down to a crawl because of the pressing situation in the states. Also I was releasing musical projects with other like minded labels like deepArtSounds. I was also busy with my other two labels Sound Warrior – which releases music exclusively by female producers, and EDJ records which releases music only by myself and hubby Jus-Ed.
However I am ramping things up with my long overdue third album ‘what a strange dream’. I have been working on and off it for at least a year and a half. I’m working on releasing an album from my artist Denis Clifford on Bumako. I also have some upcoming releases on Sistrum and another mini LP on deepArtSounds.
What can you tell us about this mix you’ve put together for us? Who are some of the artists that feature in the mix?
I can tell you that I had quite a good time putting this mix together. I was aiming for a timeless mix that you cannot date because the music sounds right whenever you hear it. There was actually not too many brand new artists or tracks with the exception of one my tracks on Orbits. There is some Joe Claussell in there, Bittersuite, Ed & Jen and some old skool jams like Kurtis Blow.
What else is coming up?
It’s quite an exciting time for me. I have my first artist CDR session where I get to talk about what I do as an artist as well premiere some tracks from my album. That is March 23rd in Berlin. We also have another ‘Zuflucht’ party April 1st at Loftus Hall, this time with special guest Lawrence. A special RBMA mix in April. I also have some nice upcoming gigs that I’m looking forward to… In addition my other labor of love Sound Warrior Records is releasing a 2×12″ vinyl in April, it’s a compilation featuring some incredible women like Aurora Halal, Cherushii (RIP), Daniela La Luz, Lilith, Lady Fingers, CMD, newcomer Avalele and myself.