DJ EKO (LA/NYC), a natural ambassador sharing unique vibes from around the world from her small piece of whichever big city she’s currently residing in. Not only a recognized tastemaker in the music world, she offers the community deeper insight on new artists and music, not just as a dj, but as a staff writer for Okayfuture, the electronic branch of Okayplayer.
Eko effortlessly weaves genres together, telling a story with her unique signature. She’s widely known for a future R&B mix series titled “Soultronica” and loves to plays Pan-African music with her Global Bass family. She surprises audiences with remix production of favorite tunes and her unyielding passion lies in seeking out the newest, most creative production and developing genres.
“When someone gives me open format, this is an example of what happens. Soultronica, Brazilian, African, Dancehall, Soul…all woven together with some common aesthetic thread. Traveling through like this may look a little crazy in a track listing but makes sense on the ears. xo” -DJ EKO
((Continue for Interview & Tracklist))
INTERVIEW by PORCHLITE
BEATS OF ALL-NATIONS: Where can people find you?
DJ EKO: You can find me at www.Ericalandia.com, which is the name of my creative brain. Once people step inside my music/creative realm, they’re in Ericalandia. I love Instagram. It’s my fav social media, @ericalandia there too.
I’m still back and forth between NYC and LA a lot. So it’s taking me time to scout for a residency spot to play this unusual kind of slow music out where people gather. So I need a unique setting. Gig-wise, I play a lot of fashion things for clothing lines. I’m looking forward to collaborating and playing with a lot of LA djs this year. I’ll be at Ace Hotel’s rooftop and also at the Lash, DTLA in February for example, both nights with djs I like the sound of and are nice humans too.
Using words, give us a taste of your mix for Beats of All-Nations.
Ah, well it’s a nice example of journeying through several genres, what I do when I have open format. I have a mix series called Soultronica, a kind of future soul x electronic music bubble. The mix starts off in that zone and then the middle section I cross over into some mellow African and Brazilian tunes starting with that Zouk remix of Ciara. A fav is the Atropolis x Jeremy Sole track, “Batuques” which has these segments that are like Brazilian trap but then bust into a samba rhythm. I love doubletime bridges and halftime all in one track. Plus, it’s so amazing to see friends make rad music together.
People bug OUT when I through tracks with Swahili. “Bibi Yangu” is the sweetest track. The translation means ‘my wife’. A very warm sounding tune, even if you don’t know what the song is you know he’s saying something sweet, not something crude. After than swoop into some dancehall rhythms for a bit and then end with some midtempo happy Cali-inspired tunes, Stro and LionBabe. It’s a pretty easy-going mix.
You’re a well known DJ who has carved out her own lane and sound, where does your inspiration to play and share the music come from?
Radio. I started in radio and when you start there you are in a room by yourself and you choose music in a vacuum (vs club djs who practice rocking crowds based of song response). Starting in a radio studio plants a foundation to work from an internal compass rather than outside validation. So the music I pick, I love. I’m a bit selfish that way. I don’t compromise much. I think it’s valuable to offer a subjective perspective these days.
With your DJing what are you most proud of and how do think that came about?
What I’m MOST proud of is that in whatever setting I’m in I feel like I’m taking care of people and steering the vibes. No one who hears me play is going to hear ugly music, discordant sounds. I feel like I can be trusted to lay vibes. I also really like breathing fresh life into my sets via remixes and new, hybrid production. Djs have called me the Queen of Remixes.
You’re more recently known for your live DJ performances but you’ve also held down your own radio shows for years, what differences are there between the two platforms that most people overlook or don’t think about?
I talked a little bit about this in regards to my style, inspiration and foundation. Live performances really require reading crowds and the energy in the room. If you’ve been djing for a number of years you can read what is going to make the crowd lose their shit. With me the question in the back of my mind is, do I want to play that music? I always hope that I’m in front of a crowd where what they want to hear is close to what I want to play rather than being what is trending on itunes.
What’s up with a new radio show?
Haha. Good question! I’m working on that right now. Radio is just something I can’t leave alone. I want a space where I can really bug out and play obscure things. Plus, I love having guests come on and doing interviews. So it’s in the works.
Adding to your resume you are also a talented writer, how did you hook up with Okayfuture, what is your vision for your responsibilities there? How do you find the artist you cover?
So Okayplayer is this giant realm of music genres. OKP started with the Soulquarians stuff. Then the other genre pages popped up. Okayfuture being the last on-board in 2012. It’s the electronic+space+future branch of things. I write for them about music that inspires me and a lot of those artists also make it onto the Soultronica mixes and vice-versa. My writing profile is very specific. I really appreciate it when people do their research on me before they pitch music to make sure it’s close to what I’d like to write about.
The funny thing about Okayplayer and Okayafrica is that writers there have found my mixes and written them up without knowing I write for OKF. People might not know that but there are so many writers cross country and abroad that we definitely do not know each other. Ha!
How do you feel about the current state of music? Are you hoping to see it move in any particular direction?
I think the demise of the record labels and the rise of Soundcloud & Bandcamp in combination with the wide access to production software has been revolutionary. The speed of new music coming out is like impossible to keep up with. Which is great and terrible all at once. I feel that “pop” music has gotten better in the last decade for several reasons, one of which is that people kind of vote with their social media which artists deserve to rise into the spotlight. It’s stunning to see producers and artists rise to world-wide fame in a 6 month window, neck-snapping speed, really. Personally, I’m waiting for a bit more African electronic music and world-trapish stuff to come through [please read: not trap lyrics, trap production with an African take, for example]. I also wish it was easier to get high-quality mp3s from Africa but as I was having a discussion with someone who recently lives there, the bandwidth is low in the country on a large scale so the files shared are lower quality for transfer speed.
Azonto, tell us about it. Why has this genre been on your radar and what do you love about it?
I feel about Azonto like most people feel about 808 booty bass music. I just can’t help myself from dancing to it. Plus the lyrics are not crap/insulting to women, as of yet although the Western world is certainly affecting the aesthetics of African music and music videos… eh hem.
You play international gigs throughout the year, what tips can you give DJs or travelers to help them keep their shit together?
Omg. Pre-purchase all of your tech stuff before you go [plug adaptors, extra phone battery pack, stuff like that. I just got a dual-voltage hair dryer I am STOKED on. Then you don’t have to be running around last minute for that stuff before a gig or in the airport. Also, backing up your set crate on the cloud or Dropbox in case some bag gets lost or something horrible like that. Two other things, last time I checked Japan ATMs required a 4 digit pass code, nothing more. So I had to change mine. Oh, and speaking of money.. if you hear there is a dip in currency value for a country you plan to go to later in the year, hit the bank and change money then for a good deal. The airport exchange is usually robbery.
What cities/countries are you looking forward to DJing in and why?
I really would like to get back to Japan. I don’t know if it will happen this year or next. I also would love to play in Australia. There is such a great bubble of soul and electronic production coming out of there.
What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
Working on a lot of things. I have Soultronica vol.8 rattling around in my head already. I’m chatting with festival booking peeps, super excited to play with my new logo and make cool things to get out to people. I’m always tackling my imaginary bucket list. I really do need to solve the puzzle of where to play regularly. People always come up and ask and I don’t have a great answer for them yet.
Why roasted cauliflower with Frank’s hot sauce?
Oh hell yes. Don’t forget a tiny bit of blue cheese dressing to cool it down. I love Frank’s hot sauce on everything. But yeah, buffalo cauliflower is my joint. I actually had that at a restaurant here in LA for the first time. Plus, I’m mostly veg. I haven’t eaten chicken since the special expose on chicken farmers on 60 Minutes back in like in 1990 when I was a kid. Ruined for life.
In closing, tell us something unrelated to music that may help our well being.
Being into music, being a dj you naturally turn into an audiophile. Sound quality on all fronts becomes a thing, right? First, protect your hearing with earplugs whenever you aren’t playing. Second, get out into nature. Recent studies have shown that trees & plants internal processes create hertz frequencies that are healing and calming to our nerves. That, plus the absence of all the 90° angles, a very man-made construct is good for our brain. I think a regular prescription of nature walks can keep other kinds of prescriptions at bay. Xo
- The Art of Noise – Moments in Love (Caspa Remix)
- Kingdom – Bankhead feat. Kelela
- Ta-Ku – I Love Beyonce
- Justin Timberlake – Spaceship Coupe (Eyelove Remix)
- Joker – On My Mind (Boy)
- Jhene Aiko – Stranger
- Hudson Mohawke – Freek
- Ciara – Body Party (Zouk Remix by Phraze & Stylobeatz)
- Dom La Nena – Batuques (Jeremy Sole and Atropolis Remix)
- Pharrell Williams – Lost Queen
- Alex Boye – Royals
- Miguel – Sure Thing (Zouk Remix by Phraze)
- Bamboo – Bibi Yangu
- Alicia Keys – Limitedless
- Rihanna – No Love Allowed (N*gga Remix DJ)
- Vybz Kartel – Yuh Love
- Aaliyah – Rock the Boat (DJ Still Life Reggaeton in Helsinki)
- Beyonce – Standing on the Sun
- Jamie Foxx vs. Arrested Development – Blame it on the People (DJ Fabian Blend)
- The Pharcyde – Runnin’ (Philipians Remix)
- Stro Elliot – Soul II Stro
- Lion Babe – Treat Me Like Fire (Eunice & Mawkus’ Hotel Edit)