Politics has always shaped music one or another. It’s been the driving force behind certain scenes, collectives, parties and labels and nowadays, we see more artists and promoters adding an activist element to what they’re doing – whether that’s from throwing parties, compiling compilations or producing records where all the proceeds going to charity. Bristol-based DJ, promoter and lecturer Ifeoluwa – real name Yewande Adeniran – is one of those voices in the scene who creates a space for discussion and insight whether that’s through her social media channels or the Intervention parties. Over the years, Intervention has become a tight-knit community which is a safe space and inclusive environment for all and the genre-defying ethos of the brand runs through to the NTS show. As a DJ, Ifeoluwa’s sets are powerful and punchy, filled with attitude – as evident in the mix she has provided for the 17th edition of our podcast series.
Alongside the mix, we get to know Ifeoluwa a bit better discussing her journey so far, Intervention, the new residency with Hope Works and the battle between mental health and activism.
You’ve been working incredibly hard over the last few years with your NTS residency and Bristol party Intervention – how did you first get into music and what led to you launching Intervention?
I’ve been *very* into music since I was about 7. I LOVE GUITAR MUSIC. A LOT. So I learnt to play the guitar and bass (piano and violin). And from then on it kinda escalated. I used to perform these heavy metal screamo songs in the school assembly, was probably a bit much for 9am but that’s when my love of performing really kicked in. As you get older, you become a lot more self-aware and you notice the power imbalances a lot. So naturally when I started listening to more electronic music, I wanted to be part of what was going on, a member of the scene but that never happened. I found out I wasn’t the only one so I started Intervention!
How important is it for you to build a community with Intervention?
Very very important. I drew inspiration from the Vogue and Ballroom scene in the US and how they managed to create spaces for each other away from all the bullshit. The dream is to create something like that here in the U.K, not specifically the same genre of music or emphasis on dancing but a space with the same ethos.
Who were some of your earlier influences and who do you look to now for inspiration?
Definitely My Chemical Romance and Panic! At The Disco then Joy Division and Boards Of Canada then Pangaea, Pariah and Josey Rebelle and more recently Lurka, Batu and Shyboi!
Congratulations on your new residency with Hope Works – what does this mean to you? What do you hope to explore/achieve with this residency?
Thank you! <3 It gave me hope lol as I was feeling very deflated with the amount of grief myself and other Women of Colour in music get so it was a great feeling to know that there are people out there who get it and want to push and support us. I haven’t played as much rowdy UK Techno recently and I have a lot of music that isn’t necessarily grime or club that I really want to play out. I really hope it builds my confidence a bit as I still find DJing very intimidating.
You’re very vocal with your activism on social media and activism, in general, can be quite exhausting at times and often plays on mental health issues – how do you balance between fighting for the cause and putting your mental health first? Do you find it difficult to step away from a situation even if it’s triggering for you?
I sometimes just ghost if I’m honest. There’s a lot of ill-informed opinions and misinformation being spread about and it’s frustrating because the knowledge is out there. But people generally feel very threatened if you question their worldview. If they’ve been socialised to see the world in a certain way and someone who’s voice they’ve been conditioned to see as holding less weight and being inferior presents something alternative, it’s seen as an attack. It can be difficult because people are gaslighting you and denying you your lived experiences and ignoring history or upholding a whitewashed version.
How do you link music with activism? What makes music a suitable format for you to express yourself?
You can pretty much do anything with music. There are no limits or boundaries which makes it perfect for saying what you normally couldn’t out loud with words. I play a lot of different diaspora sounds mixed with political tracks and ofc bangers so you get an idea of who I am without being too explicit.
You’ve also recorded a mix for us, where did you record it and what kind of headspace were you in?
I recorded it at the NTS London studios – I’m really lucky and grateful to be able to use their space! Oh gosh, I get I’m always deep in my feels so that’s my normal headspace. It’s a mixture of sadgal tunes and club so pretty much what I listen to daily.
Having recently started a new job as a lecturer, what led you to this career path?
One of my former lecturers was really keen to make sure that what she was teaching wasn’t stale and current. I’ve always wanted to lecture but I didn’t feel that Philosophy was for me. There are currently 24 Black Women Professors in the U.K. which is mad considering there are well over 4500 white women. I felt that if I could show that academia still has to power to change society.
The subjects you specialise in are very personal to you, do you find it difficult to distance yourself from the subject in order to give an unbiased view when teaching?
When you teaching or writing an essay you have to mention the overview point even if you don’t agree. So I tend to provide a more holistic view of the subject and then breakdown why it’s not the case but also for why it is. I think that’s the most important part in academia and criticism more generally.
What do you hope people take away from your lessons?
That they get involved with different aspects of music even if they’re not planning to DJ. I have people come through who are interested in producing, promoter and starting their own labels and they use the space to find like-minded people and sometimes just to hang out! I want to emphasise that money is a barrier but you can start your career very DIY.
What have been some essential books that have helped you grow and learn over the years?
In all honesty, I’ve mostly only read academic texts for the past 7 years. But the two important texts would be Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth and bell hook’s Cultural Criticism and Transformation, both are really insightful texts and place my daily thoughts and feeling within a historical and social context!
If one thing could change this year, what would you want it to be?
To stop Brexit lol