For our 6th Big Blue Session, we were thrilled to receive Karaba. It is inevitable to dance along to Karaba's amazing energy and afro-house set. For this set, we invited percussionist Guillaume Séguin to play along with a djembe and an SPD-SX drum machine. It was a really fun set, get ready to shake your body and sweat a little cuz it's getting hot!
listen on SoundCloud here.
view on IGTV here.
Hey Karaba! Thank you so much for coming to Studio Big Blue and for sharing that set with us. I had so much fun.
First, I want to begin by asking you why you call yourself Karaba?
Karaba is a character in a cartoon that I used to watch when I was young. The name of the cartoon was Kirikou et la Sorcière, and it draws elements from Africa, which are my roots. I was always very fascinated by the character of the witch called Karaba. At the beginning of the story, we are told that the witch is mad at the men. Because she is angry at the men, she decided to live in a castle by herself. If ever people would come to fight her, she would eat the men, and then she would transform all the men into material stuff that she would have around in her castle. However, later in the story, you learn that Karaba was abused, which is why she sought revenge on the men. I don't know, there is something about her that I have always been fascinated by. I see her as kind of like my alter ego because she is a strong, African woman. At the end of the story, they take out this thing she has inside her back, which was her curse. So Kirikou, the main character, removed the curse, and she became nice after. I watched this movie when I was seven and it just stuck in my mind. When I was looking for a name for a DJ, my friend said, "Karaba." I said, "Yes!"
Wow. That's an amazing story. I love your artist name- it's easy to remember and easy to pronounce.
Yeah, that's also why! My real name Aglae which can be difficult to pronounce and write. So I changed it.
Totally, I feel like if I had heard your name and googled it, I would have probably typed in "A-G-L-A-Y"
Jajajaja!! That's why
Jaja Ok, so now tell me, what are the origins of your passion for music?
My parents were always into music. We always listen to Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Jannet Jackson, and all that. Very Motown and a lot of French pop music and also electronic french music and so I grew up with that. So my first instinct was to dance because I had so much energy. I feel like being in front of a piano or guitar would have taken me so much focus that I went dancing, and it worked for me. After dancing so much and doing that for a long time, I decided that I could now focus my energy on doing music and mixing. That's how it came about. Whenever I am in the car, and I listen to music, I go from afro-house to Taylor swift to hip-hop. I have a profound connection to music, and it really comes through when I mix.
It does come through! It was such a nice set with so many unique songs. You have been Djing for a few years now, right?
And so in this past year, what can you say we're a few of your highlights?
I was very proud of playing at Village Au Pied du Courant. I know for some it's nothing special, but for me, it was always a dream I had. Last year they invited me, and I played there four times! Another event I played at was the Bal du MAC at the museum. This winter, I am playing at SAT for Nuit Blanche! I did two gigs in the Caribbean and in Berlin. I did Festival Mural and also Festival Mode and Design. Those were the big things but I am always so proud to play to do any gig!
Congratulations, and yeah, I agree entirely, every gig is so special, and you should feel proud of each of them. What about this year? What are you looking forward to?
I would like to do a big festival like Osheaga. I really want to play somewhere big, you know. I would love to do the Village Au Pied du Courant again because I really love their messaging. Although I would love to play more internationally- like Brazil.
Oh, snap, I totally see you playing in Brazil!
But up until now, most of your gig have been in Montreal?
What can you say about the crowd here?
I really love it here. It's my favorite. I've mixed in LA before, and LA is a tough crowd because people are more in an attitude of "I'll wait till you impress me" whereas in Montreal the crowd is more like "Were just here to have a good time." In Montreal, if the set is good, its good, and if it's not it's ok, but they are here just to enjoy. In Montreal, people are all about it- they yell, let loose, and are very free. They give you a lot of feedback.
I've heard that from other interviews. This feedback loop.
And so, your background is in dancing.
Do you think that your dancing career influenced your DJing career or your performances?
Yes. I feel like as a dancer, you listen to music in a different way than regular people.
Not regular- just…
Yes, jaja! For me when I play a set, and I don't see people dance, then I think it's not good enough. I always try to play tracks that I know will make people move or like even in transitions. I feel like I have a different ear to music, and when I mix and do transitions, I always think about how to dance on it.
I was dancing this whole set. I couldn't stop. Is dancing a big part of why you choose to play afro-house?
Yes. Although, I think I am still trying to find my sound. Today I played a full afro-house set, but a lot of times, I love to add Brazilian and Caribbean sounds. I don't know. Right now, I play afro-house mostly, but I don't think I am fully Karaba yet because I am still trying to find what I like and what I don't like. Sometimes it's hard because I get gigs, and I want to play many different things, but people put me in a particular category, and it's just like NO. I mean yes, I will play deep afro-house but know that I might throw something in there that is not afro.
I don't know if you have to be one thing. It's about what you are drawn to at the moment. No?
Well, when you play music, what emotions are you trying to evoke in the crowd? Where are you trying to bring them too?
I just always want people to have a good time. I am a party girl. I love to party, and I love to dance, and I want people to get on that wave with me. When my set is over, I want people to be sweating from dancing and smiling from having such a great time. I want them to discover the afro-scene. A Lot of people know about afro-beats, but there is so much more, and I want to show them that. Music from Angola or Congo, where my Dad is from. Much of the music we hear right now is very much in Nigeria and Ghana. Still, Africa is a vast continent, and I would like people to listen to what the rest of the continent has to offer. I am not here to play what you know, I am here for you to discover new things.
How did you feel today?
I feel great. I love this environment. It was a little hot in here! I was a little stressed before, not going to lie, but then I got here, and I was just like, "It's all about creating and sharing and connecting with people," and once you're in that vibe you can't really mess up because you are just creating.
I think it's really special. At least on our side, Big Blue Sessions are really exciting because we get to connect and create with other artists. Also, the set that was played today will never be played again. It was made here at the moment with you and the live musician. I really loved seeing how you communicated with him. We've had DJs play with piano or guitar, and how they interact is very different than how you were communicating with the percussionist today. It was very special. For you, you've played with live musicians before, but for other artists who come to Big Blue Sessions, it's their first time.
Oh, when it's your first time, it can be overwhelming because it's very new. I really try to collaborate with the musicians I play with. I feel like we're on this journey together, and if you want to go crazy, then do it.
I feel like you both let loose at points.
Well, Karaba, thank you so much! Is there anything else you would like to add?
I really like this place. It's so great. I think what you do is so nice. I am really into Tiny Desk and I love it and we don't have that here. I am so excited for you to do this and promote local talent because there is so much talent in Quebec and Canada. It's also a very different setting.
Yeah, it's not a club. It's a studio, a creative space, in the middle of the woods.
Yeah, it's different. It brought something different out of me.
Listen to Karaba: https://soundcloud.com/djkaraba