DJ, producer, educator and curator of three record labels, Ugandan born, Berlin-based Jenifa Mayanja steps up for the 52nd in the Phonica Mix Series.
Jenifa Mayanja kickstarted her flourishing DJ career in New York’s bustling underground house music scene during the 1990s. Through working at the (sadly no longer with us) Dance Tracks record store in NYC, Jenifa established herself as a key tastemaker in the scene and went on to run Joe Claussell’s legendary ‘Spiritual Life’ record label.
In 2007 Jenifa branched out and launched her own label Bumako Recordings, which has seen releases from herself and close friends Lady Blacktronika and Denis Clifford to name but two in recent years. Alongside Bumako, Jenifa is also the woman behind Sound Warrior and EDJ Records, which she runs with her husband Jus-Ed.
For us, Jenifa Mayanja’s DJ set at this years Kala Festival was one of our main highlights of the event. With that in mind, we reached out to see if Jenifa would be interested in providing us with a mix for our series, which she very kindly agreed to. You can check out Jenifa’s superb mix and interview below. Enjoy!
Check out the previous mixes in the series here:
Hey Jenifa, how has your summer been over there in Berlin?
Hey, I have actually been in the states in our home in Connecticut and it has been a very relaxing, creative summer.
Can you tell us a bit about your wonderful mix – where it was recorded and what your thoughts were behind it?
I recorded this mix shortly after getting back from the states so I was in quite a good mood. I went to some really good music events in New York and it gave me even more passion for the music. I have made some leftfield mixes lately so I was trying to go for a more straight-ahead house head feeling. I am not completely sure I made it there but the spirit in the music takes me where I need to go and I trust that. I made the mix in Berlin in our studio the way I like all on vinyl. As you hear in the mix there are, some snap, crackle, some loopiness but its all part of it and I love hearing that when I hear a mix or DJ set because I know even the best have some off days so it keeps it real!
We’ve been big fans of your music over here at Phonica for quite a few years now, but it was your DJ set at Kala Festival earlier this year that really put the cherry on top for us. Was that your first time in Albania and were you as blown away as we were by its astounding natural beauty?
Awww thanks so much… you have all been big supporters of my music and I really appreciate that! Kala Festival – talk about the unexpected… who knew Albania was like heaven on earth? Without a doubt one of the most impactful beautiful venues I have ever been afforded the opportunity to play. Also the Gipje stage, like beyond magic and the selectors they chose, I felt so honoured to be a part of it, really major props to the organizers for thinking outside the box. It’s not often I meet so many like-minded music enthusiasts like myself, playing records on the same bill. I can’t wait to get back if they will have me and I think loads more people will attend when word gets out.
Let’s talk a bit about your record label Bumako Recordings. The label has seen some exceptional releases since its launch in 2007, mostly from yourself but also close friends such as Lady Blaktronika and Denis Clifford to name but two. What does the future hold for Bumako? Will be seeing any new wax up on the Phonica walls in the coming months?
This label was originally started to give me an outlet to put out my uncategorizable music or so distributors said to me. When I opened the door to bring in select artists, I wanted artists whose music also didn’t fit neatly into any one box. Denis Clifford’s music is one such artist, along with other young talents Sean Bird, Makkhen Gigga, from SA and one or two more coming into the fold. However, in all this, my own output for the label has been nearly non-existent for the last year or so. So the big change is that the next two releases or so will be all new music from me and also a huge thanks to the beautiful fans I have who keep supporting me. I am working on an EP for late fall, to early winter depending on pressing plants, so around October/November with some more following shortly before I release an EP from Denis Clifford and Sean Bird.
And what about other releases from you on other labels?
I have an LP coming on Deep Art Sounds sometime this year I hope which I am looking forward to all of you hearing. Also, there should be a new Sound Warrior release probably at the beginning of 2019.
What’s it like having a fellow DJ and producer for a husband? Will you and Jus-Ed be releasing any new music together in the foreseeable future?
It can be good, it can be bad… it has its benefits and downfalls like everything else. We are supportive of each other’s careers even though we each have our distinct style and approach to making music.
Though we do have the EDJ label, I don’t know if we will be releasing any music together anytime soon as we are both running in different directions. We do however DJ together as Ed & Jen which is going great and we are getting more bookings together which is I think a good night for anyone that hears us play together. We played last at Freerotation together and as always we really push each other to dig deep into the crates and take dancers on a journey.
Are any of the records in this mix recent discoveries? If so, where did you stumble across them and what drew you to them?
Yeah, there are a few that are recent discoveries. The Arno Mathieu record and the Glen Underground record which I somehow missed though to be fair he does have quite a lot of records out so that can happen.
Hmm, I was just looking online for some new music to get on vinyl and saw those two… luckilyIi saw Oye records had the last copies in stock and since it is close to my place, I ran down and got them. I have weird reasons for buying music sometimes, but I know in the first minute or so if it is something that appeals to me or not.
You’ve become something of an ambassador for female DJs in recent years. We were wondering whether there are any particular newcomers to the scene that you feel we ought to keep an eye on?
I consider it a privilege to be an ambassador and refer to myself professionally as an ambassador for the music I love, house music culture which is the thing that I want to educate about and being in this business from the standpoint of a woman for the amount of time I have. Having said that, it means my standard is kinda high when peeping out newcomers to the scene because well in my day there really was no other option for women but to be above and beyond. My friend Theo told me about a young lady in Detroit that I need to check out but other than that its hard to cut through the hype and see who’s the real deal out here. I will throw full support to any women out here doing it for real and I have no problem showing my love and support. So check back with me, I’m sure there will be some names to drop.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Well, I am working on the next phase of my career which is educational initiatives… I am in the process of creating workshops online and in specific venues where I can mentor, offer creative production techniques, and guide everyone from beginners to seasoned veterans to specific approaches to grow creatively thereby giving new life to their artistic endeavours.
I am teaching music production courses at DBS Berlin along with everything else I do and I have also recently done some DJ workshops specifically with Spoon DJ Workspace in Berlin which has a great program geared towards women, trans, non-binary to learn how to DJ with vinyl. I am also starting very slowly the long process of something I have dreamed about which to document house music culture roots eventually I hope to find an actual home like a museum where it can preserve and folks from all walks of life can come learn.
I will have information on my site bumakorecordings.com and my facebook page about the workshops, how to have me come to your city, where to join them online and so on. I am pretty excited about this! Other than that, make more music, play more amazing parties what else is there.
Thank you for the kind words and I hope you dig the mix.