‘It’s so important that we have more POC and fem DJs’; NAK on opening at Bourke St’s React

words by sidonie bird de la coeur

We speak to NAK about the art of playing the opening set and the importance of queer, femme representation in Melbourne/Naarm’s DJing scene.

Kicking off the party at Bourke Street Courtyard as part of Novel’s series React tomorrow is NAK, an up-and-coming Melbourne-based DJ. “The React event series is really special to me because it was where I was introduced to those deeper and darker shades of techno – genres like breaks, trance and electro that are all hallmarks of my sound now,” she told us.

“I have a really particular memory where I saw Jennifer Loveless play at one of the React’s, maybe 2 years ago.”

“She played a phenomenal set that night, and seeing an Asian woman up on the stage made me think for the first time that DJing was something I could do too, as someone of Asian background myself.”

“It was like before I’d reserved the idea of ​​DJing in my head as a man-only activity, unless you were a super influential, international or cool white woman.”

“The opportunity to see someone with the same cultural background as me up on stage was so empowering – which is why it’s so important that we have more POC, fem and gender non-conforming DJs.”

What you need to know

  • React takes place at Bourke St Courtyard June 25
  • The headliner is Danish techno DJ, Schacke
  • Kicking off at 3pm, the final release tickets are moving fast

Keep up with the latest music news, features, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

Now, two years on, NAK is opening set for Novel’s takeover of Bourke Street Courtyard tomorrow. “The setup Novel does for their Bourke St Courtyard is insane – speakers, lights, projections – so I’m stoked to be a part of that. Also feels like such a full circle moment, I remember listening to Schacke’s Kisloty People on repeat with my friends a couple years ago.”

“If I’m recording a mix at home, that’s completely planned – I usually have an idea in my head of the journey I want to take the listener through,” she said when I asked her what her process for planning mixes is. “If it’s a DJ set at an event, I’ve actually been trying to walk in without a plan… I’ll just prep a playlist beforehand with way more songs than I need that I think will fit the vibe of the event.”

“Someone once told me that all their best DJ sets have been entirely improvised, as you have to read the crowd throughout the event – ​​you really can’t perfectly plan and predict where the set will go.”

“Since I’m opening this event, I’m more so setting the mood for the night, warming up the dance floor etc. so that means slower tempos, grooves, breaks as people start to fill in. Lowkey, opening sets are hard because everyone’s sober…”

“I’m genuinely just excited to play my music on nice speakers, it makes such a huge difference,” Novel has so many resources and they really know how to pull off a party so this is gonna be sick. Literally my React playlist at the moment is just every song I want played on big speakers.”

“It’s really nice full circle moment to return to React, so surreal to think I’m going to be standing right where I saw Jennifer play.”

React at Bourke Street Courtyard is on from 3pm, on Saturday 25 June. Grab your tickets by heading here.

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