Hailing from Toronto (Canada), you probably wouldn’t think that Bambii is into dancehall, electronic, reggaetón and house, but expect the unexpected with her. She’s more than just a DJ who makes mixes, in fact, she’s created a party called Jerk that has become a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community and for people of colour, and the intersections between them. 
It’s one of the first of its kind back in her hometown and has grown a lot in size, but she has still managed to keep it as authentic and real as possible. This is her way of fighting against the pretentiousness and exclusionary nature normally associated with club culture, and this is also exactly what she wants to convey with her music, to be able to create social disruption. Have a listen to the exclusive mix that Bambii has done for us, and discover it for yourself. Rebellion never sounded so good!
Bambi, first of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I really just fell into DJing randomly. I was throwing a block party with my friend and became frustrated when trying to find DJs playing the music I wanted to hear. It was then that I just decided I would start. I didn't have any set ideas about it but when I played my first show and realized how it made me feel, I knew I had found something special. Back then I played dancehall, early 2000s, and house, but since then really expanded my repertoire.
How did you evolve as a DJ and how did you end up finding your signature sound?
When I started DJing I became obsessed with it and would DJ anywhere I could – bars, restaurants, yoga studios, etc. That really helped me practice and refine what I wanted to do. Travelling to do gigs in cities like Montreal and New York really opened up my perspective on electronic music and ultimately helped me solidify my identity as a DJ. Those two cities – especially Montreal – have incredible music scenes that were and continue to be really open to genres like global club, ballroom, reggaetón, jersey club, garage etc.
Being from Toronto (Canada), which isn’t known for having a dancehall scene – or anything like what you play, really – how did you know there was a market for it?
Toronto has a pretty significant Caribbean population, and even though that’s not really felt in the music that makes it to the global or mainstream market, all of us grew up listening to that. I’m Jamaican and it’s always been important to share that music alongside the other music I like because I think it’s been so influential to so many other genres and pop culture in general.
With your Jerk party in Toronto, you’re creating this safe space for the LGBTQ+ community as well as people of colour – and obviously the intersections between –, but why would you say that this is the best, or at least one of the best ways of creating this kind of environment? What is it about music in particular that can bring so many people together, and can be so comforting?
I think that Jerk remains diverse and regarded as a safe space because my first intention when I started it was to play for my friends. Club culture at its worst can be exclusionary and pretentious, and Jerk represented me wanting to make a space for the communities I was actually from. There is also a big focus on it being a platform for music exploration and I’ve had DJs from all over the world come and play.
“I think that music has the power to create spaces that socially disrupt people.”
What do you want people to take from your music?
I think that music has the power to create spaces that socially disrupt people. I want people to come away from my DJ sets or parties curious and open to hearing music that isn’t on the charts or even in the language they speak.
You’ve mentioned in other interviews that there’s this disconnection between what brands and parties do and what the people actually want. For example, the hosts will use a political message (inauthentically) to attract people, and that’s a thing you’d change, and are currently changing with your parties. However, what other aspects from the music or party industry do you reckon need changing?
There are so many things in the music industry that bother me. I think the things we see exaggerated the most are reflections of our idealisms as a society. The narrow definitions of beauty, sexuality, and gender that we see communicated in the mainstream are so harmful and show us how many people have been denied access to platforms and real label support because they did not fall into those margins. Often, I think of all the talented underground artists I know who should have such a bigger reach but probably won’t because of how exclusionary the industry is. Hoping that we see music as something that can reimagine our values rather than keep them at their most basic level.
I’ve seen that people call you a ‘dancehall DJ’, but although you do have that flair or touch in your music, I wouldn’t strictly call you that, as you include songs from different styles. For example, I’ve seen you play the sultry, chill After the Storm by Kali Uchis ft. Tyler, the Creator and Bootsy Collins, followed by a toned-down version of the provocative My Neck, My Back (Lick it) by Khia. What is it that you find so interesting between these contrasts? And what’s your creative process like?
I think that electronic production breaks rules between genres and can show that the same ideas that exist in one genre can exist in another. A lot of the music I play uses samples and breaks, and that allows me to flow freely between such different genres. I spend a lot of time looking for music either inside or out when I am at clubs. My playlists are mostly based on songs that I’ve been compiling for a couple of months, and it’s really based on whatever I am feeling at the moment. It could be really abstract or sometimes, I will go off a phrase or title that pops up in my head and start building it from that.
What would you say is the highlight of your career, and why?
Watching Jerk grow from three hundred people to one thousand and still be considered authentic is probably one of my career highlights. I think that’s really hard. When any project gets bigger or corporate in any way, it can lose its function or intention. I also went on tour throughout Asia last year, and that is something I could have never imagined for myself when I started.
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
(Laughs) I don’t know but I definitely want to be making music I love and working with other artists I admire. I want to be travelling and touring. I can’t communicate how much it means to me to be in a new place meeting other people who love music as much as I do.
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