Meet Desiree, a remarkable rising DJ hailing from South Africa, whose work goes far beyond spinning tracks; it’s an intricate dance of sound and soul, an exploration of music’s power. The artist is currently sharing the spotlight with big names such as Keinemusik and Black Coffee, and she’s holding her own.
Desiree’s artistry is testament to the power of self-expression and storytelling through music. With a degree in politics, philosophy, and economics, she brings a certain depth to her sound, and seeks to use her platform to raise awareness and demystify topics closest to her. Now, she’s getting ready for her London Boiler Room, taking place October 19th.
Having shared with the world her intersex identity two years ago, the DJ brings a unique and authentic voice to the music industry. More than spinning records, she creates individual narratives that weave together different sounds and sensations. With her, the stage isn’t just a platform for beats; it’s also a platform for forging a more inclusive space, united by music and celebrating the beauty of diversity. Through her sets and her authenticity, she invites you to embark on an exploration of music’s capacity to change lives and shape conversations. Join us as we discuss her journey so far.
Hi Desiree, thanks for speaking with us. How did you discover your passion for music?
My passion for music was ignited during my youth in Ivory Park, a township in Johannesburg. I was fascinated by the blend of the visuals and sonics as well as how the artists developed their alter ego in the creative process or stage. As a fashion enthusiast, I was inspired by the music accompanying the runway shows I followed. Artists like Thom Yorke, Nick Cave and Warpaint were early influences. Coupled with my African roots, my passion for music grew, leading me to explore and collect a wide range of music and ultimately developing a unique taste which caught the attention of promoters and those on the dance floor.
Can you explain or describe what the initial appeal to get into DJing was for you?
My transition into DJing began during my university years in Johannesburg’s Braamfontein district, where I experienced the transformative power of the dance floor. As I continued to collect records and develop my own musical taste, I began envisioning myself as a DJ. This inner confidence and the desire to share music with others were the driving forces behind my journey into the DJ booth.
Could you take us through your creative process?
My creative process as a DJ involves a deep and continuous exploration of various musical styles and genres. I aim to curate sets that tell a compelling story, blending different sounds and emotions, invite the community to let loose, connect with their ethos – or opposite to– alter themselves. I find inspiration in the unique and infectious rhythms of my home nation, South Africa, while also taking pride in my eclectic tastes.
Could you tell us more about your alter ego. Is there any overlap between your performing persona and your private life? How much is Desiree a performance or character for you?
Desiree is not a character; it’s an authentic reflection of who I am as an artist. While there’s an element of alteration in DJing, it’s primarily an expression of myself. My public and private life are intertwined. My music reflects my passion and identity. There’s an energy surge on stage. I wouldn’t call it playing a character. It’s definitely a more heightened version of myself. Think of it as an extra splash of personality as an alteration.
Touching on your intersex identity now if that is okay. You only shared your intersex identity on social media two years ago. How have these last two years been with navigating this? How has this discovery for you impacted your identity?
Sharing my intersex identity was a deeply personal journey of self-acceptance and empowerment. These last two years have been transformative, marked by personal growth and a deeper connection with my identity. It has allowed me to be more authentic in both my personal and public life, and I’ve received incredible support from my community. It’s been transformative, like discovering a new dimension of who I am and embracing it wholeheartedly.
The term intersex is widely misunderstood, and intersex people are vastly underrepresented, so I think there is a lot of stigma and confusion surrounding the topic. How has your journey online and playing sets been since you shared this part of yourself on social media?
My journey as an intersex individual has been both enlightening and challenging. Sharing my identity has led to important conversations and increased awareness, but it has also highlighted the need for more education and understanding. Intersex can be a maze for folks to navigate, and that’s exactly why it’s so important to shine a light on it. Since I let the world in on my identity, it’s been an eye-opening journey. It’s not just about awareness; it’s about demystifying the topic. I strive to raise awareness on this topic through my various platforms. In my DJ sets, I aim to create an inclusive space where everyone can come together to celebrate music and diversity in all its wonderful forms.
There is a growing awareness of sexuality and the queer community across the world, but lesser so for intersex individuals. The music industry especially is still struggling with a lot of issues of representation in the mainstream, what has your experience been in working in such an environment?
Working in the music industry as an intersex individual comes with its unique challenges, but it’s also an opportunity to advocate for greater representation. I’ve encountered both supportive individuals and those who may not fully understand, but I believe that being true to ourselves can pave the way for more inclusivity in the industry.
In what ways do you feel the music industry can better support and amplify voices of intersex individuals? What changes, if any, do you wish to be implemented to make the space more inclusive?
The gist of it is that the more you book a diverse lineup (whether it’s musically or demographically) the more people from a diverse background will feel comfortable enough to let themselves go and enjoy your club or festival. This also goes for the staff you keep. More women behind the scenes means that you have a team that is more sensitive towards issues of diversity which includes recognition of intersex persons like myself. Providing safe spaces for dialogue, actively seeking out and promoting diverse talent, and creating inclusive policies and practices that embrace diversity in all its forms will be of great benefit not just to intersex individuals, but also others coming from marginalised groups.
Balancing privacy and representation can be challenging, how do you decide which aspects of your identity should be incorporated and shown to the public to raise awareness and what should remain just for yourself?
Striking the right balance between my privacy and public representation is all about a calculated approach. I decide what to share by evaluating its potential to bring about positive change in terms of awareness and understanding. While I keep certain aspects of my life under wraps, I’m always ready to step up if there’s an opportunity to spark change. I have a degree in politics, philosophy and economics, so rest assured that I am itching to raise awareness on many things.
If you weren’t a DJ, what do you imagine you would be doing instead?
As a kid, I always wanted to be a diplomat or political journalist, hence the degree I decided to pursue. I’ve also wanted to help raise awareness or try to better humanity in some form through promoting good relations. I do think that I am doing that at a smaller scale with my music as I am able to introduce music inspired by my roots to new audiences and ultimately uniting the rest of the world with the beautiful sounds coming out of Africa.
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