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Interview with Emina Helena - The Future is Female

  • 06 September 2020, Sunday
Emina Helena

Emina Helena is a electronic music producer and DJ based in Berlin, Germany. She describes her music as polyphonic, eclectic, multifarious.

In response to Underplayed, a new documentary on gender and ethic equality issues in EDM premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, iMusician gets Emina's opinion of current existing issues in the electronic music circuit. She tells us her personal journey and the challenges she has faced as a woman in the industry and how we could imagine a more diverse future generation of electronic music artists.

EMINA HELENA Live at Rockhal video

Could you introduce us to yourself and your music?

Music has been part of my identity as far as I can remember. My formative journey as a musician began when my grandmother donated to me her old grand piano when I was around 4 years old. Instantly captivated by the sound of it, I could not help but persistently play on it. Increasingly attached to my passion for playing, I began composing my own piano pieces around the age of 11, introducing me to a whole new level of emotional expression in which I found comfort. A few years later I began performing my material publicly as a singer-songwriter, combining piano, guitar and vocals with a twist of my classical compositions. I had this project up until the age of 22, when I first discovered an interest in electronic music during my last year at university. It didn't take long before my interest in electronic music evolved and I began to DJ every weekend at various venues, attaining various DJ residencies.

Fascinated by the different type of energy I could express through DJ-ing only, I decided to also try producing electronic music, throwing myself into a completely new scope of musical creativity. I became so passionated by the possibilities of making music in this way that I ended up developing a new routine of spending days and nights in a row only focusing on electronic music production. With time I steadily I also began to integrate my instrumental background into the electronic scopes, which ultimately resulted in many different musical directions. Years later, I am still spending almost all my waking hours in my studio, continuing to fulfill and expand my creative spirit with a multi-curious approach, and forming my modulating Sound identity in the process.

What is you favorite events you played?

The most inspiring venue I played at is called Rockhal (the main music venue of Luxembourg). I choose this as my favorite mainly because every time I played there I am faced with a bigger challenge than usual. Not only because its the biggest venue I played at until now, but also because every time I played there I was booked to do the opening act before the main act comes up, which somehow adds to the pressure to do a really good job, which in turn seems to always inspire me extra. For example, last time I played there I opened up for Amelie Lens, and I used that opportunity to challenge myself to, for the first time, play an entire set with only my own electronic productions that nobody heard before. And ever since that experience I became more motivated to only DJ my own material in future.

Emina Helena in music studio

What is your creative process like? Where do you draw inspiration?

I feel that my creative process is not something I consciously have much control over, but I feel that it flows at its best when I try to not think, judge, or plan anything I'm doing when I am having a music session. Instead I just focus on what feels right and continue from there. Often i feel like I get into some kind of "zone", in which the energy I am omitting at that point flows easily, and abstract emotions become translated into a musical piece.

As to where I draw my inspiration from, as far as I'm aware I also don't consciously draw inspiration from any particular source apart from the source being a feeling or thought process at that particular time that I deem meaningful in some way or another. I do suppose though that anything that I experience or have experienced will in some way influence the direction of my inspiration.

Furthermore, I seem to somehow have an element of chaos in the whole process. I often struggle keeping overview and to know when a piece is truly finished. So i often make (way too) many versions of each track, to the point that one initial idea or track can turn into a completely different track depending on how long i continue to create. The benefit is of course that I end up having a lot of ideas/content, but the lack of structure makes it a bit difficult to consistently finish a track, but I suppose this is also part of a learning curve.

In light of the documentary Underplayed, do you experience gender or ethnic inequality in the music industry? How?

In my own experience, I actually never got exposed to any gender or ethnic inequality, apart from the observation that there seems to still be a lot more men working in this industry than women. I actually feel the fact that I'm part of the minority is somehow empowering. I especially felt that when I just started DJing back in 2010, when there were almost no women behind the decks in my hometown. As far as I can see though, the amount of women DJ-s has been on the rise over the past years, but I do feel that when it comes to music production that it is still extremely rare to see a woman as an electronic producer. Not sure why this trend persists, but maybe its because of the perceived technicalities that comes with electronic music production, or sound design in general.

Emina Helena in pink lighting

What do you think is the source of gender and ethnic inequality in the electronic music circuit? How do we tackle changing it?

Maybe the profession of DJ or electronic music producer is more "stereotyped" as being a male job, and therefore women are less inclined to consider even trying it or can even be scared away from trying it. On the other hand, it could also maybe be, that women are just generally not as interested building a career in the field just because they prefer other things, in the same way that generally, men tend to, overall, like football more than women do? Either way, I think trying to encourage and support women in the field is of course always good, but at the same time its also important not to discourage men in the process. because if for example, a festival would make a gender-equality division based only on gender and not on quality of music- many men might feel discriminated too and undervalued. So in general I don't think it should strictly be about the male/female ratio when it comes to it, but more about the quality of music which shines through, whether male or female and also no matter what ethnicity.

In your opinion, what women in electronic music are underplayed and you would like to hear more of? What do you love about their music?

A woman who calls herself "Machine Woman". I like the rough industrial sound she often has.

In the industry, who has guided you and your music? How have they supported you?

I would say the residencies I used to have for years back in Luxembourg definitely were of big help to continue doing electronic music consistently. Also, the opportunities I get from the booker at Rockhal who continues to book me to play the warm-up for some big artists I also see as a form of support.

Follow this artist on Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and SoundCloud.

Music distribution promotion - 20% off

In support of gender and ethnic equality in all genres of the music industry, iMusician is offering a 20% discount on music distribution for the month of September. Create an account, upload your release, and use the promo code PLAYEDM at checkout.

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