DJ Culture Week: Free Your Ass and Your Mind Will Follow

Happy DJ Culture Week! We’re celebrating the release of DJ Culture in the Mix, a groundbreaking edited collection that takes a critical academic look at international DJ culture. On Day 3, co-editor Anna Gavanas (Linköpings Universitet, Sweden) delves into the gendered side of the DJ discussion.

Anna Gavanas in Gearjunkies

In  2012 I explained my involvement in DJ Culture in the Mix to the online electronic music culture magazine Gearjunkies, including my textual contribution to DJ Culture in relation to my own music practices as a DJ, producer and label owner.

Just over a year later, at the end of September 2013, I presented the completed DJ Culture in the Mix at the 2013 Swedish Book Fair. Here is a video (in Swedish) from one of the events, in conversation with legendary Swedish musician and author Marie Selander:


Both Marie and I have written books about gender in music scenes based on both of our experiences and on interviews with musicians, producers, and DJs; Marie has been active since the late 1960s and I have been active since the late 1990s. During our discussion we analyzed the persistent under-representation of female musicians throughout different genres and time periods, from jazz to rock to electronic dance music.

Marie  and I also discussed how female musicians and their contributions are erased in history writing, as well as the masculinization of norms and representation in music scenes. We addressed social networks in DJ culture, the centrality of technology, and the sexualization of (young) women in music scenes. During our conversation I presented my chapter, “DJ Technologies, Social Networks, and Gendered Trajectories in European DJ Cultures,” written with Rosa Reitsamer, which offers our explanation of the under-representation of female DJs in electronic dance music cultures.

Being a DJ/producer, it is not enough for me to just WRITE about DJ scenes and the structural dynamics of electronic dance music scenes. I want to take a more full-on approach and sonically engage with the DJ cultures I address as an anthropologist. As a participant DJ and producer I want to impact my scenes by making new sounds and influencing bodies on dance floors, not just the minds of those who read texts about music scenes. Free your ass and your mind will follow!

For instance, I composed and produced the track “Technomad Communitas” as a comment on DJ culture by means of sound. This track is influenced by the retro sounds of 1980s New Wave, and specifically the New Order song “Bizarre Love Triangle,” which to me triggers queer collective memories of “coming out” on the dance floor at the time when I was DJ-ing in queer clubs on the US East Coast. “Technomad Communitas” is a soundtrack to a queer DJ revolution. The track conveys the chaos and determination, and the revolutionary, infectious and irresistible build up of communitas–when hierarchies and categories are torn away–if only temporarily. The video/visual interpretation of  “Technomad Communitas” was made by Martin Borell, a visual artist currently making the lesbian action movie Dyke Hard [Ed. warning: Slightly NSFW]:


The track was originally made for my first Nomads In Sound compilation, for Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture. The Nomads In Sound compilation series is released on my label, Meerkat Recordings, and is currently in its third volume.

During my work on the DJ Culture in the Mix collection I have continued to compose and produce auditive takes on the DJ themes that have I co-edited textually. I have released two EPs as Gavana during this time, Vicious Vibrations and Culture Vulture. On my Gavana debut EP, Vicious Vibrations (Meerkat Recordings 2013), I re-visit the dancehall culture of Kingston’s soundsystem tradition and its strategies from below by transgressing scarce resources and oppression. Here is the video for the EP with snippets of the tracks, including some video footage of me DJing.

DJ Culture in the Mix is available via Amazon or wherever academic books are sold. Click here to request an exam copy.

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