DJ Funafuji Moves from Cape Town to NYC [Interview]
DJ Funafuji, the “Queen of Dubstep” of Cape Town, South Africa, has recently moved to New York City! Funafuji originally hails from the UK and music definitely has that original dubstep sound– you know, that low frequency, oscillator left wide open sound. Her beats are much more sensual and have that “underground” feel that is missing in the popular brostep of today. However, despite her reputation, when she performs she plays a range of electronic music, everything from dub to deep house.
Funafuji, AKA Safiyya Bryce, moved to Cape Town to study medicine but continued to play music on the side, really creating and cultivating the dubstep scene in Cape Town and starting the monthly dubstep showcase “Step Up” with four friends. South Africa has a distinct and strong electronic scene which has been developing since the early 1990s (fun fact: Ultra and Sensation have booth established themselves in South Africa this year and the African version of Burning Man– Afrika Burn– is held in South Africa). In particular, house music in South Africa exploded during the 1990s and is still a major electro genre. SA house music can be heard everywhere: on the streets, in shops, and on the radio. A specific subgenre of South African house music, kwaito, is defined by its percussive loops and slower tempo. If you’re interested in house music in South Africa check out this great video from Resident Advisor:
Sensible Reason sat down with Funafuji to talk about the development of dubstep in Cape Town, the influence South Africa has had on her music, and why she decided to take the leap and move half way around the world to NYC:
Sensible Reason: When and how did you start DJing?
Funafuji: I began DJing in Cape Town. In my first year of university, which was about 9 years ago. (I moved to Cape town in 2004.) I had a huge music collection and was always making mixed tapes for people and a friend of mine gave me the idea to DJ and it all happened so quickly. I was given an early slot at a reggae night, every Thursday which I did for about a year before moving on to other things. It was a great time, I got to DJ at the dancehalls in the Cape Flats and I did a radio show on MuthaFM with Teba, a well known reggae artist in SA. This time was very formative for me and I was lucky to have such great mentors.
SR: In Cape Town you helped to establish the “Step Up” music series. Can you tell us more about what that is and why you got involved in that?
Funafuji: A group of friends (2 from south London and one South African) and I decided to start Step Up as there was no where that was playing dubstep at the time. It was a very exciting time for all of us. Discovering this odd sound, scrabbling around trying to get our hands on any dubstep we could. Ordering vinyl from the U.K, waiting three weeks for a few songs to arrive in the post.We were all quite young then too so it was really OUR music. We watched it come into being. We continued the party for about 4-5 years but it was hard to combat all the noise and chainsaw that dubstep [has become]. The crowds mostly wanted to hear that and we felt like it was a bit of struggle to carry on. The Step Up soundsystem still some what exists and I’m sure we’ll do things together in the future.
Funafuji: I came to Cape Town when i was 20 and it was the first time I’d really started clubbing and thats when i got into electronic music. I grew up on reggae, soul, hip hop. My first few years of DJing where predominately dancehall and reggae based. I play a mixture of stuff, bit of everything. South Africa has a great music scene, very diverse. The kwaito and SA house is phenomenal and has definitely influenced my music taste a lot.
Funafuji: I completely fell in love with New York (and a man) the first time I came here and always liked the idea of living here, my husband is based in New York so we decided to settle here for now.
Funafuji: I came to New York for the first time in 2012 to visit my then sort of boyfriend who is now my husband. I met him for the first time in Cape Town in 2008. I received an email out of the blue saying “Hi my name is Dave Q, I throw a dubstep party called Dub War in New York and heard you do the same in CT. I’d love to come and play, blah blah…” And I was like FUCK Dave Q! We had one day to organise a party so he could play. It was a Wednesday, which is a notoriously bad party night in Cape Town but some how we managed to throw together this amazing party in a small studio space which was run by another collective called Co-lab. The party was absolutely rammed and Dave Q played to what was to us at the time very different dubstep. It was more sparse and tribal. Amazing. Anyway, that’s where we first met and after not really being in contact for four years I some how ended up in New York to visit him and the rest is history.
Funafuji: We toyed with the idea of moving to Cape Town, and Dave actually moved to SA for 3 months last year but between both our careers for now it seemed the most sense for me to move here. I was always excited at the concept of living here so it wasn’t terribly difficult to make the choice. Of course, I left behind great friends and family and my career but it is all worth it.
Funafuji: I look forward to experiencing a different culture, discovering the city and eating masses of delicious food. I’d like to go to some more of Mike Q’s vogue nights and see Mykki Blanco perform. I’m fascinated by him and his music.
Funafuji: I really stopped being involved in music in a big way a few years ago. I graduated [from medical school] 2 years ago and had 2 intense years of working in a Hospital in Cape Town so there was no real time for music. I now have to embark on this rather long and painful journey of preparing for the USMLE which all international doctors have to do in order to practice medicine here. Basically redoing all your medical school exams. Yuck… So this year will be the first time in a long time that I will have time to put into music and I’m hoping to get right back into it!
Funafuji: Im playing at TBA in Brooklyn with Dave Q Feb 27 and Deep space with Francois K March 10.