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DICE Festival & Conference 2019Spotlights on Dai Burger & Tami T
29 November 2019
This November, YEOJA Mag became an official media partner for DICE Berlin; a three-day music festival and conference creating an alternative model for music spaces.
What is DICE Berlin?
DICE Berlin is a three day series of music and events, platforming interdisciplinarity artists across various mediums. This year’s extensive programme featured lectures, workshops, panels, artist talks, and reading groups, plus a hard-hitting live music programme, including drag performances, sound installations, and commissioned works.
DICE 2019: PANELS & PERFORMANCES
The conference took place in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, with Tabokirche and Bi Nuu as the primary venues. The former is a two-story church boasting lofty high ceilings and booming acoustics. The latter, a well-known gig venue housing much of the conference’s live concerts.
The day programme consisted of panels, talks, and workshops geared towards topics of inclusivity, funding the creative arts, and collective responsibilities. Highlights include Dr. Edna Bonhomme and Dr. Luiza Prado‘s talk on “Collectivity Deconstructed,” CIJ’s (Center for International Justice) Dr. Emilia Roig on intersectionality and dismantling the master’s tools, and lastly, Friederike Beier‘s “Temporalities of Care: Feminist Explorations of Time and Care Under Capitalism.”
The night programme saw international performers take to the stage, including riveting stages by Juliana Huxtable, Crystallmess, Shygirl, and Sanni Est.
DICE 2019: SOUNDBITES
Ahead of her show at Bi Nuu, we caught up with New York rapper Dai Burger to discuss her love for Berlin, new music, and what it looks like to build your artistry as an independent performer. Shortly after, we spoke to Swedish electro-pop musician Tami T, who gave us a few insights into her musical practice, why she plays phallic instruments, and what the future holds for trans-feminine musicians.
You flew in from Queens, right?
Dai Burger: I did. I live in Long Island but I am a New York City girl. Born in Queens, but I’ve lived in Brooklyn. I’ve got friends in the Bronx and the New Jersey connect. All that.
Tell us how you got introduced to DICE festival and what made you want to say “yes” to performing.
Dai Burger: I’ve done stuff in Berlin before, you know We Make Waves Berlin? And you know, I won’t say it’s a second home, but I feel familiar when I come here it; feels like I’ve been here and it’s always a great vibe and a great Plus, I saw the lineup and I was like “hell yeah.”
What are you presenting?
I’m presenting me, myself, my artistry. That just includes being yourself to the fullest. I want you to come as you are. Just a bunch of people being who we are in a safe space. Tonight we will have a nice medley presented by myself.
You’re an artist I’ve followed for quite some time now and out of the many rappers that have come from New York, you’re probably one of the most consistent in your output.
Dai Burger: It’s OK if you’re figuring it out, but me, I’ve just always been very self-assured. And because of that, I’m able to always arrive and be what you probably expect but still [do] the unexpected. That’s still part of me.
Musically, what are you giving listeners today?
Dai Burger: Musically I’m giving them stuff that they probably know from the internet and some new stuff from my upcoming album. It’s called Bite The Burger and you can take that as a further look into who I am.
What’s been the process since your last formal project in 2017?
Dai Burger: Yeah, 2017 was my debut album [Soft Serve] and I’m just so happy with the input and the outreach of my sophomore album; the give and takes of my career. All I wanna’ do is make people dance and have a good time and bask in who they are.
Who would you like to partner with musically outside of your immediate music circle? Anyone on this lineup?
Dai Burger: Well, on this album [Bite The Burger] I linked up with my longtime friend, Cakes Da Killa, who y’all might be familiar with. Cakes’ first song he ever did was featuring me, so he came in with a bang and we’re taking it out with a bang.
I like connecting with people who are still working, still grinding. You know, putting our stamp on this new genre. We’ve kind of mothered it and you didn’t even know. It’s queer, people of colour, open self-assured, rap; almost like anthems to the people. Those are the people I wanna’ reach out to. RahRah Gabor, too, she’s on the bill [for DICE]. She’s a New York/Jersey native. It’s kinda like family, you know?
When is the new album coming out? Is there a date set?
Dai Burger: The date is December 6th. It’s very soon and I’ve literally been preparing since my last album Soft Serve, so it’s expanded over time but I think that’s the beauty of it. It’s a well rounded, well-versed project. I’m always trying to give you a little bit of everything, but it still plays like a story. You don’t wanna’ skip anything because you might miss part of the story.
In terms of your own story, has there been any major setbacks that you’ve had to overcome working as an independent artist?
Dai Burger: Just staying true and staying confident because there are some people who don’t see it for my craft, and that’s OK. But even when I think that or feel that I just stick to the self-assured part.
What are your hopes and ambitions, post-release of the new album?
Dai Burger: More shows! Performing is my life and my lifestyle. I started out as a backup dancer. I’m literally just a girl from Queens, no silver spoons.
Does that New York “hustle” mentality come into play?
Dai Burger: It’s inbred! I’ve seen hustle in other places all over the west, but there’s nothing like coming to New York and having to make your rent, feed yourself, and having to still turn a look on a budget.
Is there anything that gives you that same love outside of music?
Dai Burger: Who I am, is the music! I love to dress up and express myself. My normal being is over explanatory, overdone. The music is…I’m really just being me.
On the production-side who do you work with?
Dai Burger: I have a good friend, his name is Saint and he’s L.A. based. Speaking of which, we also have an EP that will be coming out shortly after the release of Bite The Burger. It’s called Dessert. He’s always been so great and on point. His beats, they bang like a hammer. I also have my Baltimore connect, Mighty Mark, and that’s where I get a lot of my dance anthems.
Do you feel like there’ll be a time where you’ll be in a position to mentor other young musicians?
Dai Burger: I already am. I have a music initiative called “Where My Girls?” based on one of my songs. We bring girls ages 8 to 18 to my home studio, The Brewery, and we give them a tour, songwriting sessions and we do leave with songs. Nobody told me that I could actually do this, so I’m there to tell them they can. I’m giving it back and paying it forward.
What else are you working on?
Dai Burger: I started my own lip-line, it’s called Lip Gravy Comestics. It’s all-inclusive, cool colours, cruelty-free, and just a good product. I stand behind it. It’s mine and I’m sharing it with you. It’s online; we have an Instagram and we have a website.
Any final words?
Just be patient, be open, and keep watching because the grind is non-stop. I’m like New York, I never sleep.
What was it like moving back to Sweden, after living in Berlin for some time?
Tami T: The first time I moved to Germany was over 11 years ago. I moved back to Sweden three years ago but it’s my first time living in Stockholm. I love it but I miss my friends, obviously, and all the queer spaces that I can’t seem to find here.
I’m always intrigued about artists that come to Berlin and are actually able to produce things. The city sometimes feels like a playground.
Tami T: That’s so true. It gets to be too many people coming with their ambitions of focusing on their art and then just partying and going home after a few months.
When you first came to Berlin, what kind of communities were you interested in working with?
Tami T: I lived in Berlin three different times. The first time was half a year, the second time maybe two years and the third time, four years. I worked with different circles of friends each time. I wasn’t really in contact with the queer scene until my third time. When I started doing the music I’m doing now, I was introduced to those circles.
What informed the sound of your music at the time? Berlin is known for its techno, but you were essentially making bright, electro-pop.
Tami T: I don’t know many other people in Berlin that do music, but everyone I know, they don’t really like my music (laughs). And I don’t really like their music. Most people are doing techno or sound art that I don’t really understand. So, I don’t really know if it influenced me that much. I’d been spending a lot of time on dancefloors in Berlin, so I learned [to make] what I’d like to dance to. But maybe that’s because I’m making a dance, remix version of my album which will probably make it more noticeable that I’ve lived in Berlin.
I really enjoyed your album High Pitched and Moist. Structurally, sonically, and lyrically it was well-made. What was it like putting it together given that it would be your debut LP?
Tami T: Before I only released singles so, I’m so slow when it comes to releasing music; like one single every year or every second year. It was so nice to have this big project because I always knew what I was doing each day. It’s hard when you don’t have a boss or anything. It was like having a friend to work with all the time. Making an album was fun. I could write songs that maybe wouldn’t work by themselves but would make sense in the context of the album.
You’re an independent artist and the album is all your own work. That’s a lot to take on.
Tami T: Yeah, but I really enjoy every single part of it. I also like tackling the mastering and mixing of things. It would probably be mixed a bit better if I let a professional mixer do it, but the goal with my music is that it’s much of me as possible and as much fun as possible for me to make it.
So your record came out in March this year and rounding off towards the end you performed it at DICE. What was it like working with the festival?
Tami T: Oh, it was nice! It doesn’t really matter what kind of party it is, even if it’s a queer party, there’s still a 50-50 chance it’ll be run by douchebags, but this was so amazing. But on the day of my performance, I was feeling so bad, actually, because I’d been dealing with stomach issues, and on the day of, I woke up an infection in my wisdom tooth. In a way, it physically wasn’t my best performance, but I was focussing so much on taking the energy from everyone in the room. I was just trying to feel all the amazingness.
That’s such a strong move. I’m glad you were able to do that. Did you end up performing your album?
Tami T: Not every song. It’s almost hard to know how to perform electronic music live. I don’t want to just sing on top of a backing track, so it always takes me quite a long time to come up with how to make the live arrangements for my music. I think I performed six songs from the album and then some songs from before.
What do you like to have on your stage set-up when performing?
Tami T: I had this new instrument I just made, it was a bow instrumented, like a violin, but the sound is heavily processed. I try to challenge myself to play instruments that are maybe visually interesting to look at because I don’t really have it in me. I wish that in my next life, I’m going to be a natural-born performer. Some people can be just so interesting with a microphone on stage, but I really don’t have that in me. I need to challenge myself.
I think it’s really cool that you make your instruments. That’s pretty badass.
Tami T: I’ve always been super into electronics. It’s such a luxury to be able to work with electronics and that it’s also my job.
What’s been your favourite instrument to make?
Tami T: A musical strap-on that I play. It’s electronic and super simple; a metal pipe with a contact microphone inside which then goes to my soundcard where the sound is heavily processed. I play it using drumsticks.
Festivals like DICE aim to be as inclusive as possible across different intersections. Was this a safe space for you and did you feel comfortable performing your work given your subject matters?
Tami T: Yeah it was super-duper nice. Everything from the soundcheck to the backstage people taking care of you. It was like a cosy living room in the backstage with everyone. Yeah, super safe and welcome.
Are you touring with this album or are you taking a break and focusing on the next project? What’s happening with you, musically, right now?
Tami T: I never really tour. I don’t have a booking agent or anything. I just have the occasional gig now and then, and I usually say yes. I really don’t have a grand plan. Every morning I wake up, I like doing what I feel like doing. Now, it’s both working on my life and making new versions of songs from the album to perform live and also working on remixes.
Would you like to work with any collaborators on any future projects or are you happy just kind of crafting your own lane for the time being?
Tami T: I don’t know. I have lots of friends who make amazing music that I somehow would love to work with, but I also enjoy working alone so much. It would be nice, but I don’t know. I find it so hard to work with others sometimes, especially with lyrics. For me, it’s almost like a diary and then it can be so hard to share that process with someone.
Leading off from that, how do you write your lyrics? How do they come to you?
Tami T: Usually, like a little phrase or a line I just have in my head, where I think “wow, this is something I would like to write about.” Or, it could be that I play a bit of music and then a line or lyric will come to me. But finishing lyrics is so fucking hard and it takes forever!
I’m also so strict with the pop-factor. It has to rhyme in the verse and chorus so that always makes it a bit harder. Making it rhyme, but making it work rhythmically too.
I have so much respect for pop. It’s often regarded as a throw-away genre or a money machine, but for artists that identify as queer and or trans, using that genre to talk about the stuff that’s affecting them but still making it bright, bold and catchy is such a skill.
Tami T: Yeah. It’s like somehow it makes it very accessible to a lot of people. So many people have heard lots of pop music before and if there’s a hook that makes you curious to remember the lyrics, I don’t know, it’s my favourite way of expressing myself.
Would you ever venture into another genre or incorporate other sounds and elements into your music?
Tami T: I do it a lot actually, just for fun by myself. Sometimes, when I’m making the music I really like it, it’s so much fun, but I know that other people are actually going to hear this. So, sometimes I make completely different music just for myself as a way of having fun and relaxing.
Right now, I’m making a lot of rock music with my guitar that I would never ever sing for anyone else just because it’s such a relaxing thing for me. Also, it’s fun to try and like, mimic genres that I don’t really like so much.
Photographs courtesy of DICE Berlin. Be sure to check out Dai Burger and Tami T on Instagram. For more art & culture, check out our top 10 recommended postcolonial reads by writers of colour.