Women Who DJ

Women Who DJ

Berlin's Rising Stars:
Kikelomo, Deadlift aka Bonka & KAT KAT TAT

While mainstream media outlets would lead you to believe that DJing is a man's world, three rising stars in Berlin are proving that women who DJ are holding their own behind the decks. Kikelomo, Deadlift aka Bonka, & KAT KAT TAT share in their own words their relationship to their work and their thoughts on the music industry.

Photography: Rae Tilly
Kikelomo wears: golden creoles from Pilgrim,
pearl necklace from Pieces
fluffy knit top from The Ragged Priest
leo cycle shorts from Urban Classics,

silver knee-high boots from Lamoda


Kikelomo is a London-born, Berlin-based radio presenter and DJ. She hosts the radio show ‘Pass The Aux’ on Cashmere Radio and is a graduate member of the collective No Shade, a club night and DJ training program for femme, trans and non-binary DJs.

Expression through music has always been around me, I haven’t really known anything else. I used to play around on an old Roland keyboard synthesizer as a child. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew what sounded good to me! Even influences in my environment, for example, music that was played on car rides or at family gatherings, growing up, were all reinforcing expression through music.

At the same time, music doesn’t always have to be about expression. The process of creation can do a lot of things for people. I honestly feel like there is something scientific about the way people connect with music, right down to the sonic frequencies that trigger reactions in our bodies; it’s literally resonance.

Through music, you can also deliver messages in an impactful way and it really enhances the beauty of the meaning and intensity of storytelling. I listen to this podcast series called Dissect which delves into the meaning behind certain musicians’ discographies. The series on Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, specifically the “Pyramid” episode, is a testament to the depth that musical expression can reach! I’m almost overwhelmed by the new found possibilities.

Music is also about the audience. I am reaching people outside the spaces created for women by women. I think that mainly comes from a combination of social media and the particular line ups I am a part of. Due to the genres I play, I probably get to play on a wider variety of line ups given how eclectic my sound is.

Concerning the industry itself, I working primarily in Berlin, so it can be easy to get caught up in the Berlin bubble where there is so much discussion about inclusivity and minorities in music. But what about the rest of the industry on a global scale? The music technology companies, the record labels, radio stations; the people pulling the strings? Although some people feel like these institutions are becoming irrelevant, I think making changes in mindsets at the top is important.

Representation isn’t actually that intersectional in the mainstream, particularly when it comes to people of colour – especially non-male DJs. I started out playing a lot of grime, and I don’t think there is much non-male representation in the public eye outside of London. There have been times where I have been behind a DJ booth waiting to play and people assumed I was the DJ’s girlfriend, dancer/groupie, and was asked to leave. There is a subconscious mindset in some spaces that needs to change.

There is also a pressure for women in the public eye to maintain some sort of image, and this can be exhausting as well as frustrating. People sometimes put limitations on what your achievements can be based on their perception of your image. You hear statements like “Oh, she’s actually really good!” The presumption that someone isn’t talented just because their aesthetic is appealing is ignorant.

I would love to see more diverse representation in terms of race, class, gender identity, educational background and so on. Also, more representation from the continent of Africa in the mainstream; there is so much good stuff coming from there.

Sometimes our community can also be our own worst enemy. I’ve seen examples of marginalised people tearing others from the community down, undermining and dismissing achievements of others, in addition to proliferating an exceptionally toxic call out culture. I still think there is much more work to be done within our own communities to make sure everyone feels represented and has equal opportunities, as well as cultivating safe spaces for discussion without fear of blacklisting or public shaming. It’s one of the best ways we can grow! Having a support system can really aid in this. Mine is unbelievable. My friends and family stan for me, and I stan for them. I feel so lucky to have them in my life.


Photography: Rae Tilly
Deadlift aka Bonka wears: chain with lock from Urban Outfitters
chain with clip from Glamorous
satin two-piece from The Girlcode,
tabi boots from Maison Margiela

Deadlift aka Bonka

Deadlift is a Berlin-based DJ and producer who got her start in Montreal’s underground rave scene. In addition to hosting her party, Death Drive, she curated a monthly program on the now-defunct Berlin Community Radio. In 2019, she released he debut EP Cement Block via INTA Records under her alter-ego, Bonka. In February 2020, she was a resident of Amplify Berlin, where she developed and performed a live set consisting of her own productions and vocals.

I started with group piano lessons when I was three. I felt immensely frustrated that I wasn’t an absolute maestro when I first started. I continued lessons for over a decade and would often kick the piano when I practised. In the meantime, I discovered lots of different types of music as a kid – listening to the radio, to random CDs and tapes, later on, the internet.

I was into pop, Eurodance, rap, R&B, emo, classic rock, indie rock, punk (almost all at once, but not quite). For a really long time, I thought I could only appreciate music, not make it. In university, a group of guys I befriended suggested I try DJing. I did. It was fun. It was hard. I doubted myself a lot. I still do. I never thought I could make music, but there was something inside me nagging me to do it. It took a while, but I started messing around with gear and Ableton, et voila, I made some tracks.

When it comes to inspiration, I get it from so many different places – men’s cheekbones. Trees. Lana Del Rey. Finding myself in absurd situations. Moving beyond caring about material possessions and appearances and towards openness and compassion for everyone. Maintaining a connection to the divine.

An aspect I love about DJing is that it is inherently a social endeavour. It’s meant to be an exchange. There’s energy circulating in the space between the person selecting the music and all the others dancing or taking in the frequencies. I had a show on Berlin Community Radio (RIP!) for a bit, and it was incredible realising that I had a reach further than our little studio in Berlin. A couple of times, people visiting the city would come up to me and tell me they listened to my show. So cool! Whatever it is that I’m doing, I hope that it makes people feel okay to be unapologetically themselves and that they feel at peace. Whenever I DJ or throw parties, I try to cultivate an atmosphere of love and acceptance and presence.

However, we still have a long way to go when it comes to equal representation in our industry. Whilst representation in the “underground dance music scene” is better, it’s kind of unfortunate that major mainstream changes didn’t really seem to happen without the tireless work of collectives like female:pressure and Discwoman addressing certain issues and individuals, and compiling important data on festival lineups.

At times, especially earlier on, I felt like being female was a disadvantage; that I couldn’t be taken as seriously as my male counterparts. I’ve been completely disrespected by a few men in the industry, including bookers, sound guys, bartenders…I got the impression that they wouldn’t treat men the same way, but who knows?

Over the years, I have learned that my reaction to all of that nonsense is equally, if not more important, to what people say or how they’re treating me. I’ve gotten better at brushing it all off instead of getting angry. I would rather just show up, do my best, and feel [some] power in that than trying to engage in lower-level bullshit that ultimately won’t matter in a few days. To be honest, the biggest struggles I’ve had to face are my own fears within myself. I acknowledge that I am definitely at more of an advantage in all this than others, given my intersection of identities.

I want us to get to a point where a woman or marginalised person can stand out on their own without needing the cred of being affiliated with a particular collective or group. Of course, these associations can provide a tremendous amount of support and build a sense of community, which is great and essential! I think we’re getting there, though. In general, I think we should all be kinder to one another, give people starting out a chance, share our skills, collaborate with people outside our immediate circles, and take ownership of the messages we share through our music.


Photography: Rae Tilly
KΛT KΛT TΛT wears:
oversized neon hoodie from Noisy May,

rings with jewels from DesignB London
rhinestone belt from New Look,
peeptoe over-knee boots from ASOS Design


K ΛT KΛT TΛT is a Berlin-native DJ and music journalist. After spending nine years in Argentina’s underground art and music scene, K ΛT returned to Berlin undertaking a residency at Transit Chemnitz, while curating her weekly radio show, TRΛSHMISSION BERLIN. Alongside her music night, random, she also teaches women how to DJ with vinyl.

Despite being a part of the electronic music scene since I was 19, I have no words for my relationship with music. Maybe because I’m an autodidact and [it’s a] somewhat solitary process—which was never talked about or questioned—by me or my surroundings until I came back to Berlin five years ago.

My return to my birthplace also became a moment of immersion in professionalised circumstances. In this context, it is important to remember who I am and what I stand for, as this is what I do. Being free and not free all at the same time, working independently and part of a process – it’s best to forget everything and anything and just do and freely serve expression. In this sense, it is an ongoing search and fascination. Sometimes emotional, sometimes technical, and sometimes political.

I have been part of this scene for so long that I felt that in the beginning, the term “DJ” was some kind of faceless servant to sound aloud. Nevertheless, I felt techno was androgynous. We were all equal, kind of sexless creatures lost in fog and strobe lights.

Of course, I realised later on that it wasn´t that simple. Women were supposedly part of the scene to admire and serve interests. Female DJs were even dubbed “menwomen” in some forums. I knew some pioneer females and they served as big inspiration. I also felt there was a lot of support and understanding, no rivalry between them. But they were very unusual, and I think androgyny was just my way of dealing with this. I can see a whole new generation of females rising, being ultra-feminine and sensual in such a collective way. It is amazing.

The new female wave of producers, promoters, DJs, live acts, dancers, bloggers, feminists in general, is just amazing and blowing my mind. And this is only just the beginning.

Still, there is no question that it is hard for any woman who DJs who appears in a public space-and takes over a typically male sphere-to become independent from being measured by her looks and profile; especially as these are “traditionally” female virtues. So most female people who make into the limelight are good looking and know how to work it.

Nevertheless, females are not taken seriously for their skills and rather measured by their looks, and treated as if our success is because of the looks rather than skills. Basically, females have to work twice or three times as hard to be taken seriously.

Still, we are at least now talking about sexism in the industry. Since we started to count the number of females booked in Berlin with female:pressure in 2013, it became obvious for the first time that there were some structural disadvantage being made visible. And practices have been exposed ever since. The number of supporters of a wholesome balanced worldview spectrum has constantly grown, most people instinctively feel it is beautiful to have the full range of flavours around instead of the stereotypical representations of the status quo. I want to continue to see this kind of change, which is why I also spend my time teaching women how to DJ on vinyl.


Photography by Rae Tilly exclusively for YEOJA Mag. Styling by Olivier Mohringe. Hair and Makeup by Melissa Righi.

Opening Image: deadlift aka bonka wears: chain with lock from Urban Outfitters
, chain with clip from Glamorous
, satin two-piece from The Girlcode. kikelomo wears: golden creoles from Pilgrim, pearl necklace from Pieces
, fluffy knit top from The Ragged Priest
, leo cycle shorts from Urban Classics,
 silver knee-high boots from Lamoda. KΛT KΛT TΛT wears: oversized neon hoodie from Noisy May
, rings with jewels from DesignB London
 rhinestone belt from New Look, peeptoe over-knee boots – ASOS Design

For more music-related articles, check out our profile on Dai Burger and Tami T.