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Fresh Kicks 108: Nazira

As founder of Almaty's vital DIY club night, ZVUK, and as a formidable DJ in her own right, Nazira has fostered immense change in Kazakhstan’s forward-thinking techno underground. As her influence on the local and global scene flourishes, DJ Mag catches up with the ambitious selector as she delivers an hour of kaleidoscopic techno as part of our Fresh Kicks mix series...

At the forefront of Kazakhstan’s burgeoning underground club scene is Nazira Kassenova. As founder of the vital DIY club night, ZVUK, in the city of Almaty, and as a formidable DJ in her own right, Nazira has, in just three years, fostered immense change in the local sphere, championing forward-thinking sounds and providing platforms and opportunities for eager upstarts.

The past year has seen Nazira’s impact on the local and gloabl scene flourish, enabling her to leave her job in agricultural research and take on music and DJing as her full-time gig. So far, so good – In 2019, her residency with Berlin’s mighty Room 4 Resistance has taken her all over Europe, while her immense mixing style of urgent, kinetic and colourful techno has sent the hallowed dancefloors of Berghain, De School, The White Hotel, Corsica Studios, Tresor and more into suitable rapture.

You’d be forgiven then, for thinking that Kassenova was born on the dancefloor. In reality, however, as she tells DJ Mag, electronic music didn’t find its way into her life for quite some time.

“I actually grew up not in Almaty but in a small town in the south of Kazakhstan called Taraz with a population of 200,000 people,” she says, “It was your average small town with not much to do, there were zero things happening with electronic music. Also, Internet was a luxury when I was growing up, so there was no real chance for me to encounter electronic music. Love for music was always there though. I learned dombra – the Kazakh national instrument – as a child, loved to sing, and listened to any music I could get my hands on –  mostly pop, rock and hip-hop.”

In her late teens, Kassenova got a scholarship to study molecular biology in Scotland and she quickly fell in love with Glasgow’s club scene, spending weekends in Sub Club and immersing herself in the thrilling, propulsive sounds she heard on the dancefloor.

“Scotland is where I went to my first 'real' parties,” Nazira says. “I was amazed by how music had this amazing power to get straight to the heart and spread through your whole body when the place and setting was right. And parties and raves were just those settings. I was also blown away by freedom and acceptance and by people being present at that exact moment, everyone being at their most human, vulnerable and sensitive. And you could just feel something that is hard to describe with words – some kind of power. It still stays the same to me to this day.”

Want more? Check out our recent Fresh Kicks mixes with Pépe and DJ Bowlcut...

Eoin Murray is DJ Mag's deputy digital editor. You can follow him on Twitter @eoin_murraye...