With gigs across Africa and Europe, and a versatile style all her own, this South African DJ is quickly becoming one of the leading lights of amapiano.
KMAT’s Boiler Room set is sitting on well over 320k views since it aired in February 2023, and it’s not hard to see why. Rapt by every track, knowing every beat backwards, she conducts the crowd with presence and technical proficiency. No overnight success, Koketso Reabetswe Mathabathe has been on the come-up for several years, but 2023 saw doors flying wide open for her.
While primarily known as an amapiano DJ and artist, her style flaunts freshly-picked log jams (slang for ’piano) and flecks of soul, gqom, hip-hop and house, each set a prism through which to perceive the abounding tones of South African dance music. In March, she landed a weekly DJ residency on South Africa’s biggest youth station, Y, and demand for her sound has catapulted her across borders into Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Ethiopia and, more recently, Ireland and the Netherlands, where she played her first set at Amsterdam Dance Event in October.
“ADE was a-mazing,” she says, giddy with excitement. “The clubbing culture there was great. People came to experience amapiano and have fun. I truly love people who go out to have fun.” But not all shows have been plain sailing. “TikTok is all about the dances, and I’m not a dancing DJ, so that made it a bit hard when it was expected by new crowds in new places — but you have to be prepared and read the crowd, and if they bop to a certain song, I keep going in that direction.”
KMAT grew up in a township about 30 kilometres north of Tshwane (Pretoria) called Soshanguve. While KMAT’s recent years have been spent embedded in the clubs, her interest in music wasn’t first ignited on the dancefloor. “I discovered my passion for music as a small child when I started singing in the church and school choir. In my final years of high school in a convent, I was the choir conductor,” she remembers, proudly. “After high school, I took a gap year to understand myself and figure out where I wanted to go.”
While waitressing at a spot that hosted DJs on weekends, her future path emerged. “I realised that I wanted to become a DJ. I wanted to touch people with my music.” Determined, KMAT started learning the ropes. “When I was playing with a laptop and controller, it was really easy. I would practice everyday,” she says, “but I was also watching a lot of DJ sets, and I could see that there was a lot more to learn.”
Not satisfied, she decided to pursue a formal DJ course to level up and carve a space for herself in the scene. Moving into the producer’s chair came naturally to her, and in 2022, KMAT co-produced a six-track EP alongside Felo Le Tee called ‘Luminous Flame’. Since then, she’s released two more singles, and right now, she is focused on a new EP, set to drop in March 2024. We can’t wait. HEATHER KING
Listen to KMAT’s mix for DJ Mag's BBC Radio 1 Dance Presents residency here.
A house aficionado, Hayley Zalassi has been going from strength to strength, sharing stages with the likes of Ricardo Villalobos and Kerri Chandler, and dropping tunes with Big Miz and via her own Sassy Traxx label — there’s no stopping her in 2024.
Glasgow’s Hayley Zalassi has been on the dancefloor for over a decade. Her entry-point to the house sounds she plays now came through EDM — her first rave was seeing Axwell at The Arches in Scotland's biggest city — and it's the euphoric blueprint of that sound that has stuck with her to this day. “Like Swedish House Mafia? I fucking loved them,” she says. “When I’m looking back then it’s funny because I just think about that euphoric feeling. I’m gonna add them to my list of things to listen to again now actually...”
Now sharing line-ups with festival favourites like Sally C, Daniel Avery, Floorplan and Eliza Rose, and performing at Glasgow’s legendary Sub Club, Riverside festival, and most recently warming up the 14,300-capacity Hydro Arena for Pete Tong, she’s a long way from her days in the crowd at Creamfields — but DJing was always in the back of her mind. “I think from the minute you’re a raver you think, ‘Oh my god — that would be sick’, I just didn’t really have the balls to do it,” she says. “My older brother was a DJ, and I actually started doing production at college before I ever learnt to DJ, so I understood how it all worked before I ever even started mixing.”
It was while travelling in Bali during her early twenties that Zalassi made the decision to return home and invest her money into decks and a computer, and a music production course at a local college in Glasgow — her first solo EP came out last year via her own Sassy Trax imprint, and she’s also released an EP with Big Miz. Another key moment for Zalassi came when she saw Glasgow’s Jasper James and Eats Everything at Hideout festival, and after hearing Jasper was from the same city as her, the experience opened up a whole new world of music when she returned home. “There were just so many sick local DJs, and I just got involved a bit more.”
The years that followed saw Zalassi play her first gig after submitting a mix and winning a competition, before heading to Ibiza where she worked as a PR for Defected, spent time in the now-defunct tech-house wonderland, Sankeys, and DJ’d as a resident for San Antonio’s Highlander. They’re all fond memories for Zalassi, and also important chapters in her story so far. “Downstairs [at the Highlander] was rave anthems, and then upstairs I could kinda play what I wanted,” she remembers. “There was a bit of crowd-pleaser stuff, but it was good fun playing all different kinds of music. Also, you’ve got to start somewhere, otherwise where is there to go?”
It’s been a whirlwind since then, and with more big plans in the pipeline, she’s reflecting on one of her most successful years to date with a huge smile: that upbeat, anything- goes Zalassi attitude is one of her biggest appeals. “It’s all things that you kind of dream about happening when you start out doing this,” she says, speaking about playing two recent pinch-me gigs in particular, with Ricardo Villalobos and Kerri Chandler. “It blows my mind that I have even been in these scenarios. But I love it, and I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing.” AMY FIELDING
Listen to Hayley Zalassi’s mix for DJ Mag's BBC Radio 1 Dance Presents residency here.
Blending a wide spectrum of genres into a unique minimalist style, Moopie’s DJ sets are gripping, deep digging and totally essential. Alongside his work curating A Colourful Storm, they’ve set him up to be a key artist in 2024 and beyond.
Beijing-born, Melbourne-based Moopie has been a stalwart of his local scene for close to a decade now, but through that time has been better known in Europe as head of the label and party series, A Colourful Storm. This year, however, it’s his DJ sets — which see him merge fragments of electro, garage, 2-step, percussive club workouts and more into chunky minimal house and techno — that have garnered wider attention.
Two extended tours on this side of the world over summer saw him make stops at Dekmantel Selectors and De School’s Het Weekend in July, and he recently delivered an all-night-long set to a packed out Pickle Factory in London. Back in Melbourne, he had a run of shows including Rising Sun Festival, Pitch Music & Arts festival, and a Young Marco & Friends showcase. This year has also seen the man born Matthew Xue play back-to-back with artists including Helena Hauff, Ben UFO and Lena Willikens, and the variety of styles these DJs spin demonstrates Xue’s incredible range on the buttons. “That’s the kind of challenge I really love,” he enthuses. “When we play together, it goes in totally unexpected directions.”
Ben UFO also invited Xue to warm up for him at his party at London’s FOLD in August, and he did the same duty for the Hessle Audio co- founder alongside Kia at Breakfast Club during the Amsterdam Dance Event in October. Xue shares Ben UFO’s deft ability to shift across genres and sounds with a delicate ease and seeming abandon. “I don’t think there’s a thing overarching everything that I look for,” Xue explains of the music he plays. “But in terms of dance music, it’s all based on energy levels.”
Despite his increasingly busy touring calendar, he continues to curate a busy release schedule on A Colourful Storm, which — much like the daring variety of his DJ sets — he uses to find a thread to connect the disparate sounds from long lost indie-pop albums, ambient recordings and leftfield drum & bass, all in an unfathomably cohesive manner. He’s also started a sub-label for live recordings from A Colourful Storm gigs, releasing them on limited-run cassettes. “It’s a different side that you can use to express yourself, through music that you don’t necessarily get the chance to DJ out, but can still release because you love [it],” Xue says of the label, though he adds that releasing music physically is now something of a “masochistic activity”.
Next year Xue is preparing a release by French artist Félicia Atkinson on the label, and he has an NTS residency locked in, alongside a European tour book-ended by Love International and Dimensions Festival next summer. But does he feel any more pressure as the crowds he plays for continue to get bigger and bigger? “Not at all,” he smiles. “I just really simplify the whole thing to just sharing music that I love. I don’t feel like I owe anything more than my knowledge and what I have to share about music.” ROB MCCALLUM
Listen to Moopie’s mix for DJ Mag's BBC Radio 1 Dance Presents residency here.
The Munich DJ, producer, and Blitz Club resident’s high-octane sets and throbbing productions are inspired by the energy of New York’s queer underground, and now she’s venturing into curating line-ups that spotlight QTBIPOC artists and uplift her community.
Few tastemakers personify their monikers quite like Munich's BASHKKA. The DJ, producer, songwriter, activist, and Blitz Club resident's Turkish name means "different". This encapsulates not only her diverse cultural background, but the enigmatic yet irresistibly affable human who has always found herself on the fringes. “Growing up as an immigrant child, I understood the reality of not knowing what to do or where to belong very early,” she says. Raised in a household with a love of everything from Middle Eastern classical to Tina Turner, BASHKKA found herself in music. “Music allowed me to fantasise; it became my spiritual foundation.”
Born to Turkish immigrant parents, her true birthplace, she says, “is New York City”. There, she immersed herself in the city’s legendary ballroom scene, finding mentors among the culture’s POC trans women. “There's people like me. I'm not crazy, I'm not a freak. It was the trans women in New York who inspired me to fully live my truth and not give a fuck what anybody says.” Despite having had multiple record deals and exploring different directions, ballroom catalysed her interest in electronic music. “I mean, electronic music was always part of me. I would make my friends mixtapes and stuff. But I could never see myself doing it, really.” After witnessing Honey Dijon DJ in 2008, she felt a shift. “When I saw Honey perform, it just blew me away. I realised there’s a place for me in this, too.”
Ballroom’s queer defiance is a palpable lifeforce in BASHKKA’s booty-bouncing fusions of Chicago house, techno, and bass- driven beats, a unique sound she calls “unapologetic, sexy... New York”. It pulses through throbbing basslines, razor kicks, and “ka-ka-kacks” in tracks like ‘C-quence Of Calamities’ and runaway hit ‘Act Bad’ off her 2023 debut EP, ‘Maktub’ — fused with nuanced references to her Middle Eastern heritage. It drives her high-octane DJ sets, like her revelatory closing stint for Block9’s Genosys rave- bus at last year’s Glastonbury — a set which landed her on Resident Advisor’s Five Key Performances list. “I mean, that in itself was already a huge deal for me. It was my biggest festival that I've ever played,” she says, still clearly awestruck.
But most significantly, BASHKKA’s sound connects her to the lineage of QTBIPOC dance music pioneers who have shaped the culture. As she gears up for a prolific 2024, including a sophomore EP, top secret remixes, and her debut album, BASHKKA's most personal endeavour is the curation of nights at Blitz that platform QTBIPOC DJs and musicians such as Ariel Zetina, softchaos, and Mama Yha Yha.
For BASHKKA, creating spaces of visibility for her community is an essential facet of her artistry, a sentiment she acknowledges with emotion. “We need to carve out spaces for people that come after us, you know. I feel like Honey did that for me, and probably people did that for her before. It's important for us to be visible.” Hoping to curate stages at festivals and cities around the globe, for BASHKKA this transcends party planning; it's a commitment to carving out space for the present and future of her community. TAZMÉ PILLAY
Listen to BASHKKA’s mix for DJ Mag's BBC Radio 1 Dance Presents residency here.
Nala Brown’s dancefloor-focused sound merges elements of electro, techno and house with bass, breaks, UK club music and more with an intoxicatingly unpredictable energy. With an ever-busier gig schedule and new Rinse FM residency, 2024 is hers for the taking.
For Nala Brown, DJing is an emotional exercise. “I’m a very sensitive person,” she says. “So it’s like: Does this track make me feel anything? Does it make me sad or angry or happy? Can that track be a way for me to release all of these emotions?”
This guiding principle permeates the Dutch selector’s sets: genre-hopping excursions through underground dance music with a fast-track to catharsis. Listen to her recently launched Rinse FM show, or her breakthrough Boiler Room from spring 2022, and you’ll get the idea. She twists colourful strands of techno, electro, breaks and percussive club music around one another with invigorating finesse and an unpredictable dynamic energy. “Being emotional is quite hard,” she says, “but it makes you so creative.”
It’s a personal style that’s made a splash on dancefloors like Berghain’s Panorama Bar, De School and The Warehouse Project over the past 12 months, and at festivals like Glastonbury, Outlook Origins and DGTL Amsterdam. A particular highlight was fabric in London, where her flair for spinning UK club sounds went off like a firework on home turf.
Born in Rotterdam to Cape Verdean parents, Nala — real name: Jacqueline Monteiro — was raised on MTV and the hip-hop and R&B releases her siblings played at home. In her teens, she got into electronic acts like SBTRKT, and attended her first house and techno party at the age of 18. “From then, I was hooked,” she says. “I was there every weekend.”
She immersed herself in the array of sounds on offer at venues like Perron and Toffler, eventually gravitating toward parties like Milky Way at the since-shuttered club TwentySix, where garage, grime and other sounds from the UK underground were percolating. She learned to mix, and even took a DJing course taught by none other than local legend David Vunk. She started sharing home-recorded sets online, and got her first club gig through a contest run by Toffler. More gigs came, but the burgeoning DJ was conflicted. There was so much music she wanted to play, but a feeling that she had to adhere to one specific style held her back. “I always felt like I had to limit myself,” she remembers of that time, when she juggled her house-leaning Nala alias with the techno-focused Jackie Brown. “I couldn’t play everything at once.”
Eventually, a switch flipped. “I was just like, actually, you know what? Fuck it. I’m just gonna play everything I want,” she laughs. “I just started mixing everything with each other, and the whole world opened up.” She consolidated her pseudonyms and, even as Covid closed the world down again, kept the momentum up. Shortly before lockdown, she and some other local DJs formed the AMPFEMININE collective to combat the male-dominated scene they saw around them. Through their mix series and fundraising initiatives, their profile grew during the pandemic, and has continued to flourish ever since. They recently completed a multi-city club tour together, and curated a DJ line-up as part of the programme for 2023’s Le Guess Who? festival in Utrecht.
Nala recently wrapped up her Ba Pa Gaita show on Ghana’s Oroko Radio, where she spotlighted a varied selection of Cape Verdean music alongside other artists from the diaspora. She’s settling excitedly into her monthly Rinse residency, where she plans to showcase fellow emerging artists, as well as her own eclectic selections. “I just want more people who appreciate multiple genres in a set to find me,” she says of her aspirations for the year ahead, which is shaping up to be her busiest yet. EOIN MURRAY
Listen to Nala Brown’s mix for DJ Mag's BBC Radio 1 Dance Presents residency here.
A key figure in Mexico's underground club scene, DJ Fucci's music is a tour de force of Latin American rhythms and genres reimagined with hints of a punk ethos.
Over the past year or so, DJ Fucci’s sound changed. The Mexico City DJ had been turning out 140+ BPM jungle and dubstep hybrids mixed in with the Technicolor whimsy of IDM for a little while now, but this sound wasn't reflective of where his head was at. “My sound is a process of evolution,” he explains. “My evolution began in hip-hop, dubstep, footwork/ jungle, UK garage/UK funky and at this point... I felt none of these genres represented me or my culture. That's when I began digging deeper into the roots of the sounds of Latin America — pre-Hispanic instruments and rhythms — and started producing Latin electronic music, such as tribal, guaracha, circuit, speed dembow, jungleton and baile funk.”
2023 has seen a wealth of Latin American-based genres gain more global attention — from baile funk to raptor house — but no one is doing quite what DJ Fucci is doing. A highpoint from 2023 was Fucci’s ‘Milpa’ released on experimental powerhouse NAAFI. Each track on the record was inspired by an ingredient found “in every single dish of Latin America”: corn, beans, chilli, and pumpkin. Fucci explains that the idea was tied to a sense of cultural richness that isn't always acknowledged: “Because in Latin America we are rich; we are rich in cultural background, rich in Gastronomic traditions, we are rich in all the things that money can’t buy.”
But, as much as he wanted to pay homage to his culinary heritage, the record was also about the diverse sonic palette that surrounds him. “I feel like we are in a moment in which Latin producers are incorporating the new music technology interfaces,” he continues. “We are evolving the concept of how it should sound, something from here, and people are now looking for that.” What Fucci is getting at is a new way of approaching dance music that doesn't just fetishise traditional instrumentation by adding a hand- drum here or a panpipe there. Instead, he is interested in forging an entirely new sound that is rooted in and developed through the experience of the vast sonic topography of Latin America.
This is manifest in Fucci's home of Mexico City where he sees the scene at a threshold moment. “I feel we are in a moment of opportunity. A lot of new kids are interested in rave culture,” he explains. “Kids that have a new vision of what a party of electronic music should look like and that gives the chance for new artists and concepts to arise.” This is very much attached to a DIY ethos. “Crazy Mexican artist out there, if you are reading this, if your project is too crazy for being booked in typical parties — go make your own party!” he enthuses.
Although he offers this in jest, it feels like a fitting way to capture how the club landscape is going through a geographic seachange with artists like Fucci at the forefront. We end our interview by asking him what he thinks the future sounds like. He explains — only half jokingly: “The future looks picante. The future looks exciting. The future looks Fucci.” HENRY IVRY
Listen to DJ Fucci’s mix for DJ Mag's BBC Radio 1 Dance Presents residency here.
Part of the essential ec2a label, Southampton-based Skeptic might still be studying at uni, but he’s already one of the most hotly-tipped producers making UKG and all its affiliated offshoots right now
Southampton-based speed garage sensation, Skeptic, exploded onto the scene at the beginning of 2023 when his ec2a dubplate ‘Doin’ Nish’ / ‘Bumpa’ sold out within minutes. The release followed a 12-week run of hugely popular free downloads on SoundCloud that included edits of Sean Paul, Whitney Houston, and General Levy. His sub-heavy productions — including some highly sought-after dubs — have since found their way into the record bags of Interplanetary Criminal, Girls Don't Sync, Joy Orbison, and more.
“There’s so much going on, playing all these events, it’s all happened so quickly,” Skeptic — real name Kavin Amara — enthuses, explaining that his tour schedule grew from one show in 2022 to over 50 this year. Amara’s career has blown up at a time when an ever- growing community of DJs and producers pushing UKG and its offshoot sounds have taken over dancefloors.
Despite being a central part of the new wave of speed garage artists tearing through UK sound systems, Amara is keen to not be labelled as strictly a UKG artist. His debut ec2a release refracted a multitude of sounds from the hardcore continuum, and although his DJ Mag Ones To Watch BBC Radio 1 Dance mix — which is made up entirely of his own productions — is rooted in UKG and its speedier offshoot, it also takes in motifs from 2-step, breaks, dubstep and beyond.
He explains that everything changed for him as an artist at the end of 2022 when ec2a founder, Dr. Dubplate, posted a video playing a Skeptic track at a rave. It started a friendship that would eventually result in Amara becoming the first artist Dubplate would take on to manage. Since the debut release on the label, the pair have also shared the Skep-Stick — a limited-edition USB loaded up with never-to-be-released dubs.
Amara speaks to DJ Mag from his student house in Southampton where he studies music, playing guitar and drums in a jazz band as part of the course. Having grown up in Buckinghamshire, he initially started DJing in 2020, and began to take it more seriously after blowing his speakers at a packed-out flat party during Freshers’ Week. Production came earlier, starting in 2018 when he began making rap instrumentals as KN Beats, culminating in a production credit on Bandokay’s multi-million streaming single, ‘Patient’.
Now in his final year, he explains how it’s been a challenge to balance studying with the explosion of demand for his music as Skeptic. He’s temporarily stepping back from such a relentless tour schedule at the start of 2024, and has been finding time to make music between a busy uni schedule, often at the on-campus Pret. “I’ve never made a song in a studio,” he laughs. “I just take my laptop with me no matter what. I’ll work anywhere.”
Despite slowing things down to focus on uni, he already has a Boiler Room debut locked in for the end of January, and his second Skep-Stick on the way, as well as a track with Sophia Violet and an EP in the works for early next year. He also has a huge booking at Outlook Origins in Croatia locked in, which takes place just weeks after finishing his studies. “I’m going to take all my mates over for that,” he smiles. “That will be a nice send off.” ROB MCCALLUM
Listen to Skeptic’s mix for DJ Mag's BBC Radio 1 Dance Presents residency here.
Sri Lankan drum & bass upstart IYRE has become a highly sought-after producer with releases on Goldfat, Hospital Records, UKF and more, and 2024 will see his intricate beats and lush liquid soundscapes reach new heights
A few years ago, hearing ‘Sri Lanka’ and ‘drum & bass’ in the same sentence was almost as rare as hen’s teeth, but since 2021 that’s rapidly begun to change. The driving force behind this is IYRE, a DJ/producer based in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo with a beautiful but technical approach to d&b.
Having spent the best part of the 2010s making dubstep under the name iClown, IYRE launched his new moniker officially with a release on pyxis’ mental health-focused charity label Headsbass in 2020. The following year, he burst onto the international scene with ‘Fragments’ on Mitekiss and Mr. Porter’s Goldfat, mixing bubbling microfunk percussion with warm, fuzzy bass, catching the attention of UKF and the Hospital Records camp (he’s since signed to their publishing wing, Songs In The Key Of Knife), and everything has only snowballed from there. He’s dropped music via Celsius, Influenza, Soulvent and most recently the UKF label, where his smooth liquid rollers have gone down a treat. A 2023 trip to the UK saw the latter book him to play Printworks London, an experience he says was “one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life”, the stream of which can still be found online.
Those initial connections have remained close too; he’s produced music with pyxis, and the two curated the 93-track ‘FLOODLIGHT’ compilation, which raised £20,000 for victims of the 2022 floods in Pakistan. Goldfat meanwhile has been home to IYRE releases like the twinking ‘Āśrama’ and futuristic soul of ‘Light Of Hope’, and he explains how the label community has helped him feel like less of a “tourist” in the d&b scene. “That imposter syndrome kind of went away with me getting these exposures from guys like Mitekiss, Mr. Porter and Shiva [Mitekiss’ brother]. Whenever I go to London, I hang out with these guys and they take me around... they’re practically a family at this point.” Interest in d&b is on the rise back home too, he says.
“It’s not very linear in terms of the speed of growth, but it’s definitely getting popular, because I get invited quite a lot to play in the southern part of the country, which is specifically where most of the tourists hang out. I did a residency at a venue called Smoke & Bitters, which is one of the top 50 bars in Asia right now. And then I played in a few other venues as well, like Trax, so for them to understand that the genre can grow in this part of the world really means a lot to me.”
2024 is already shaping up to be a massive year. In January alone, he’ll release a remix of Basement Jaxx’s 2004 hit ‘Good Luck’ on XL, a remix of Zombie Cats on Ant TC1’s Dispatch, and a single on Soulvent with Tottenham grime MC Subten. Then there’s more music in the works for UKF, Goldfat and Hospital Records, including collabs with pyxis, T-Man and legendary Foreign Beggars rapper Pavan. He’s venturing back into the 140bpm zone again, along with UKG, and he’s finding ways to bring his love for progressive metal into his d&b DJ sets. “I’m trying to bring different flavours,” he says, “and I'm trying out polyrhythmic patterns on my mixes as well, which is something I figured out while I was playing out last summer. It’s a happy accident to be honest, something that I didn’t foresee, but I’m very happy with the outcome.” BEN HINDLE
Listen to IYRE’s mix for DJ Mag's BBC Radio 1 Dance Presents residency here.