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Credit: Oriane Verstraeten @orianeverstraeten_

Fresh Kicks 205: Suze Ijó

Rotterdam’s Suze Ijó is part of a new generation of house DJs who play with deep, funky and spiritual intention. Alongside a “sweet mix with a hopeful message”, she speaks to Ria Hylton about her musical journey so far

If you’re on the look out for a DJ rooted in the foundations of house music, look no further than Suze Ijó. In an era when sounds are speeding up, this Rotterdam DJ leans the other way, offering sultry, unhurried sets that trip and chug away on the dancefloor. Schooled in the works of Joe Claussell, Louie Vega, Lakuti and Tama Sumo, Ijó belongs to a new generation of selectors who play with spiritual intention — think Ash Lauryn, musclecars, Julion De’Angelo. 

“For me it’s not about going against something, it’s more about me doing me,” Ijó replies when we suggest she goes against the prevailing grain. “I like the softness of house, the sweetness of the lyrics — I like playing positive music,” she smiles. “If I’m thinking about setting a mood, it’s a bit more sexy, dancing with your hips. You can obviously dance with your hips with super-fast music, but I feel like then it becomes a different type of movement, less sensual.”

Ijó pulls from the jazz-funk canon, sways deep — often spinning the likes of Trinidadian Deep, Gigi Testa and Ron Trent — and has even been known to slow things down entirely in the middle of a mix, as shown in her Djoon performance last year, when she dropped journeying cosmic-funk number ‘Solar Flight (Opus I)’. But she also shines much-needed light on the Latin and Caribbean traditions in house — chord progressions and polyrhythms that bring fuller flavours to the dancefloor. 

“These Caribbean and Latin sounds have always been present in the house music I play,” she explains, noting the salsa and traditional Curaçao music nights she went to as a teenager — events where dancing alongside, as well as with one another, was the norm. “Sometimes I miss that vibe in the club — people don’t always make the connection that these sounds go together very well. In New York or Brazil, it’s such a melting pot, so much culture there — seeing all these different generations, giving each other space, dancing with each other.”

Ijó has been working in nightlife in one way or another for over a decade, producing the long-standing 360 Degrees night at Rotterdam’s BIRD, before moving into an assistant programmer role at the club. She even had a short stint as a booking agent’s assistant: “I did that for like eight months, but it wasn’t really for me.” 

A job at Clone Records followed not long after, and whilst there, she developed a sixth sense for how a record might sound based solely on the artwork, geeking out with colleagues over niche genres. “My musical vocabulary expanded even more while working there, especially because everyone was such a seasoned music nerd, but all in their own area,” she remembers.

Fast-forward years later and Ijó is now on the international circuit, sharing her musical knowledge in places as far flung as Brazil, Bali and New York, all the while contemplating the roots of a scene she’s called home for over a decade. Trippy, deep and full of funk — Ijó sets have a pace and musical range rare among her generation, free of filler and choreographed hype. “When I prepare for a set, I’m trying to be very intentional,” she tells us toward the end of our call. “How does this all fit together? What am I trying to say? This is how I connect, or try to connect [with the foundational DJs], because they mean so much to me — it’s thanks to them that I do what I do.”

Ijó describes her Fresh Kicks mix as "a sweet mix with a hopeful message, maybe a little introverted as I don't feel extremely celebratory in these crazy times. very true to my feelings." Listen below.  

Want more? Check out Fafi Abdel Nour's Fresh Kicks mix and interview here

Ria Hylton is DJ Mag’s album reviews editor. Follow them on Twitter @ria_hylton