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Credit: Kasia Zacharko

A new home: Black Artist Database on their label debut, ‘Synergy’

This week, Black Artist Database launches its new label with a compilation of club-ready tracks made by Black women from around the world. Here, kicking off a series of articles and interviews with featured artists, Christine Kakaire speaks to curators NIKS and Tanya Akinola about its inception, and building a new home for Black artists to release their music

Like many of the team calls that take place within the Black Artist Database (B.A.D.) collective, this one needs to straddle a couple of far-flung time zones. Nakeitha Delanancy, AKA NIKS, one of B.A.D.’s co-founders, is usually London based, but today she’s dialled in from Berlin, just a couple of days after playing a morning set at Berghain’s Panorama Bar. Tanya Akinola, a music industry professional who also DJs as T-N and runs the Amniote Editions label alongside Mama Snake, is home in Melbourne, aka Naarm. The two women are the creative force behind B.A.D.’s newest project — an eponymous record label — which will launch 2nd June with a compilation of seven new productions from Black electronic music producers titled ‘Synergy’.

The compilation is pitched towards peak-time, and the tracks are sequenced in a way that the pair liken to the euphoric, sweet-spot moment on the dancefloor, “between the gates of heaven opening and closing”. The compilation is bookended by symphonic and soulful productions by Mancunian talent AFRODEUTSCHE and Malawian producer Chmba, and features a steamy, psychedelic chugger from Deroit native DJ Holographic. In between, there are angular, bass-forward tracks by rRoxymore and Amaliah, and house stompers by Lyric Hood, the protégé daughter of Robert, and NIKS, making her production debut.

Between 2021-22, B.A.D. rapidly evolved into a multi- pronged platform, comprising databases of Black music artists and creative workers, editorial and podcast series, club nights and community workshops, with core team members in several continents. This work was only intensified by external pressures placed on B.A.D. by the electronic music industry at large: to be a representative, advisor, and catch-all problem solver for issues stemming from the systemic erasure of Black folks from electronic music over four decades. The inception of B.A.D. occurred during the momentary reckoning in June 2020 about anti-Black racism that followed brutal incidents of anti-Black violence and death. Delanancy and fellow Londoner Kay Ferdinand, another electronic music enthusiast and DJ, initially developed B.A.D. as a shareable spreadsheet of Black dance music producers from the global diaspora; it became a means to platform and provide material support to Black producers who often face multiple, intersecting oppressions.

Creating an imprint was one of the longer term goals for B.A.D. from the beginning, but concrete ideas began to spark once Akinola, visiting Europe in the summer of 2022, spent several weeks at Delanancy’s London home. “We were coming into a sheer volume of music, and we wanted to find a way to share it,” recalls Akinola. “We were on NIKS’ couch going back and forth, ‘We could do this! We could do that!’ We were so giddy and excited, and when you’ve got that energy in the room, you should follow it.”

As they began to tease out the contours of the first release, the pair focused more intently on the idea of classic club music, the kinds of tracks they might hear at the the peak of a club set or at a sun-drenched festival in warmer months. Two keywords emerged while identifying the spirit they hoped to capture: ‘celebratory’ and ‘joyful’.

“We only realised that every artist on the compilation was female while we were creating it,” says Delanancy, “which means we both play out a lot of music by Black women, and we appreciate and enjoy music by Black women. So the compilation is not just celebratory sounding, it’s also a celebration of Black women producers.” 

The conversations being published this week on with and between all of the artists featured in the compilation – which you can find linked below – are in turn a celebration of some of the topics that are important touchstones for them, both artistically and personally: getting started as a fledgling producer, experimentation and inspiration, creating healing communities and pathways, navigating the electronic music industry from the Global South, spirituality and faith, and honouring the legacy of Black artists who came before them.

Beyond this compilation, the B.A.D. record label will continue with equity-centred expansiveness. “We’re looking to work with Black artists around the globe,” says Akinola, “and we’re open to what those projects might look like. We don’t want the artists we work with to feel trapped into something. We want them to retain ownership of their music and feel empowered, to know where their money is coming from and where it’s going. We’re also really interested in reissuing historical releases in a way that feels fair for the artists, making sure that everything is transparent.”

As we continue talking, another keyword emerges: home. “One of the artists on the compilation has had that track for a few years,” says Delanancy. “When I saw her last year, she said, ‘I’ve had three labels reach out to me about releasing it, but it doesn’t feel right. I feel like it needs to be released on a Black-owned label’. I hit her back up later about the imprint and asked if she wanted to send me the track, and she was like, ‘This is exactly where I want it to be released’. There’s definitely this sense of a lot Black artists not feeling like they have a real home. We want Black artists to feel that they now have a home that they can come to.”

More in DJ Mag's Black Artist Database label feature series...

Pushing the envelope: Afrodeutsche & rRoxymore in conversation

Chmba: one for all

Works in progress: Amaliah and NIKS in conversation

A matter of faith: Lyric Hood and DJ Holographic in conversation

Christine Kakaire is an award-winning culture journalist, critic, teacher and editor based in Berlin. Check out her website

Artwork inspired by 'Synergy' cover art by Miles Takes