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Credit: Condry Calvin Mlilo (@condrycalvinmlilo)

Recognise: Karen Nyame KG

First famed for her UK funky anthems in the late ’00s, producer Karen Nyame KG left the scene behind after experiencing misogyny, double standards and a lack of support. Since 2018, she’s been re-energised, with a new sound, acclaimed DJ chops, and a music community that has welcomed and supported her. Alongside a smooth and soulful Recognise mix brimming with Afro percussive grooves and deep house, Ria Hylton learns about her move towards melody, and how those early years set the foundation for her return

It’s late January, 2018, and Karen Nyame KG is about to play her first public DJ set. She arrives at Rinse FM in Hoxton, slips into a side studio and greets her hosts, Ed and Felix. The Goon Club Allstars label heads have invited Nyame on for a guest mix to mark the release of her ‘KG EP’, a pair of UK funky anthems from her back catalogue. After a brief on-the-mic catch up, KG jumps on the decks and drops all the classics — Crazy Cousinz’ ‘Bongo Jam’, Hardhouse Banton’s ‘Sirens’, Dennis Ferrer’s ‘Hey Hey’, DJ Gregory’s ‘Attend’ — before rounding out with the instrumental that put her fully on the map: ‘Feeling Funky’.

“I was bricking it,” Nyame tells DJ Mag. “Shout out to Ed and Felix for holding me down that evening, first time DJing live on air, nerve-wracking to say the least.” It may have been her first public mix, but in all truth this moment was a decade in the making. Those well-versed in UK funky history will remember KG, aka The Goddess Of Rhythm, a doyen of the underground with productions like ‘Corsa’, ‘808’ and ‘Midnight’ getting a lot of play in popular DJs’ sets and radio shows. But in 2011 Nyame bowed out from a sound and scene that had defined her early musical life. The double standards, broken promises and constant hustle had taken their toll, so she quietly stepped away.

But the industry came calling again, this time in the form of Goon Club Allstars, who felt there was still some life in those early cuts. Red Bull Music Academy also put the feelers out, in search of a production lead for its Normal Not Novelty workshops. Nyame said yes to both, and in the six years since, she’s released seven EPs, collaborated with Scratcha DVA, Dance System and UNIIQU3, remixed tracks by Anaiis and Kelela and, more recently, launched her Rhythm In The City label. KG’s also garnered increasing attention for her mixes, which span the African electronic spectrum — from Afrobeats and amapiano, to gqom and percussive 4x4. Her set at Glasto last year still comes up in conversation in DJ circles.

“Sometimes you don’t know what types of seeds you’re sowing,” Nyame reflects when we touch on her backstory. “Those UK funky years were more or less kind of setting me up for my comeback, I just didn’t realise that. All the connections I was making, friends of friends now at big labels... you never know who’s watching, but people were watching and those people came back for me.”

In another life, Nyame could have been a comedian. Her warmth and infectious charm are clear even through the screen and she has us in fits of laughter throughout the conversation, bringing levity even to the darker chapters of her story. But KG — DJ, label head, promoter — is a producer through and through, one that’s been working on the craft all of her adult life. “I’m so passionate about my production process, but then you go and play something out and nobody’s listening for that hidden shaker, like no one cares!” she booms, when we delve into the layering in her production. “They want to dance, they want to move, they want to feel — and you can achieve that with 10 channels, you can achieve that with four channels. Even though to the outside ear there’s a richness there, I’ve developed methods that streamline my process, so I work smart as opposed to work hard.”

Nyame has described her work as a play between the rough and the smooth, but with her most recent productions, it’s fair to say that she leans smooth. The busy and brawling edges of her earlier work have been replaced with smokey basslines and hypnotic low-ends, suggesting a conscious pivot towards a more sensual and intimate sound. You hear this on 2021’s ‘Koko’, the lead single from her ‘Sensei II’ EP, and 2022’s ‘Taboo’, which made DJ Mag’s 2022 top tracks of the year list. The ‘Red EP’, released late last year, continues the sonic theme, with moody basslines and fathomless rhythms underneath R&B-esque vocals. “I believe that my heavier, more percussive days are over,” she replies when we note the evolution in her sound. “I’m probably getting to that mushy side of my years where I’m just becoming more emotive and that’s reflecting, you know, artistically.” 

Her remix of Kelela’s ‘Contact’ is a brilliant example of this turn, where the drums drop in after 90 seconds of ambient build-up, revealing the cinematic and celestial potentials of her sound. But this melodic move, she explains, is practical as much as it is personal. “You can soundtrack people’s lives, you can soundtrack a commute, a vibe, a bar, a date, a warm-up set. I like to make music for every scenario. So that’s what I’m doing right now.”

Photo of Karen Nyame KG DJing at a fesitval
Credit: Sofia Kerz (@skvision)

Nyame was generating sounds from an early age, mainly with the instruments gifted by her father, but before she’d reached double digits, she found production. “Gaming was pretty much my gateway into electronic music production,” she remembers. “It started with PlayStation One. I’m showing my age now — you could bicep curl that and literally grow muscles, it was that heavy.”

Her first port of call was Music 2000 — “a lot of the grime lords talk about this game, JME, Skepta” — and graduated to the PC not long after, experimenting with ACID Pro and eJay software before loading them onto an MP3 player and sharing with school mates. The budding producer also dabbled in grime, refining bars and battling girls from other schools, as well as tuning into Deja Vu, Heat FM, and Mystic radio stations. But she struggled, production-wise. “I loved grime but then I felt very detached from what I was making — and it would show. The girls that liked the grime mandem would be like, ‘Hey, we love you but this ain’t the one’,” she chuckles. “I was just so enthralled by that movement, the energy. So on a production level, I was trying to learn, but it wasn’t hitting until uni.”

It was when UK funky hit that everything clicked. Like the genre’s godfather, Apple, Nyame had also been inspired by the tracks emerging from the broken beat scene, as well as UKG. But when she heard the likes of Donae’o, DJ Perempay, as well as the work of DJ Gregory, she’d found the pockets of rhythm that felt like home. “I was like, ‘What is this? Is it house? Is it a slower version of UKG?’ There was a groove in it and it’s melodic, but it’s still hard,” she tells us. “I thought, ‘Whatever this is, I need to pull from and jump on that’.”

Nyame’s first release, 2008’s ‘Corsa’, is what she refers to as a pastiche of Banton’s ‘Siren’, a bassline roller with a simple drum pattern designed to rattle the speakers. Tracks like ‘808’ and 'Midnight’ came not long after, and by the time she dropped ‘Feeling Funky’, its soca-tinged synths and forceful percussion giving it almost immediate anthem status, all eyes were on KG. “Friends would text me and they’d be like, ‘They’re playing ‘Feeling Funky’ at JD Sports’,” she remembers. “It was hitting in really interesting places — DJ Cameo, when he was at BBC 1Xtra, had that track on rotation.”

But this was the early ‘10s, a time when terms like community, safer spaces and broader conversations around misogynoir were far from commonplace. Nyame felt the resistance. “I was up against a lot. I was like, ‘Music’s not fun anymore’. It showed me that if you’re a woman, being a vocalist, as opposed to on the technical side of music, was more palatable. I had many moments during which I felt my sexuality was at risk of being exploited too. It wasn’t empowering for me.”

Fast-forward to 2018, and the landscape had changed, making her re-entry all the easier. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, where has this been all my life?’ Having the support of community and resources, it made my second coming in music such a soft landing. Community helped me establish my self-confidence.”

Back in her stride, and where she belongs, Nyame is re-forging a path set out over a-decade-and-a-half ago. Her releases are few and far between, but when they do drop, everyone stops to listen. Can we expect an album release soon? “I’m definitely in the catalogue building stage,” she replies. “I’m a producer, that’s my heart.”

KG's Recognise mix features "some recent discoveries and hidden gems that I love. The mix is a transcendent dip and dive into deep, soulful, Afro percussive house and everything else in between." Listen to it below. 


Brazo Wa Afrika 'Dimensions'
T.Williams 'Heartbeat ft. Terri Walker (Mosca Remix)'
Karen Nyame KG 'Amafrique (KG Dub)'
Aquatone 'Just Be (feat. Jaidene Veda)'
Leonce 'Tripwires (Scotti Dee Remix)'
B.DOR x Hagan (Master)
Karizma 'Darqness (Bok's Dub)'
Shy One 'Y U So Cute?'
Peacey 'Culture Bandit (feat. Vanessa Hidary) (Yoruba Soul Mix 2)'
DJ IC 'Yankee'
Slope - 1luv 'Daylight (Slope Remix)'
Tribal Brothers 'Genesis'
Jullian Gomes '1000 Memories Feat. Sio'
Apple 'Inna Your Bongoclart'