Six emerging artists you need to hear this January
The latest and greatest DJs and producers rising to the top this month. From bass-heavy eclecticism and dark, explosive d&b to crisp electro and melodic grooves, here's January 2021’s list of upcoming talent you should be keeping track of
Manchester is continuously flourishing with new talent, and one of the DJs shining through right now is Abena. Her DJ sets are fast, eclectic and dynamic, and her wide-ranging knowledge of many genres can be heard via her Well Good show on Manchester’s Stream Radio, plus appearances on Rinse FM and NTS for further listening. “After seeing DJs like Objekt and Call Super and going to nights like Mutualism and Strange Riddims, I’ve very much embraced playing songs that are bass-heavy, fast and a lot of fun,” she says.
Alongside aNNA, Hayter Player and Rosa Méthol, she co-founded All Hands On Deck; a collective running workshops and open-deck nights for people from marginalised genders. Since their first open-deck party at Manchester’s Partisan they’ve built a solid community, now with a mix series to showcase their members, and will be launching a run of production workshops this year. At the end of 2020, Abena played for an impressive 12 hours to raise money for Safety4Sisters, RAPAR and African Rainbow Family, charities that are providing support for refugees and asylum seekers.
For fans of: CCL, Josey Rebelle, GiGi FM
Last October, James Toomey, aka Duke Boara, released ‘Blossom’, a warm, uplifting, emotive track that dreams of bright summer days. At the tender age of 21, he’s highly skilled across many disciplines; as well as his music production expertise he plays the piano, guitar and drums. Having spent some time travelling Asia, his musical influences are broad; inspiration from many of the instruments he was exposed to on his travels are evident in tracks such as ‘Learn To Forget’, with its beautifully plucked melodies. Growing up in the West Country and now based in Newcastle, it’s in the North East that he began establishing himself as a DJ, through his residency at Das Haus — a series of events he co-founded, throwing parties across England and Scotland. Right now his productions are where he’s focusing his time, gaining him high acclaim and spins on BBC Radio 1. If his debut ‘Focus’ is anything to go by, his latest single is sure to be a hit on the streaming sites too. The future’s looking bright for Duke Boara.
For fans of: Floating Points, Jacques Greene, Affelaye
French-Algerian artist Sabrina Bellaouel’s latest release, ‘Libra’, is a stunning ode to spirituality through vocals, atmospheric synths, and sultry piano chords. In lyrics inspired by her own experiences, Bellaouel touches on many themes from sex to astrology, which glide beautifully across weighty basslines and super-smooth percussion. Her first release ‘Illusion’ came in 2017, followed by her debut on revered French record label InFiné, ‘We Don’t Need No Enemies’, in September this year.
‘Libra’ is her second offering on InFiné, dropping back in November, and is some of her finest work to date. The six-track affair broadly encompasses influences from her travels across the world, including memories from London and Paris, samples and recorded soundbites interwoven with her delicate vocals. ‘Solar Return’ also features the voice of fellow Parisian artist Gracy Hopkins. Bellaouel travels seamlessly through genres, a musical melting pot that references the past but feels incredibly present, refreshing and new.
For fans of: ABRA, Kelela, Noname
Part of an exciting, fresh crop of artists who are redefining the drum & bass sound, T95’s rapid ascent through the second half of 2020 has drawn plaudits across the scene. Dark, sinister and explosive are just some of the adjectives that describe the sound the Surrey-born producer has been cultivating in recent times. Building on his experiences as one half of the jump-up duo Xyphon, his solo debut saw him collaborate with Mancunian lyrical heavyweight DRS on the abrasive ‘On Site’. “Having DRS on my first solo release was a perfect way for me to enter my new alias,” he says. “Working with one of the scene’s best allowed me to hit the ground running and show what I was about!”
Since then he’s collaborated with the likes of Sub Zero and Miss Trouble, as well as fellow young gun Duskee. His rise has coincided with the success of Overview Music and Onyx Recordings; two independent brands bringing fresh ideas and extraordinary consistency. 2021 will see a new chapter for T95, however, as he sets out big plans with some of the most respected labels in the game.
For fans of: Klinical, Bou, T>I
Ngoni Egan loves electro. The Irish DJ and producer has been playing and producing electro records and tracks since his teens. Having spent 2020 surrounded by plants, synths and drum machines in his bedroom, the Dublin-based artist has a string of productions ready to be released on Lepton and Thrust Collective, amongst others. As founder of the Lepton collective, Ngoni co-runs the platform with emerging Irish talent, and has helped to grow the imprint into an event series, record label and radio residency on Dublin Digital Radio. The only outlet of its kind in the city, Ngoni shares his synth-heavy, acidic tones via Lepton’s multiple channels. Having put the work in over the last 12 months, it’s inevitable that Ngoni’s name will crop up on the European dance music scene, be it via releases or club bookings. If there’s electro involved, Ngoni is your go-to.
For fans of: Alienata, Radioactive Man, Sync 24
Every aspect of Reka Zalan’s life revolves around electronic music. During the week, she works in Hard Wax in Kreuzberg, Berlin. At the weekends pre-Covid, Reka could be found in ://aboutblank, co-running the Elements party alongside friends Marc and THNTS, the latter of whom she plays b2b with under the alias No Life Signal. Elements shines a light on cosmic and alluring techno that is both aligned with Reka’s record collection and what she is about as a selector. 2020 was the year Reka was supposed to join ://aboutblank as a resident DJ — a milestone in her trajectory so far. The pandemic put her position on hold, but while the club remained shut, Reka’s presence continued to radiate in the venue’s Sektgarden space over summer. Once clubs open again, Reka’s awaited residency will undoubtedly propel her further, making 2021 all the more promising for one of Berlin’s hardest grafters.
For fans of: Adiel, Etapp Kyle, Ellen Allien