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Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
19 May 2022, 13:46

SHERELLE’s BEAUTIFUL label and AIAIAI partner on new initiative for Black and LGBTQI+ artists

The project will encompass a new studio space, academy and workshop programme, and an exhibition series 

SHERELLE’s BEAUTIFUL label and AIAIAI partner on new initiative for Black and LGBTQI+ artists

SHERELLE's BEAUTIFUL label and the Danish audio firm AIAIAI are partnering on a new initiative aimed at supporting Black and LGBTQI+ artists, comprising free workshops, lectures, and a production academy with sessions held in a new studio. 

The project opens with move/002, an exhibition spread over two floors at Open House Hackney, London, focused on the Black and queer rave experience since the early-1990s. Run in conjunction with fynn studio, the curation firm behind Saatchi Gallery's rave culture show, 'Sweet Harmony', the exhibition will feature photography, poetry, archival texts and digital installations.

Drum & bass pioneers Fabio & Grooverider will provide insights into their lives and decade-spanning careers in the scene, alongside portraits by longstanding rave photographer Dave Swindells. Work by photographer Bernice Mulenga, whose documenting of Black LGBTQI+ experiences includes dancefloor shots from BBZ and Queer Bruk, will also feature.

Other names involved include Craig Bernard, whose images capture events including Notting Hill Carnival and BLM protests; Imaani Iris Erdogan, who offers a behind the scenes look at London's Reprezent Radio, and Guarionex Rodriguez Jnr, who brings pictures from New York's dweller festival to the UK capital for the first time.

Speaking about the initiative, fynn studio curator Hugo Clancy said: "To celebrate the impact of the Black and LGBT+ community on a culture that is so important to us felt like a necessary conversation to be a part of. As with many aspects of the culture, the origins of rave have unfortunately been associated with white European music producers and completely disregards the Black and LGBTQI+ communities championing the sounds in New York, Chicago and Detroit. 'move/002' interrupts this narrative by including people from across the spectrum of our communities, here in the UK, across America and Africa too."

SHERELLE added: “From being at Reprezent Radio, they taught me that you really had the ability to do whatever you wanted to do as long as you put your mind to it. And I think my time there has allowed me to have that ethos throughout. All the amazing work that BEAUTIFUL will be doing in regards to the studio, label, exhibitions and academy are there to cultivate the already rich and beautiful Black scene. This is everything I wanted to do in my statement back in 2021."

"We live in a time where music organisations are sparse, our governments are more concerned about making themselves richer. People are paying more for anything these days. Food, bills, rent, you name it. There are a lot of people who have the ambition to be in the scene but just need that extra push and inspiration to do so," she continued. "I never really had money but it was the music that kept me going. I had to work many jobs in order to live, but all I wanted to do was be in music. Music saved me, and luckily after years of trying relentlessly… I finally made it through. With the BEAUTIFUL project, as the founder I would love to make that path so much shorter. Less stressful. BEAUTIFUL x AIAIAI will be there to boost people."

Overall, the showcase will reposition Black DJs at the vanguard of dance scenes such as house and techno. An opening night party is confirmed, with drinks and DJs running from 6.30PM until close on 1st June — RSVP here. Move/002 finishes on 8th June. 

No specific dates have been given for the rest of the initiative, but workshop elements of the programme are then set to run throughout the year, with the studio billed as a "brand new, kitted out space... for Black, LGBTQI+ electronic music artists to develop ideas and record without the financial and availability constraints they may have previously experienced... giving them free access to tools, programmes, gear and equipment they might not have had before." 

"Since AIAIAI started more than 10 years ago we’ve had a strong drive to ensure that our community is diverse and inclusive. We want to continue this, and remain focused on empowering the community with tools and resources to overcome the modern-day challenges experienced. I could never imagine the struggles emerging Black and queer artists face," said AIAIAI founder Frederick Joergensen. 

"Working with SHERELLE and our other partners has really provided insight into just how difficult it can be. It’s become evident to me that strong mentor programmes and access to resources can be small but crucial steps on the path to breaking down barriers. In an industry like ours, it’s extremely challenging to be an emerging artist, let alone Black and queer," he continued. "We can see it’s evident that there’s still a lot more work to be done, and while we don’t have all the solutions right now, we feel blessed to be working with and learning from someone like SHERELLE and her team at BEAUTIFUL”

For full details head to the AIAIAI website

In December, SHERELLE won DJ Mag's Best of British Best Compilation award for 'BEAUTIFUL presents BEAUTIFUL VOL.1', shortly after we ranked her 'fabric presents SHERELLE' mix as compilation of the month. Revisit last year's cover feature with the UK footwork, 'jungle teknah' artist, and listen back to her contribution to the Fresh Kicks series from 2018.