Operating out of Connecticut, on the northeastern side of the USA, Uganda-born Jenifa Mayanja has long remained in the shadow of her husband – deep house don and Underground Quality honcho DJ Jus-Ed, before blooming on an international level thanks to full-on dedication to her craft both as a DJ and producer and outstanding perseverance.
If transcending Edward’s legendary status revealed as complicated, it’s certainly accountable to the deep-rooted bias against women in the industry, which sadly seems to endure beyond expectations today. Still, Jenifa’s efforts and consistency finally paid off: her labels Bu-Mako and Sound Warrior sit as some of the US most reliable purveyors of deep and organic house, whilst her tracks got charted by Volcov, Fred P, Tama Sumo, Efdemin, Anton Zap, Dario Zenker and many more.
Released today via Berlin’s Bass Cadet Records, her new effort ‘Orbit 02‘ (which you can stream in full down below) is a lush example of Jenifa’s wide-lens approach, exploring a sound palette that ranges from Latin-inflected grooves to sleek synthetic tides onto African polyrhythms with equal aplomb. Fetch some coffee, put on your reading glasses and press play.
Interview by Baptiste Girou
"The biggest wish to me is that I am contributing some meaningful music to the world and it continues to speak to some people in a personal way."
Your new EP for Bass Cadet’s Orbits series – the second in the collection, is coming out shortly. Please tell us more about it?
Well the Bass Cadet Orbit release is special as I make each release specifically for the label in mind and with respect to the musical vision of the label.
Etienne of Bass Cadet has been a supporter/fan of my music and label Bu-Mako Recordings for some time. I was honoured to be asked to grace their label with a release and grateful for the respect they have shown me as an artist to deliver my musical vision.
It conjures a healthy dose of latin rhythms, Spanish guitars and even some remote balearic accents… were these conscious influences in the making?
One of the first releases I did on my label Bu-Mako was called ‘Stream of Consciousness‘ and it referenced my approach when I am making music. I may start out with some specific ideas in mind but once the actual production begins my subconscious musical mind pretty much takes over.
I let the music and ideas flow through me even if it veers from the direction I originally started with. With this EP as with everything I do, the most important ideal to me is to be true to myself as an artist and to be of the highest calibre musically.
I am an African person and a world music lover so there is always deep influences from cultures around the world in my productions.
"I may start out with some specific ideas in mind but once the actual production begins my subconscious musical mind pretty much takes over."
What equipment did you use? Have you expanded your studio to a more analogue-friendly setup or did you cling to the minimal laptop/keyboard combo?
Ah the equipment conversation… I don’t find it useful in any way to talk about studio setups because I am of the school of thought that believes it’s not the studio setup that matters but the level of talent and creativity. As an artist I do not cling to anything! I work with what I’ve got and bend it to my will.
What’s up next on Bu-Mako? A new volume to the Sound Dig series perhaps?
I have been very busy creating something for the people, my fans and supporters. My third album ‘Stranger Things Have Happened‘ (Bu-M 026) is scheduled for an early spring release this year. Bu-Mako is also releasing two dope albums, including one from my artist Denis Clifford.
My other label Sound Warrior, which I co-own is releasing a major compilation, SW-005 ‘Warrior Loves‘, in March 2017 – it is the label that releases music made by other women exclusively… I also have two mini-LPs coming out on Sistrum Recordings and Deep Art by Summer 2017, so I have quite a serious release schedule this year.
How did you come to music production in the first place? What was the trigger?
I have to think about that because it seems now like it has been so long. Before I begun professionally DJing in the early ’90s, my dream from an early age was to become a big time singer and make amazing albums.
When I fell upon house music in the late ’80s somehow this took me into a slightly different direction for a while before bringing me back full circle to my original dream.
It was a natural progression of my whole life digging music and wanting to be a part of that triggered me creating my own music.
Do you remember the first house record you bought?
No actually I don’t, but I remember I fell hard for acid house in the mid ’80s.
You’re married to famed house producer DJ Jus Ed – who remixed one of the tracks on the EP, and mentioned a few years ago how you regretted people didn’t focus on your work but more on your role with Ed. Would you say things have evolved in a good way or do you feel there’s still a long way to go for female producers to be considered the equal of men in the industry?
The industry is making some changes towards equality but it remains to be seen if it’s superficial changes meant to appease or an actual recognition that the scales are completely unbalanced against women. As far as my husband and how some people choose to not focus on my merits and accomplishments, that is pretty much their problem.
There are always going to be people that cannot rest unless they are telling me through my husband what I should do in order to be more “popular” or resist dealing with me unless he is involved, there is nothing I can do for them really, I am just going to do me!
"I am an African person and a world music lover so there is always deep influences from cultures around the world in my productions."
You spoke about the delicate balance to keep between family life and your work as DJs and musicians. Have you managed to quite find the right pace?
Ha, have you met any working mothers that have that balance? It’s a curse I think sometimes being able to multitask so much. In fact with the working mothers I do know these days there is a realisation that you do need to just let some things go.
I have accepted what is important to me. My priorities are crystal clear and I make no compromises about that. Everything else works around that.
Which artist(s) impress(es) you the most at the moment?
Hmm tricky question! I love all kinds of music so I would probably tell you some old ass musician and it wouldn’t serve much purpose!
What can we wish you for 2017?
We can wish that all my dreams will come true? But more seriously I am exploring options for a DJ residency in Berlin that would be a good starter of a wish. Good vibes and the community to embrace the ‘Zuflucht’ party Ed and I are starting at Loftus Hall in February. We are bringing the New York East Coast style of doing parties to Berlin. But the biggest wish to me is that I am contributing some meaningful music to the world and it continues to speak to some people in a personal way.
Orbit 02 is released via Bass Cadet Records on 30th January, pre-order a vinyl copy from Juno.
A2. The Journey To Nowhere
B1. Excessive Matters
B2. The Journey To Nowhere (DJ Jus-Ed Remix)