Discwoman: Dismantling by Amplifying
by Nick Schon; Editorial Assistant
Discwoman’s simple yet effective catch-phrase--Amplify Each Other explains what the electronic music booking agency is all about. The idea is simple, giving others who share similar experiences a platform of representation.
Founded by Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson, Emma Burgess-Olson, and Christine McCharen-Tran in 2014 as a small music festival, later to become a booking agency and collective presenting artists and curating events globally with over 300 producers and DJs. The conversation about the formation of Discwoman started between Decaiza Hutchinson and Burgess-Olson after meeting at Bossa Nova Civic Club. Following a realization that the techno genre belonged to black artists, the two conceived the idea of throwing a weekender party at the very club they met featuring a DJ lineup consisting of all women. Hutchinson called upon Christine McCharen-Tran to handle the logistics of throwing the two-day event. The three started Discwoman to create an environment that represented themselves, apart from the experiences that were presented to them currently, like many, a straight, white, cisgendered, male dominated industry.
Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson is well accustomed to club-going in New York City, moving to the city shortly after graduating college where she had experienced racial inequality while located in Sussex, England. After seeing a race and gender divide in a club and dance music setting, she set out to create a space where people like her were represented.
Emma Burgess-Olson, also known as Umfang is the only one of the co-founders of Discwoman that actively spins behind the decks. She is also the founder of Technofeminism, a residency at Bossa Nova Civic Club that focuses on presenting emerging talent, much like the starting of Discwoman. Growing up in Kansas after moving from the Bronx, Burgess-Olson found herself surrounded by a scene dominated by white men. She began Djing when her friend, tired of booking DJs that were only white men, asked her to play at one of the parties thrown in Kansas City.
Christine McCharen-Tran’s upbringing involved living in northern Virginia and being passionate about tennis. During her experiences in a conservative area immersed in a majority-white sport, McCharen-Tran found it necessary to create representation within an environment if lacking proper space. McCharen-Tran eventually hopped on board the collective, Hutchinson and her having prior collaborations on hosting events for Chromat, which McCharen-Tran’s wife founded.
After presenting women in the form of a weekend long DJ showcase, Discwoman evolved into a promotional platform and booking agency that curates events and manages a highly talented DJ roster. The collective’s ideologies are grown from the personal experiences of each of the founders--a double edged sword. Not only to give a platform to woman and non-binary artists, but to also represent people of color, all within the DJ and electronic music communities. This was true at the beginning during the weekender party at Bossa Nova Civic Club and remains true for the roster of the collective, but the direction has shifted into being a platform as a means to continually give support to the ones it represents. Through booking and promotion, Discwoman can consistently make the highly talented women of the male-dominated, white-washed DJ world seen, but most importantly heard.
To highlight a few notable artists on Discwoman’s incredible roster, we can start by looking at the experimental hip-hop duo 700 Bliss. Comprised of DJ and producer DJ Haram and activist, vocalist, and experimental musician Moor Mother, both hailing from Philadelphia, 700 Bliss takes the stage by storm by providing aggressive deconstructed hip-hop-based beats combined with poetry that instills a sense of urgency with tinges of anxiety. Their debut EP Spa 700 features familiar themes of both Moor Mother’s and DJ Haram’s previous work. Moor Mother’s ever-frustrated lyricism matched with Haram’s Arabic-inspired beats and melodies creates an atmosphere that preaches solidarity against current (by no means new) climates.
Tracy Bee is a Ghanian-American DJ under the name of Akua (ah-kwee-yah) currently based in Brooklyn. Her mixing style includes forms of techno, hardcore, and trance deriving from minimalist compositions of older dance music combined with comtemporary visionary tracks. The energy permeating from her sets are relentless and is what keeps dancers from ever going home.
Another Philadelphia based DJ featured on Discwoman’s roster is London-born Bearcat. Well known for her programming, alongside Precolumbian, of Seltzer, a queer focused dance party inside Philadelphia and New York clubs. Seltzer is purposed to give a space of nightlife experience to members of the queer community, away from a scene that is (again, not surprisingly) dominated by men. Bearcat draws from personal experiences and uses listening during her sets as a therapeutic medium.
SHYBOI, the alias of Yulan Grant, Jamaica-born, Brooklyn-based multi-disciplinary artist and DJ uses her art to pose questions about identity pertaining to her own Carribbean and American cultural experiences. SHYBOI is also a member of the queer artist collective #KUNQ, a group devoted to presenting visual, sound, and performance arts which uplift queer positivity. SHYBOI is set to play a few shows this fall alongside established performers including Helena Hauff and Minimal Violence.
Another part of elevating women and gender non-conforming artists in the electronic music landscape, in addition to promoting a roster of talented women, Discwoman features artists to create mixes and conduct short interviews on their website. This provides an alternative insight about the side of the industry that is marginalized by showcasing their work and knowing a bit about the artists themselves.