Interview: DJ Asma Of Nguzunguzu

The cosmically-minded Asma has been making MCs and dancers run short of breath as part of the voodoo bass outfit Nguzunguzu since the start of 2010.

Earning acclaim as M.I.A.'s tour DJ, Asma and her partner Daniel Pineda dropped their self-titled vinyl EP on Innovative Leisure and their third EP Mirage on Silverback Recordings, which saw the oddly-named duo receive acclaim from both sides of the Atlantic for their mix of rolling tribal beats, trippy club atmospherics and creative low-end. Their most recent release, Timesup on the Fade To Mind label, showcased the duo at their most psychedelic stage yet, though their current signing to the notoriously weird Hippos In Tanks label promises even more experimentations in sub-octaves in the near future. We caught up with the class of '11 participant Asma while she was cleaning her apartment in sunny LA.

You are originally from Chicago, correct? What exactly brought you out to Los Angeles? The winter?

Well, I'm actually originally from Bowie, Maryland, but I went to college in Chicago. But YES, the weather was a MAJOR part of why I moved to Los Angeles.

And you and Daniel [fellow Nguzunguzu member] met at the Art Institute of Chicago, correct? And you were doing improvisational music I hear. What did that look like?

Yes, we met in Chicago. We started collaborating with an MPC-2000, an Alesis synth, and a contact mic - basically improvising for hours and hours and recording it all to cassette tape.

And it seems like you got connected rather quickly once you arrived in LA, especially through Daniel and the Silver Platter parties. Kingdom too, right? What was the first work you all did as Nguzunguzu proper?

Yep, Wildness and Total Freedom are the only reasons why I DJ. Daniel and I continued making music but then we finally upgraded to Ableton, so we were making proper tracks. We got (and still get) SO much great music for free, so we decided to put our first self-titled EP out D.I.Y. style, and give it away for free on our website.

Now, you've hooked up with a lot of folks, from M.I.A. to Rye Rye and Sleep ∞ Over, among others. Most of the time are these folks hitting you all up, or are you an extreme hustler?

It's kind of both ways. Collaborations usually are hooked up by other people, mutual friends, or similar tastes. I find it easiest to work with Kingdom cause we love the same type of music and we have the same birthday, so are pretty similar in that respect.

Early on you played the violin, and you were quite a serious singer. Is there any plan to do some violin or vocal stuff with Nguzunguzu, or are you all trying to keep that mostly instrumental?

I did play the violin for almost nine years! But haven't touched one since then, though I love MIDI strings. I would love to sing, but I'm not a writer, so don't really know what the hell to sing about. I don't want to count it out entirely though, so maybe in the future, there will be more vocal stuff.

DJ Asma b2b with Canblaster for a Boiler Room special at the 2011 Academy in Madrid Dan Wilton

You've been touring a lot. What have been some of the highlights?

Of course the Boiler Room back-to-back session with Canblaster [at the Madrid Academy]! Also great people, amazing sound systems, Funktion One speakers, rotary mixers, song pull-ups, Patrón on ice.

Are there any special travel tips or items that you've found useful on the road?

Hmm, check the weather wherever you are going!!!! Don't overpack.

Your Art of Noise mixtape showed some serious digging skills. Is that something you do frequently? What's your favorite shop in the world?

I am an occasional record shopper. My favorite spots are definitely in Chicago. Out Of The Past Records, I would say.

Ginuwine or R. Kelly?

R. Kelly! He's a heavyweight.

Give us three songs that you wished you had produced...

Hmmm. First would be "Love Song" by Missez. Then "Firefly" by Wiley. And, of course, "Moments In Love" by Art of Noise [produced by 2011 Academy lecturer Trevor Horn].

Finally, any last words about your memories at the Academy in Madrid?

Totally an unforgettable experience. I want to do it again!!!!!!!!!

By Red Bull Music Academy on February 10, 2012

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