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Showcasing Our Diversity – An Interview With Coven Code

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If you are into electronic dance music and if you are an observer of our little scene, you will see a vast change in the scene in the past two years. The electronic music scene in India is on a rise like never before. One of the main changes we can see is that more women are coming forward and started working in the industry. From festivals to club promoters are now trying to balance out the lineup. This led to the birth of Coven Code, a collective.

Coven Code is a femme collective that aspires to build a creative culture around sound. They hope to embrace diverse talents by creating a safe, inclusive and multicultural community. Their aim is to be inclusive for those that identify as Femme & Non-Binary.

Recently we had a conversation with the collective about various topics

1) When did you guys realize you guys want to start Coven Code? Who’s idea was it?

It happened organically after the Wild City Women in Electronic Music workshops at British Council. A lot of us seemed to be on the same page of wanting to see concrete changes in the music industry as per safety, sexism, and lack of inclusivity. So we started meeting on a weekly basis to come up with ideas. We were offered a gig at Auro though one of our members, Alpana, with Under The Radar. This event really gave us a chance to experiment with what we would like to see happen. From there we have solidified into a closer knit collective and continue to work on projects we feel align with our vision and mission.

2) What code are you guys going to keep to make this Collective different from other female collectives?

We’re not trying to be different for the sake of being different. Our focus is trying to be as effective as possible in the work that we do. We are making an effort to learn from other female collectives that have the same challenges as us. We do however maintain a strong focus on being non-hierarchical and maintain a sensitive voting system for actions taken. We are also a very eclectic collective with members from a vast range of different skill-sets from architecture to policy making to radio, design, yoga and much more. Though our collective is focused on a “culture around sound”, we also have a mixed media focus through our channels and our events. This is shown through our fire-squad of visual artists, production team and VJs and also through the variety of skillshare workshops held by our members. We are also located in a geography that has its own politics around representation and inclusivity which might not be addressed by other collectives so that in itself brings in many new priorities.

 3) What is the vision of this collective?

Coven Code is a creative collective that aspires to build a creative culture around sound. We are focused on encouraging artistic expression for woman, especially in spaces that can be male-dominated, or inaccessible to womxn individuals. It is quite literally a code, a way of behaving that is based on equality, inclusivity, freedom of expression and the pursuit of art – whatever that means to each member. Together we aim to address the machismo and aggressiveness we often see within the nightlife industry in Delhi. Coven Code members come from different fields of work and experiences, including journalism, arts, social work, music, fashion, design, and others. We aim to build a growing network of women, queer people and allies in varied industries to collaborate and encourage a more inclusive culture.

We want more women working in the nightlife industry, more women on working teams and event line-ups, not as “tokens” but as artists respected for their work. We are hoping to see an equal balance between men and women working in this industry and as patrons in the near future. We aspire to be more inclusive for those that identify as Femme & Non-Binary. Our events have a zero tolerance policy towards sexual harassment, unwanted touching, stalking and any forms of discrimination based on gender, disability, sexuality, race, religion or age. We are starting with the music and nightlife industry because that is the common thread that brings us together, however, because we all come from diverse backgrounds we hope to expand what we learn together, outwards into other industries.

4) How many members you guys have now in the collective ? Can you give us the details about the artist and their genre?

We currently have sixteen active members in the collective. Our collective is not just made up of DJs but also includes hard-working members in our Social Media, Design, Production and PR teams. Here is a list of each member:

  1. E: Esther has worked in Nightlife for almost a decade. Among other aspects she is a DJ, VJ as well as an events curator. Being exposed to all kinds of sounds and genres over the years, E (Esther) is figuring out her own sound as a DJ. Currently playing Hip-hop, grime, UK Garage, DNB, Bass heavy and Trap in her sets, and  exploring tech-house, techno and deep-house, she doesn’t want to confine herself to one specific genre. For her this is a journey to delve deeper into the nuances of the countless styles and offshoots that exist in the dance music sphere and to  be able to do a multi-genre set that comes together seamlessly.
  2. Fadescha: Vidisha is an artist and a curator working across arts and cultural disciplines, and considers parties as a site for artistic praxis. In her dance mixes Fadescha showcases Techno & House leaning towards Acid, Industrial, Hard and Psychedelic sounds. She loves world, disco, electro, afro house for more melodic and chill sets. Also fond of modular sounds, experimental noise, and internet genres primarily Hard Vapour. As a producer, Fadescha works with field recordings and found sound. Having created soundscapes earlier in 2013, she recently collaborated with Hyperbation (China) to create and perform a VR Rave, “Hyperbody IV: The Hyperrave of Queer Maximalism”. Vidisha participated in Synthfarm 2019 and was also invited to Nightlife Residency (Feb- March 2019), to engage with the music and nightlife scene in Beijing.
  3. House of Nari: House of Nari (Prabhjit) is a hype thing. Expect selections from wavey Afrobeats, smooth RnB, to Grimey numbers, peppered with some Reggae and Dancehall classics. Not afraid of including Pop to Punjabi, she’s a real party-people pleaser, getting even the party-poopers dancing with her upbeat selections. A prolific podcaster and a champion of the Nari cause, she currently hosts the House of Nari podcast featuring femme talent from India and abroad. You can catch her putting on and playing parties from London to Delhi.
  4. Kavtinaa: Kavtinaa  (Shona), from pictorial Pondicherry, is a power artist. Now 4 years into the underground music space, she’s been steadily carving out a niche for herself. Though always open to new expressions, her core drive remains in Techno, Tech House and deep mood music. Artefakt, Neel , Sacred Geometry, Svreca, and Rrose are her top inspirations. Her music greets us with dark , spooky and tripping sounds, taking you for a ride through the shaded world of dark techno.
  5. Lush Lata: A curious mix of old school hip hop, beats, monologues and trap pack a punch with Lush Lata’s set, that borrows from the notion that there is calm before a storm. Aligning this with moods that drop low only to rise high, Lush Lata (Nandini) places her artistic explorations in the interstices of the common shebang.
  6. Oindrila: Having gravitated toward the dancefloor and the internet for the beatz in the ‘90s, Oindrila believes in creating experiences for her listeners as she traverses through big beat, acid house, trip hop, downtempo, Euro disco, hip hop, dance, and found sound. Currently a documentary filmmaker in Delhi, Oindrila is interested in engaging with the changing faces of art, archive, and activism.
  7. Pia Collada: Pia Collada (Pia) is a half India, half British DJ whose love for Hip-Hop, Reggae and Afrobeat comes from having grown up across India, U.S.A and Tanzania. Her sets reflect this journey, often mixed with a dose of strong female energy being shared by artists from across the globe.
  8. Priyam: Priyam (Priyamvada) brings you delicious tunes soaked in good vibes that incite all kinds of savoury feelings. From J Dilla to Kaytranada, she likes to mix hip-hop with funk, jazz and soul, to make a dangerously fun brew of sounds. Priyam is a former journalist and an aspiring economist and mixes these passions with her love for experimenting with beats and tunes.
  9. Rodali: Rodali is a mixed media visual artist using traditional paint and ink mediums with collage, digital art, illustration and photography. When behind the console she plays a mix of old and new disco, stripped back dub along with funk, soul and house – setting a mood that’s easy to both dance and chill to. Apart from DJing she is also a professional Visual Jockey and has worked with groups such as Coven Code, Mosquito Massala, REProduce, Boxout FM, District India and OddBird Theatre to bring together live performances and experimental set design.
  10. Shireen: Shireen is a Delhi-based DJ, who gravitated to dance music for the transformative power of the dance floor. She intends her sets to be sonic explorations that leave the room for every night to take its own unique course, where the exchange between music and audience has space to become larger than the sum of its parts. Heavily influenced by the clubbing culture of the UK and its faraway threads in the current Indian music scene, her sets draw from various dance music styles, focusing on house and techno, as well as UK garage, breakbeat, dubstep, and other subgenres falling under the UK bass music umbrella. She is currently on Wild City’s roster as their resident.
  11. Vijeyata: Vijeyata is an artist based in New Delhi who plays a variety of genres ranging from Jazz, World, Afrobeat, Footwork to Indian Classical to Experimental music. Being trained in the Indian Hindustani Music style on the tabla, keyboard, vocals & violin much of her inspiration is derived from this background and the various places she has lived in & traveled to. She also aims to connect her music with various art and civil rights movements, using music as a means to disseminate Information.
  12. Zequenx: Zainab is a budding producer and DJ, and an all-round lover of music that haunts the mind and excites the soul. Her journey started on the dancefloor, like most of us, where she found absolute bliss within all kinds of dark groovy vibrations. From then on out it’s been a slow but pure dedication towards the art of creating, curating and raving to the sounds of the sonical abyss. She has various projects and collaboration including Zequenx (DJ, Acid Electro/ Dark Minimal Techno/ Psytech), Zen Zanan (Producer + DJ, Dark Progressive), Butter Bunz (a collaboration with Aryaman Agarwal, Live all analog set, Acid Electro).
  13. Short Human: Short Human (Alpana) originally from Guwahati, plays a mix of genres ranging from disco to hip-hop. She is currently working with Boxout.fm
  14. Chandni: Chandni’s experience spans media, marketing, footwear and music. Having worked with multidisciplinary teams to create and execute award winning properties and platforms across media for Heineken, Guinness amongst others in Singapore and London, she enjoys conceptualising platforms and events that bring Coven Code’s visions to life. She also guides the strategy at CC and is involved in every aspect on what runs behind the scenes.
  15. Divya Dureja: Divya is an events organizer, spoken word artist, psychologist and queer rights advocate. She curates events around the city.

5) If someone wants to be part of your collective, how can they approach you?

We are open to and invite collaborations, however, we are not taking on new members at this time as we are working on building our own strong foundation. We have opened up platforms for guest artists to come and play at some events – such as Monita Wagma, Electrikuki, Crylighter and Al Mat who recently played at Summer House Cafe during our Boxout Residency in March 2019. For such inquiries, someone would reach out to us on Instagram (@coven.code) or email us at [email protected]

6) It’s been almost a year after you guys started the collective. Did you guys start to see changes in our dance music scene?

Yes definitely.

1) There have been so many more women on the dancefloor/feel comfortable dancing at our gigs. We have personally heard positive feedback from the audience about this.

2) Many women have been vocal about how they are inspired by Coven Code and we have seen many more female DJs/producers come out in the scene in the last year. Many of these women have reached out to us for collaborations.

3) The metoo movement has been instrumental in calling people problematic out and we are very grateful for this. We wish to take this global movement forward in our own way by building on it to continue weeding out dangerous people and behaviors to make the nightlife more enjoyable, safe and inclusive for all.

4) We have all seen more female artists being included in the line ups. Some womxn who have been in the industry have voiced that they now feel that it is possible for this to be a viable and sustainable career. There is also a growing dialogue around inclusion not just of women but also other genders and identities.

5) We have noticed more nights organised by female artists, more events focused on gender equality and more women talking about how to help each other. A good network for exchanging the information that used to be inaccessible is now in our reach.

6) Being a collective has definitely improved our visibility as women in music, which leaves programmers no excuse to not have females on the line-up.

7) What are the goals for Coven Code in 2019?

The goals are many. We hope to do more international and local collaborations and build more independent interdisciplinary events. Some of our artists tracks and mixes are being showcased on international radio networks, and other programs. Some artist in the collective are leaning more towards production and some are working on outreach programs and building programs for skillshares, going beyond metro cities.

We have in this year collaborated with Auro as well as Warpcore for an event (“We Belong”), we had a stage at Boxout Weekender, and have been using local resources such as “The Live Room” to learn production, Sanj showcased our tracks on Femme Noise podcast (Toronto), and other members are on an exciting journey as independent artists.

8) Have any suggestions to women in other cities who want to start a collective?  

Reach out, connect with each other. Be vocal about what you care about. This will help bring together people on a similar wavelength. Once this happens it is important to collectivise around a common goal. Meet regularly is hugely important in organising well. Start small, start with the easy steps. But start. Put actions to words. Those who are keen on building a collective should locate already existing support structures, such as other collectives, music studios or certain established institutions that can give support. Having such support helps to manifest opportunities. Don’t overthink it. Just do it.

You can connect with Coven Code from here
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