Laying a foundation for the future: K-$ on representation in the local music scene

Kalo Canterbury, better known as K-$, is a DJ, internet lover, style enthusiast and “all-round Daddy” from Cape Town. For K-$, music was always something she saw herself pursuing, but ended up experimenting in a number of other fields before getting there. The DJ’s just finished up a postgraduate degree in marketing, and if you’re a keen internet cruiser, you would’ve seen her face attached to the streetwear brand Young & Lazy as well as featuring in many a photographic project with LIT Squad, a multi-skilled family and collective dabbling in fashion, music, photography and more.

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Recently, K-$ has been booked to take the stage at the 2017 Cape Town Electronic Music Festival (CTEMF). It’s a huge achievement for any local DJ or producer, but as the artist explains, it’s a sizeable victory for a brown, queer, non-binary musician such as herself. We chat to the artist about representation in music, gatekeeping in the local music, and the exclusive mix she’s put together ahead of CTEMF.  

You’ve noted (quite accurately) that brown, queer, non-binary individuals struggle with representation within the local music scene. Looking at the local music scene as an institution, where would you say this starts becoming an issue? Is it an issue of white cishet ownership in the upper levels or does it run deeper than that?

I do believe so, yes. The music industry is a reflection of who the “gate-keepers” are and the industry itself is a very patriarchal one where white cis-het ownership plays a role. The local music scene is really growing from strength to strength because people support each other’s movements and it’s an exciting time in music in general for us brown folks. Movements like my LIT family, Uppercut, Rainbowtime and LoveAll are some stellar examples of groups of people pushing musical boundaries, creating a safe space for likeminded individuals. We work hard to push ourselves, big up each other, party and enjoy what each other does. It’s working well because I see us moving forward together to reclaim our space. But yeah, as far as queer/non-binary mense and womxn go, there really hasn’t been a space for us at the forefront of the scene. That’s changing very fast now though, with artists and friends Dope Saint Jude, Angel-Ho, and Umlilo breaking down barriers without asking for anyone’s permission. It’s beautiful, and it’s the biggest inspiration for me to do the same thing. Most of these artists get their deserved props more from an international audience, rather than right here at home, but it’s ok… they’ll wake up soon enough when they see what we’ve all got planned. More than anything, it’s also so important for brown, queer, non-binary kids to see themselves in us, out there doing something we are passionate about. We’re creating our own wave from scratch to lay a foundation for the future.

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Congratulations again on the CTEMF gig. Both in terms of yourself and in terms of a black and brown queer audience, what does this mean in terms of representation and progress in the music scene?

Yooooooo, this was really the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me. When I got the booking request I was in an Uber by myself on my way to LIT, freaking out. The driver probably gave me a shit rating for being so hype on that 15 minute trip. I’m very proud to be playing the music I play, created by black artists, because it meant a lot to my parents and grandparents as a form of escapism when things were horrible for them during apartheid, and I know so many other POC of my generation can relate to this. The music has trickled down to us now, inviting pure happiness and feel-good, fun times. So firstly, the music speaks for itself, and to people of colour. This is OUR music. Secondly, awe, I’m really happy that I get to rep for my whole queer family the same way Dope and Angie did last year. CTEMF is an exceptional platform, and in a society where prejudices exist in both lowkey and very highkey ways, it’s lekker to be up there and flex on the people who perpetuate the hate, and shine for everyone who knows what’s really good.

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When it comes to the patriarchal hold on the industry, how do you think we can combat the
issue as musicians, fans, media organisations and more? Do you think CTEMF is doing a good job at combating the issue?

I just think that if the industry isn’t gonna open itself up to you, follow in the footsteps of those breaking down doors, and kick them down for yourself too. We’re already doing it as musicians, fans are demanding the quality we produce, and media houses such as yourself are providing a platform. CTEMF has always been at the pinnacle of creating a fully represented line-up of talented artists pushing boundaries, constantly looking to the future, becoming bigger and better every year. So big up to them for combating the issue by just doing them and believing in the potential of every artist they’ve worked with.

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And lastly, tell us a bit about the promo mix!

The promo mix is a bit different to what I’ve put out recently. It’s a lot more rare funk sounds that most people haven’t heard a lot of, with one or two familiar gems thrown in there for good measure. I wanted to offer an insight into what I listen to and a little bit of what you can expect from me at CTEMF. At the end of the day, it’s a feel-good, summertime mix for you to play at a braai, family gathering, house party, in the car, at work, or just on a laid-back Sunday afternoon with a gin in your hand and your toes in the pool.

Photos by Ashiq Johnson aka Broken Transient of LIT Squad.

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