Electric Lights - Women in Electronic Music – Akua

Akua “I’d like to see more respect for the origins of techno and more younger techno audiences familiarizing themselves with its history”

Akua  (Photo: Katja Ruge)

We are excited to present you the newest feature in our ongoing “Electric Lights” series, hosted by Hamburgs very own photo legend Katja Ruge. This time she lured Akua in front of her camera, whose set build on her massive knowledge of all kinds of dance music (and beyond) archives, but are pure techno avalanches. 


Which music was the first to touch/inspire/move you? What made it so special and standing to you?

A lot of my childhood and most of my teen years I was very into and influenced by all types of music – especially R&B, hip-hop, rap, and some rock like more emo leaning stuff haha. But when I was a kid I really wanted to be a singer and I felt super inspired by lyrics and words in general. I’d say that early R&B/pop artists inspired me first like Destiny’s Child, Alicia Keys, Aaliyah, and Mary J Blige. I think listening to them sing made me aware at an early age of how powerful one’s voice could be and also the strength of emotions that can be channeled through it.

Are you able to share the process of evolving your musical identity with us?

Sure! So I think I would start from college, when I was initially doing radio and taking my passion for music more seriously. During that time, in my first couple of years I was initially super interested in music from the LA beat scene, UK bass, “deconstructed club” and footwork from labels & collectives like Night Slugs, Fade to Mind, and Hyperdub as well. I also got more into house and techno and gained an interest in their history after finding out about their Black roots and reading more about both genres. When I did college radio I played a bit of everything from all of the aforementioned genres and this interest remained when I finally made it to NYC right after graduating college. Even though I had a range of interests sonically (and still do), when I first started really learning how to DJ I felt compelled to start DJing house music. For some reason I felt more interested in mixing tracks with vocals, and I had CDJs that only took CDs, so I was making my own with like Blake Baxter, Kerri Chandler, Moodymann, Mood II Swing, Masters at Work, Floorplan, etc. So once I mastered mixing house, I decided to try more with electro and techno. Techno ended up being the one that stuck with me the most and I think in general with the Akua artistic identity it makes the most sense to me. I’ve always felt more inspired by techno that is raw, funky, yet still a bit intense and that intensity is 100% what I’m always trying to bring forth in my sets. I think my sound has evolved a bit over the years, growing gradually in line with eras of techno oddly enough. I think when I first started I was very interested in early 90s techno, around the year I was born (1994) and now I’m in a phase where I’m more interested in late 90s/early 2000s techno but mixing those tracks t with other contemporary sounds that I feel bring that same energy, especially music from friends of mine in the states. I feel pretty good about this current era though. 🙂

Akua  (Photo: Katja Ruge)

Please name female artists without whose music you wouldn’t be involved in techno? Why those?

K-Hand first and foremost. Her music, her artistic range, and the commitment she put into her practice is so admirable. She deserved way more recognition than she got during her physical time on this earth. Truly an icon. I also think of Akilah Bryant as an inspiration of mine even though she only made a few EPs that got released on Djax-Up-Beats and for the most part has remained pretty elusive and distanced from the industry for a very long time. Miss Djax of course as well. No explanation needed with that one – such an icon to me and her attitude towards music has always struck me as so genuine and badass. Also I think of artists like Gayle San, Punisher from Detroit, Jana Clemen in Germany as she also was putting on female artists like Tina Lestate and V-Key on her label Convex back in the day, Jana Rush, and Mistress Barbara as well. I think all of those women were making very raw house and techno has been able to stand the test of time as I often play their music during my sets.

What do you think sets your “voice” or creative expression apart from others?

The fact that I’m literally not trying to be like anyone else or give into trends and actively maintaining my individuality in what I do. Even though I’m a techno DJ in the year 2024, I feel a bit distanced from everything around me at times since I still find most of my inspiration from older generations and my attention for contemporary sounds is pretty selective as well. I like this for myself though since it’s really helped me stay very true to what I like sonically. I think even though my style has evolved over the years, the foundation and the ethos has remained consistently in showcasing what I consider to be a truly raw and old school sound. Unfortunately, I see that in the current moment what tends to be respected and rewarded are those who like to keep up with trends and restructure their output to fit whatever is the most popular at the moment since that’s what’s considered to sell tickets or make money.

Akua  (Photo: Katja Ruge)

What empowers you or helps you to overcome obstacles and challenges in your work?

On my own, doing things like journaling, meditating, exercising especially boxing to get all my frustration out. Talking with people I trust. Revisiting favorite sets, talks, interviews of mine with people I deeply admire so I can feel a renewed sense of inspiration and purpose when it comes to why the struggles and obstacles are worth it. Remembering the ethos of what techno used to and is supposed to be. Remembering that there’s people who still believe in that spirit despite all of the bs that has completely diluted the industry.

What would be a fantasy venue or event to dj or play live at?

Limelight in NYC in the 90s for sure 🙂

Do you see a connection between your femininity and your work? And if so what is it?

I do see a connection for sure. I consider the act of creation to be a very feminine process in itself. For myself though, I feel like I channel a more rebellious, unrestrainable type of feminine energy into what I do. Kind of like a “Lilith” type of essence – one that is very independent, nonconforming, and focused on preserving my own dignity and authenticity without apology.

What do you hope to find in music?

Freedom on a very spiritual level. A sense of honest connection and understanding that words fail to encapsulate.

What changes do you hope to see in your respective community/scene/industry at the moment?

Way too many things to be honest. Firstly, I’d like to see more of a respect for the origins of techno and more younger techno audiences familiarizing themselves with its history and not just believing that what techno/the dance music industry is now is what it’s always been. I’d like to see more respect and amplification of marginalized communities and less focus and over glorification of cis male artists in general. I’d like for the acts of gatekeeping and nepotism to be non-existent at this point and for bookers/clubs/etc. to be more thoughtful and equal in their approach (though this feels far fetched). I feel like it’s also important for bookers to be aiding in cultivating quality emerging talent rather than focusing so intensely on headliner/hype culture. I’d like for there to be less importance placed on the aesthetics of techno and more on the music again. Less reliance and focus on social media hype that only continues to deplete the essence of techno. I’d like for more artists to feel like they don’t need to compromise their artistic identity just to make it in this industry and for more focus being put on authenticity and individuality rather than bs trends that have no substance. I’d really just like to see integrity being a common practice by all who are part of the global dance music ecosystem.

This interview with Akua is part of the ongoing photo-project “Electric Lights – Women in Electronic Music” by Hamburg based photographer Katja Ruge and Kaput co-publisher Thomas Venker focused on the role of women in electronic music. Each photoshoot is accompanied by a short interview, based on a personalised questionnaire. The interviews will be published on the kaput website on a monthly basis, before finding their way into a book.


Akua  (Photo: Katja Ruge)

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