Accra’s lively and dynamic DJ culture has long been a melting pot of diverse sounds, beats, and talents. However, like many music communities worldwide, the decks have often been perceived as a predominantly male domain.
Enter “Women Take the Deck,” a groundbreaking workshop set to redefine the narrative, founded by Kezia Boateng professionally known as Kezz. This workshop will feature expert DJs: Kezz, Yelvu, TMSKD, and other trailblazing figures. This initiative aims to bridge the gender gap in the DJing realm, fostering a space where women can not only find their rhythm but also amplify their influence.
Accra’s music scene is a rich tapestry of genres, from the traditional beats of highlife, the infectious rhythms of Afrobeat to the niche yet electrifying dance scene. Yet, despite the city’s sonic diversity, women DJs have often faced barriers in claiming their rightful place in the limelight. “Women Take the Deck” seeks to dismantle these barriers, providing a platform for aspiring female DJs to hone their skills and contribute to the city’s evolving musical narrative.
Accra pulsates with an energy that transcends boundaries, and its DJ culture is no exception. The workshop aligns with a broader global movement acknowledging the immense talent that women bring to the decks, challenging stereotypes, and fostering inclusivity in a traditionally male-dominated field.
We had a chat with Kezz the founder of Women Take the Deck to explore their motivations and passion for this workshop.
Over the years, how have you personally witnessed the evolution of DJ culture, and what aspects stand out to you as significant changes?
DJ culture in Ghana has definitely evolved substantially from its early days. The music has diversified from the once predominant afrobeats to incorporate more genres, as DJs have become more experimental and eclectic in reflecting various styles. I personally believe DJs have reached a fearless point of no return. It’s as if everyone woke up one day and said “This is me, and this is what I spin, take it or leave it”. Notable platforms like the iMullar Sound system have contributed to that. Similarly, the local industry landscape was initially male-dominated but has seen the rise of successful female DJs like Uncle Waffles over the recent years hosting major events and shows. They are finally shattering the outdated perception of DJing as a male-only space. We now have many female role models within the industry to look up to.
The DJing scene has become more diverse in recent years. In your opinion, how has this diversity positively influenced the overall music experience for audiences?
DJs with different backgrounds and experiences introduce music from genres, cultures or periods that some audiences haven’t heard before. This gives people a chance to discover new sounds. For example, Amapiano’s popularity represents a shift towards celebrating African music identities and moving away from Western-centric influences. Diverse DJs have helped drive this. It has enriched the music landscape by adding iconic African elements to global dance floors. Diverse DJs have been integral to sharing those rhythms and sounds.
I believe that increased diversity expands the musical palette available to audiences, and allows more people to feel welcomed and excited by the DJ scene. If handled respectfully, it should lead to a richer, more vibrant and inclusive music culture for all.
The workshop aims to empower and educate aspiring female DJs. Can you share specific ways you believe this initiative will contribute to shaping the DJing landscape in the next three years?
While honing the technical skills of DJing remains crucial, it is important to recognise that DJing has evolved to become far more than just a behind-the-scenes craft. Today’s DJs are respected as brands and performers in their own right, cultivating loyal followings through their unique styles, personas, and commanding stage presence. Fans now form deep connections with their favourite DJs, resonating not only with their music but their larger-than-life image. This transformation has elevated DJing into an aspirational, prestigious creative career that requires just as much business savvy as technical ability. That is why this workshop aims to provide participants with a holistic education in both the art and enterprise of DJing.
We want to equip attendees not only with expert technical training but also the branding, marketing and entrepreneurial skills needed to build their identity, grow their audience and thrive as self-made brands in today’s industry. Our goal is to nurture the next generation of DJs who understand that the craft alone is not enough – you must become the music and the spectacle. We hope to empower these young talents to approach DJing as a multifaceted career where their artistry, image and connection with fans are just as integral to success as their ability behind the turntables.
Collaboration and community seem integral to the DJing world. How do you think events like the workshop contribute to building a supportive community for DJs, especially for women in the industry?
Events like this help cultivate a community that uplifts women in the male-dominated industry through creating welcoming spaces to gain hands-on experience, facilitating mentorship with professionals, building strong peer networks for ongoing training and collaboration, providing a platform for visibility and career launches, and establishing tight-knit solidarity to help navigate gender barriers. This could significantly diversify the talent pool, equip women with strong creative and technical skills, build their confidence to put themselves out there, foster collaborative networks, promote more inclusion in the industry, challenge outdated stereotypes, provide positive role models, and bring fresh sounds and perspectives.
Ultimately, the workshop promises to nurture a generation of skilled female DJs whose impact on attitudes, visibility and opportunity could resonate for years to come, helping create a more diverse and vibrant DJ landscape. By bringing women together in an encouraging environment at all stages of development, these communal workshops help provide the knowledge, confidence, connections and resilience for the next generation of female DJs to thrive, while also gradually shifting the culture towards inclusivity.
Looking ahead, what specific opportunities do you envision for female DJs in different sectors of the industry, and how can they position themselves for success?
There are many opportunities for forward-thinking female DJs to leverage other industries such as the fashion, dance/choreography or brand influencer industry. This can be done through cultivating trend-setting personal aesthetics, partnering on creative campaigns and events, building aspirational lifestyle brands beyond music, networking in shared high-profile spaces, and developing social media and branding strategies. By understanding and integrating with these worlds, female DJs can magnify their success and influence exponentially across industries, boosting their image as cultural tastemakers and visionary creatives.
Every career has its challenges. Can you share a personal experience of overcoming a challenge as a female DJ and the lessons learned from that experience?
I’ve faced my fair share of challenges. Early on, I struggled to gain respect and opportunities when most big-name DJs were men. I’ve had to deal with harassment and discrimination simply because of my gender. I constantly grappled with staying true to my artistic style while facing pressure to conform to expectations of what a “female DJ” should be. Over time, I’ve learned some crucial lessons. First and foremost, you have to respect yourself and be confident in your abilities if you want others to take you seriously. I’ve asserted myself by clearly calling out inappropriate behaviour. I also make sure to let my unique perspective and taste as a DJ shine through in my sets instead of trying to imitate what’s popular.
People tend to negatively label female DJs. So I’m very cognizant of how I carry myself both on and off stage. Staying professional has helped me gain respect. I also make a point to educate myself on the business of the industry and network with other female DJs who have been trailblazers. Having that strong support system gives me resilience when I face setbacks.
Of course, you need thick skin to make it as a female DJ. I try not to take criticism too personally and instead learn from the many talented role models I admire, both male and female. I know I’m still the underdog as a woman, so I work hard so the work just speaks for itself.
Who are some female DJs that have inspired you, and how have they influenced your journey in the world of DJing?
TMSKD is an expert DJ based in Accra, who has managed to overcome the adversities faced in the industry. Despite her masked disguise, her technical skills and ability to energise the crowd make her an instant hit. She showed me that your talent behind the decks triumphs over everything when connecting with the dance floor. Her story taught me to let my abilities speak for themselves.
Mercedes Benson on the other hand, uses her social platform to showcase her style and inspire creatives to knock down barriers and advocate for themselves. She showed me the power of charting your path even within established scenes and never compromising your perspective.
Both of these women inspire me to stay true to my creativity and sounds while working hard at my craft – rather than conforming to others’ limiting assumptions. When I face obstacles as a DJ, I remind myself of pioneers like The Masked DJ and Mercedes thriving against the odds.
As we delve into the vibrant DJ culture of Accra, it becomes evident that the city’s beats are not just about music; they’re about breaking barriers and forging new paths. “Women Take the Deck” is not merely a workshop; it’s a celebration of diversity, a testament to the transformative power of music, and a step towards a more inclusive and harmonious future for Accra’s dynamic music community.
Women Take the Deck is powered by Afro Future and supported by twosixeight and Harmattan Rain.
Check out the special curation of our Sister Sounds Playlist by Yelvu, DJ Kezz and TMSKD