By: Amanda Sandström Beijer
Kikelomo is moving quickly and creates new buzzes in Berlin within one field at a time. She got introduced to techno when visiting the city for the first time and has since then, besides creating a name for herself, also mentored baby DJ’s within the ’No Shade’ collective and training program.
Kikelomo [k-ih-k-eh-l-aw-m-aw] has a presence to her energy. She does not pile up her accomplishments, but rather invites you into her own world - a space where safety, welcoming, uplifting, acceptance, music and joy make up the foundation.
Besides maintaining a DJ career, London born Kikelomo is a party creator, radio show host, music producer, she works within the tech startup scene and is also an engineer.
”The first time I visited Berlin, I had no idea what to expect. I didn't know anything about Germany besides schoolbook history. My friend suggested that we should come here to party and I said yes on a whim, despite the fact I was completely clueless about the scene, I didn't even know what techno was at the time.”
”We met two Canadian boys we befriended at the hostel, who recommended that we went to Golden Gate. It was an experience to say the least, and I partied for a few days. I remember thinking that everyone seemed so free. They were standing on the speakers, dancing. Of course, I also went to see the more traditional Berlin tourist attractions like The Wall and Brandenburger Tor.”
”I guess that first trip made a mark, because while sitting on the runway waiting for my flight back to London I was already booking my next trip back.”
Kikelomo started to get to know more people who lived here and began dating someone, which started making her consider a move.
”My studies as an Engineer were coming to an end and I already knew that I didn’t want to continue it as a profession. When I graduated, I had no plans or obligations.”
”This was right at the end of the national vote to leave EU, and after finding out that 52 percent of the nation had voted to leave, I decided to make use of the freedom while I still had the chance. Within two weeks of the vote result, I had found a job and an apartment.”
This was the moment I realized how much clubbing in Berlin had changed me.
Having grown up in London, with the high paced lifestyle and pressure, coming to Berlin was a total contrast.
”I remember going to a club for the first time in London after returning from Berlin. This was the moment I realized how much clubbing in Berlin had changed me. I couldn't do it anymore: the bottle service, the uncomfortably high heels, the unnecessary displays of wealth the mediocre selection of music. I just couldn’t stand it. For me, clubbing is about connecting with both music and people, and my initial experiences with clubbing in Berlin really solidified that for me."
”Berlin is a very transitory city, people are always coming and going - it's a constant state of flux. I think as a result, a lack of willingness to commit is woven into the very nature of the city, whether that's keeping plans for a weekend open right up to the last hour, all the way up to serious relationships. I think this state of flux was something that was also reflected in my friendships in the beginning of my move. It took a while to forge close, meaningful friendships, but today, over four years later, I look around me and see the amazing people I have in my life, and I am so grateful.”
The first year in Berlin she wasn’t a DJ but worked in a tech startup. Kikelomo’s journey as a DJ and producer started on Cashmere Radio.
”Since I was 16, I always knew I wanted to be a radio presenter. When I got here, I jumped straight into the working life culture, but I missed the buzz of radio culture that I'd grown accustomed to in the UK. I started looking into community radio stations and was lucky to find Cashmere Radio, the station from which I still broadcast my radio show ’Pass The Aux’.”
”Cashmere was also my first serious touchpoint with DJ’ing. I noticed that all the other radio hosts were mixing their tracks together, and I thought that this was what I needed to learn how to do to become a better radio presenter, you could even say it was peer pressure. A good friend of mine who I met at the station added me to the Facebook group ’Sister', an online forum for trans people, non-binary people and women working in music to connect. Through this, I found No Shade, and so began my transition into Club events.”
In 2017, Kikelomo trained with ’No Shade’, a collective, training program and club night series to learn how to DJ with club standard equipment. Today she not only plays herself, but frequently trains and mentors baby DJ’s, and continually works for more diverse, inclusive, safer spaces within the music-, as well as club-, and startup scene.
”There are so many barriers when it comes to making a step into the music industry. My experiences working in tech and studying Engineering acclimatized me to existing in homogenous environments, but it can still be quite intimidating, particularly when you don’t see yourself reflected in the group of people that is taking up the the majority of the space.”
At this point, Berlin’s desire to return to summer open airs and safe parties is palpable. Until then, after having left the collective No Shade, Kikelomo will be focusing on producing music, in addition to building out concepts for new events series.
”I've been working on some ideas together with my good friend and fellow DJ, Melis. Just before the pandemic hit, we put together a concept named ’Bronze’, centered around the communities and music that we connect with the most. Unfortunately we didn't have a chance to implement it the way we liked, but after spinning together at some summer events and literally testing the waters with a boat party, we would love to start realizing the vision this year.”
”We hope to collaborate with more multidisciplinary artists, and not only working with DJ’s, but also with a variety dancers, as well as fine artists, graphic designers and sound artists. We hope that our curation will speak for itself, and while we want this concept to hold space and prioritize the BIPOC and queer communities we belong to, we don’t want the concept to be built on the foundation of identity. The fact that it will be a safer space is a given."
Kikelomo's joy for artists, culture, music and parties is shining bright. Facts are she’s also an excellent Berghain guide.
”Visiting Berlin opened my eyes to a new way of expression through connection with music, and I love to introduce this connection to my friends. One of my favorite things to do, is taking people's ’Berghain virginity’”, Kikelomo laughs.
”Because it’s an experience for everyone, the joy and the freedom that can be expressed. I make it my quest now, every time someone hasn’t been to Berghain, I’m like… Can I take you?"
You can really tell that techno stems from black culture
"I try to tailor the club induction to people's apprehensions and desires. As their guide, I typically start with a Sunday brunch. Nothing eases nerves more than food, before popping into Berghain around 3pm. It's perfect, even the people who don't usually go to clubs can be in bed by 10pm, having dancing for a solid 7 hours . I've never taken someone to Berghain and they didn’t have a great time.”
”The whole techno experience is so profound there. The kind of music that's entrenched in Berlin history; you can hear the groove behind it. You can really tell that techno stems from black culture, it's reminiscent of soul music. I always say there's seasoning in it. Many people have these misconceptions about what techno is, they may have heard the played out stereotypes on mainstream media, but it's so important to truly experience it, to live out what's really connected at the root of techno.”
It’s obvious that Kikelomo is an inspiration to people on many levels, not only the people she’s been guiding in Berghain or her DJ mentees. And on her behalf, she too gets inspired by the people she spends time with.
”One of my friends Anz inspires me a lot. I adore the way she uses more traditional techno styles laced with quintessentially UK elements. It’s so innovative. Another friend, K.G., fuses her sonic influences from South- and West Africa - from Ghana and with modern rhythms.”
”Of course, I'm also inspired by the original generation of electronic music pioneers, people like Jeff Mills for example. I get bored easily, so when I play, I try to bring in elements from a multitude of different genres, and tie them together, it’s very eclectic. As a result, I have a huge appreciation for talented multi genre DJ’s. However, despite of my love for eclectic selections, for some reason, whenever I play, people can always tell that I’m from London. UK music is in my blood, from Grime to Jungle and everything in between.”
it's also worth acknowledging that Berlin isn't a utopia
What makes Kikelomo feel inspired in Berlin is the freedom she feels in the city.
”I think that while Berlin is free, I am very lucky to belong to communities that work tirelessly to create these kinds of spaces where people feel included. There’s this kind of friendliness and openness that isn’t so present in London at first glance. The spaces exist in my home city but are harder to come by. However, it's also worth acknowledging that Berlin isn't a utopia, there are also spaces in the city that aren't inclusive to marginalized people, we've still got a way to go.”
”In spite of the freedom one can experience when indulging in club culture, there’s still something I’m feeling is missing in Berlin. The variety of people from different backgrounds and the celebration of diversity. But I also think that Berlin is changing for the better when it comes to this topic.”
Kikelomo also contrasts the way of living life in Berlin, with the London lifestyle as to the rhythm of it.
”There’s a hustle in London, a pace of life that is much faster and much more intense. This working culture, this ability to grind is something I'm grateful is a part of me, since I wouldn’t be where I am without it, especially when it comes to the acceleration of my career.”
Although Kikelomo is enamoured with club culture, her most treasured moments in Berlin have happened not while manning the DJ booth or cutting shapes on the dance floor, but rather in nature.
”My best times have been the down time - going to lakes, spending time in nature, brunch and quality time with my friends, exchanging music with each other. It's these moments that inspire my creative output and I really cherish them.”