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REKA: A Melomaniac's Berlin journey

By: Filip Sandström Beijer

Photos by: Sven Hoffmann

For 10 years, the DJ and now entrepreneur Reka has lived in Berlin and made a name for herself on the European techno scene. In Playful she tells us about her new project that's going to change the way artists tour, what she loves about Berlin, and her first time playing a Sunday at Berghain as a former resident DJ at club rival Tresor.

For Reka, just like for many other artists and DJs, 2020 was a strange year where everything was put on hold. But just because the clubs and stages are closed does not mean that she has been idle. Even before the pandemic, she had sown the first seed of what is today being developed into her own company start-up with a vision of changing the way artists tour.

"It has been very challenging and exciting, and it is giving me fuel during this corona time. What we're creating is a software tool to make touring for artists more sustainable. We also want to make the whole process more efficient. But unfortunately, I cannot tell more since it hasn't been launched yet."

There is so much random, unnecessary traveling. We could do it in a smarter way

But there is no doubt that the constant travel and touring for many artists causes problems for both the environment and the artists themselves.

"There is so much random, unnecessary traveling. We could do it in a smarter way. One day you play in Lisbon, and the other day in Moscow, that's two different directions on the same weekend. Sometimes you play in two cities in the same country but on different weekends. For example, you can play one weekend in Paris and the next weekend in Lyon. These cities are just 2 h train ride from each other, so it makes no sense to do those gigs on two different weekends and waste all that time on traveling and adding unnecessary CO2 to the environment."

Constant travel eats away at both the environment and the psyche. She says that it is customary to say yes to most of the gigs but that it is complicated to coordinate the trips.

"Most of us have to say yes to very uncomfortable and unhealthy schedules because we want the job; we basically make money with the gigs. In the long run, it's both stressful and bad for the environment. Some artists deal with it better because they're more partygoers, have been touring for a lesser amount of time, or they do drugs, but I don't think it should be a given that we have to work under those conditions".

For Reka herself, traveling has sometimes been painful.

"I like to have a healthy lifestyle. I love productivity and things that are well done. I'm always aiming to get things going in the best possible way. I've seen so many faults when it comes to touring, so I'm trying to streamline the booking/touring process so artists, agents, and promoters can all have it easier and save loads of time".

But it has not always been obvious that she would work as an artist and DJ, even though her interest in music has been there since she was a child. What many do not know is that she has a degree in Genetics with Honors. She is addicted to books and learning and quite nerdy, building and repairing her own computers. On the other hand, she loves adventure sports and motorcycles, and of course, she drives them herself, though, in the last years, yoga has been what she dedicated most of her activity time.

There are melomaniacs who become DJs because they just love music. And others become DJs because they want to be a DJ. That's a huge difference

The massive interest in music took over, and after she once got behind the turntables, she couldn't stop. She describes herself as a melomaniac.

"There are melomaniacs who become DJs because they just love music. And others become DJs because they want to be a DJ. That's a huge difference. I belong to the first group. Back in the days, it was not exactly about becoming famous, touring incessantly, social media, followers, and all that. Then it was 'I love music, and I just wanna share what I have.' As simple as that ".

The obsession with music can be found in Reka's own creations, which she herself does not necessarily want to label. As a young woman, she listened to rock, metal, and electronic music with a common darkness.

"I listened to a lot of everything. I listened to loads of 80's music (pop, rock, disco, technopop, Italo, Acid House, New Beat, and EBM) when I was still a kid. In my teens, I kept listening to Depeche Mode and The Cure but got really into grunge and metal of all sorts; Nirvana, Tool, Marilyn Manson, Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Megadeth... Almost in my 20's, I started raving and got into electronic music again; Prodigy, Orbital, Atari Teenage Riot, etc... and then came techno, electro, ambient, and IDM; Autechre, Aphex Twin, I even listened to trip-hop; loved Portishead."

But even for someone who is open to many styles of music, there are limits.

"I can't listen to psychedelic rock, or house of any kind. It does not do anything to me. Trumpets, I can not do. I hate trumpets. I have hyperacusis (extra sensitivity to mid-high frequencies) that makes the trumpet sound unpleasant to my ears.

I struggled so much back in Madrid. There was a period of time when most of the clubs played house, and most of my friends worked or wanted to party there. The techno parties were outdated. For me, those years were a bit of a struggle. "she says and laughs.

The screaming house trumpets finally took her from Madrid to the techno capital Berlin ten years ago.

"Before 2010, I came here for gigs and stayed a couple of days or a week every time. Then I moved here definitely. I'm born In Barcelona, and I've been living in many parts of Spain and the States and a short time in Mexico. I do not have strong roots. For me, it was very natural to come to Berlin. I've always imagined myself living anywhere in the world. But now I've traveled so much, and I really feel like staying put. I will probably move from Berlin one day; I mean, it's been 11 years soon, but still is great here."

Also, you know, I'm not easily starstruck, but I'm always a big fan of people who did things first; the pioneers. For me, Juan Atkins is the father of electro.

After being a Berlin DJ for more than a decade, it's surprisingly easy for Reka to find the best memories. The first takes us back to Tresor's 25th birthday anniversary.

"I was playing before Helena Hauff, and then Stingray got on. Thirty minutes into his set, Moodymann and Juan Atkins came into the booth, and they all started playing back to back. I was thrilled; that was such a special moment; I felt connected to everyone in the club and thought: "Wow, I am here, being part of this underground magic. Also, you know, I'm not easily starstruck, but I'm always a big fan of people who did things first; the pioneers. For me, Juan Atkins is the father of electro."

Another shining memory is when she finally got to play a Sunday afternoon spot at Berghain.

"It was a BITE takeover in Berghain, Phase Fatale's record label, where I released my first record. That was the first time I played a slot on a Sunday afternoon. Finally. It was not easy getting gigs at Berghain, having been a Tresor resident for years and previous to this I had only played Berghain on Saturday night, which as everyone knows lacks a bit of the typical Berghain´s Sunday vibe. It was such an incredible party; loads of friends in the audience, most performing artists were part of my musical family; I will never forget!!


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