As part of the exhibition STORM WOMEN SCHIRN is, together with MINT Berlin, hosting the STORM SALON at SCHIRN Café. Guesting December 10: Soumaya Phéline
There are very few women in the scene of electronic music – but for Belgian DJ, producer, web and graphic designer Soumaya Phéline this is an encouragement to work even harder. While the disproportion used to make her feel a pressure of having to prove herself, today it makes her proud to be successful in this very industry, "because we then feel even stronger than men." In Brussels, where Soumaya grows up as a daughter of Tunisians parents and still lives today, she is not only one of the very few female DJs, but she also presumes to be the only heterosexual one. Not interested in participating a gender debate, she rather hopes to unite male and female strengths: in society, in music industry and within herself. Soumaya wants to be both, "a feminist and feminine".
Now, in the age of 32, she can already look back to about ten years of experience as an electronic musician. In her youth she listens to Punk and Hip-Hop; is a break-dancer. It's only in the age of 22 that she gets to know techno, the clubs and the scene. Initially she performs under the synonym Soumaya DanceMachine and later plays in clubs such as FUSE in Brussels, LA MACHINE DU MOULIN ROUGE in Paris or at the ELECTRONIC MUSIC FESTIVAL in Brussels as Soumaya Phéline. By the end of her 20s, her curiosity in producing music leads to the collaborative project BERNHARD & BIANCA together with the musician DKA. Since one year, she has been producing on her own. Currently inspired by classical music and by playing acoustic instruments, she learns Solfège – a classical music education. For her upcoming LP she cooperated with female singers to embed vocals into her music. "I love divas", she argues, and says that her own voice would sound much too deep, almost like a male one. She also considers herself to bashful, to be able to sing: "Even if I don't look like it, I am actually shy."
She describes her own music as "eclectic"
It's true; she doesn't look shy at all. But while her outer appearance has a distinct and characteristic style – typically large and black glasses, red lipstick, wild curls, and colourful dresses – Soumaya's productions and DJ-sets cannot be easily labelled with one specific music style or sub-style. She even considers categories, such as techno, house or electronic music as essentially confusing. Therefore she locates her own music somewhere in between and describes it as "eclectic" – as a method that employs elements from different directions.
Soumaya regards the separation between categories of art and music as similarly misleading: "Making people dance is a form of art to me. It's about touching someone emotionally. Music and art are connected. They are the same." According to her, the importance of electronic music's visual aspects is highly underestimated in club culture: "I think that clubs need more that just the flickering, epileptic light. It's nice when you open your eyes and you see something exciting." Soumaya actually united fine art and music in the party series HIGH MEETS LOW, which she initiated and organised. She invited artists from different genres to produce something on site, during one evening with each around 800 guests. Inside several small rooms there were, for example, a photographer, a video artist and a painter, each producing at the same time, while electronic music was played and guests were dancing.
Every live performance is an intuitive engagement
As a trained graphic designer Soumaya encounters many additional interfaces between art and music, for instance when she designs flyers and posters for music events. But also the location of the party plays as important role: She had live-sets at art and fashion events, in big clubs or small bars, sometimes even at flea markets. In Brussels, Berlin and Cologne she also performed at exhibitions and openings, in Frankfurt, for example, during a Rundgang (degree show) at the Städelschule. Soumaya now returns to Frankfurt on the 10th of December, presenting a completely improvised evening for the second STURM-SALON at the SCHIRN CAFÉ. For her, every live performance is an intuitive engagement in the audience that listens to the music and dances to it: "I like to say: 'I don't know my pray.' I see people and then I work like that, without preparation. It's all about a feeling for the atmosphere."