When we started off with the Rave Revolution series in August of last year, little did we know that our chats with the underground’s frontiers would entail a sonic trip around the globe. From NYC with SHYBOI and Volvox, to Lisbon with Violet, Tbilisi with Héctor Oaks and Palestine with Sama, it’s been one worldwide journey. Regardless of meridians and parallels however, everywhere we’ve been, two chief beliefs unite all: community and love. “We dance together, we fight together”, as voiced by Georgian protesting youth, and everyone we’ve met along the way has shared with us their story of carving out spaces for all to dance, develop and discuss.
Today, we’re off to the south east of London, where we meet DJ, BBC Radio 1Xtra presenter and Future Bounce label owner Jamz Supernova. Overflowing with talent and creative endeavours, she’s one of the UK’s leading taste-makers and instrumental figures in forging future RnB ahead. Reggae, funk, soul and new jack swing are all crucial parts of Jamz’s kaleidoscopic musical heritage, but her gaze is defiantly directed towards the sonic and communal future. The 28-year-old is zealous about presenting new talent, promoting an all-encompassing equality of the arts and stirring up people’s minds and bodies with equal doses of party sounds and vital conversations. Below, we talk to Jamz about all things past and future, but most importantly, about the ways she bridges the two, spreading a message of hope about our present.
In a personal essay for Notion, you state that you ‘don’t think our identities are static; they evolve continuously as life takes us through various paths”. Where are you in this process today? What’s the path you’re on?
Sometimes I forget what I say, but that’s pretty wise of me! [Laughs] At the moment, I’d say that having turned 28, I’m definitely going through Saturn’s return! I’m shedding baggage from my past and moving into a new chapter of my life. In terms of my career, I hope that this means I move out beyond the “up-and-coming” stage and slowly edge towards a permanent fixture in music. I’m trying to undo my past ways of thinking, let go and enjoy myself more.
The essay touches heavily on the topic of heritage too. What’s your musical heritage, and in what ways does it permeate your current work on radio, live gigs and your Future Bounce label?
My musical heritage from my parents was very much new jack swing, R&B, soul and reggae. My step-dad introduced me to indie and rock, and I started raving to British funky house music too. It’s so weird to look at these influences and see how clearly all those elements permeate the work I do now. In terms of radio, I focus on alternative R&B and electronic music, which I wouldn’t have done without my parents’ influence or the British funk scene! My DJ sets represent my love of the UK underground and how much I enjoy raving; it’s a hard fast blend of sounds! With my label, what I’d really like to do is bridge my two worlds of R&B and club culture.
Would you say you take influences from the past and put them in a futuristic context? If so, how do you musically achieve this?
I don’t really think about the past too much if I have to be honest. Neither do I take references from a certain era. I love the future and I’m fascinated by technology, especially its impact on music. So, I always try to be aware of what’s going on, see how it relates to the way I create content and also tie that with the way I promote it!
Speaking of the future, a somewhat far-reaching question perhaps, but where do you see our collective music future headed towards?
It’s hard to predict where it’s heading, but I’ve been in the music industry for the past 10 years and what I’ve seen is impressive! Artists have reclaimed independence and power, and the rulebook of what a superstar looks like has been ripped apart! It’s become a lot less about factory-created pop stars and more about authentic artists, who have something to say. Artists are learning how to make streaming work for their needs and are finally making money from music. It’s never been easier to build a fan base and connect on such a global level! It’s all so fascinating to me, and while I hope for all of the above to continue, I also hope that the government itself starts to appreciate the arts again, looking at all the positives that creativity does for the world and, at the very least, appreciate the revenue it brings. I’m a strong believer in the need to make the arts more accessible for young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Teach them an instrument or have their creativity nurtured, so that we ensure our next generation of artists are from a diverse background!
A bit back into the past, do you remember the first rave you ever went to? Was there any revelational moment for you personally?
The first rave I went to, I was 14 and I paid the bouncer to let me in! It was at a pub that turns into a club after 10 at night. Music-wise, it was mostly dancehall; those were only raves we could get into back then. We only had enough money for one drink to share between two people, but it was like looking into a whole new world nevertheless. It was during that first rave when I realised how much I enjoyed listening and dancing to music in that setting, and I knew it was something I wanted to experience more of. One thing that did stick out for me was how uncomfortable males could make me feel in that setting, however. I was young but it’s something that’s always stayed with me. I’m very aware and hyper vigilant with how I interact with males on the dance floor, and I believe that dancing and touching needs mutual consent and permission.
How can raves carve out spaces for communities to come together and make their voices heard?
I’ve always loved how raves bring together so many people from across a myriad of racial, social and sexual backgrounds. When the energy is right, it can be a truly euphoric experience! Raves are also where minorities can find their tribe. One’s day to day life might not allow for interaction with people similar to them, but if people find the right rave they can make friends for life and feel confident being their authentic selves. I think club culture’s power can definitely be underestimated. In South Africa, my friend Rosie Parade runs Pussy Party, really taking a stance on defining what a safe space entails: from protection of LGBTQI attendees and training of staff and security to their club’s ethos and moral code. I’m in awe of what she’s doing for inclusivity there, since these conversations start at a rave but can spread into everyday consciousness.
As a presenter on BBC Radio 1Xtra, it’s clear that representation is at the core of the work you do. Can you tell us more about the ways in which you deal with representation through your work for radio?
It’s something that is very important to me! I’m aware of my platform and power, and I hope I use it in a way that serves unheard voices. On my weekend show, I do a feature called DIY Generation, during which we speak to young entrepreneurs and creatives about their journey. One of my goals with that feature is to showcase people of colour and women as entrepreneurs. My next challenge with that is to be conscious of representing class—we need to do more to showcase voices from a working class background! Musically, in terms of my specialist show it was really important for me to present black musicians from alternative spaces. Often, if they don’t fall into the “urban” genre, they fall between the gaps! My producer and I are also challenging ourselves to a 50/50 gender representation with the guests we have this year. I feel my show can be quite male heavy, so when I play music I try to be conscious of how many male voices we have in a row.
On this note, you also run your own label and party night. How do you curate the ideal line-up? What are key elements you, and everyone else for the matter, (should) keep in mind?
I always build my line-ups around sound first. The Future Bounce Umbrella is all of my music loves, so it’s lead by genre. The nights flit between future R&B, UK bass and funk, global sounds or alternative electronic vibes. The headliners I book tend to be a fangirl moment for me, as it’s someone I admire or have been supporting for years. The second headliner is someone who has the potential to have a career like the headliner; it’s almost like a mentorship process. The support slot is often me trying to bring someone through and give them a chance. So, the line-up feels like a family! I also try, where possible, to bring out another woman.
In terms of the party night itself, what are the steps you take to ensure the comfort and safety of the crowd attending that particular event?
I’m very aware during my nights and I’m always visible, regardless whether I’m behind the decks, on the dancefloor, by the bar, welcoming people as they come in or chatting to people in the toilets. So, I hope I come across as easy to access and approach! We’re also pretty hot on the mic, should things get rowdy. And I’m not afraid to break up a fight, though I wouldn’t recommend that approach.
We’ve talked a lot about notions of diversity and representation, but what if they become mere marketing tools? Or is representation always effective when implemented, regardless of the intention?
We haven’t won the battle of diversity and representation, and I believe we have a long way to go. Whilst I think it can be problematic if representation is not authentic or if it becomes tokenistic, I believe the execution of it is important to consider too. The minorities those bigger brands or companies are using must be paid for their time, or, at the very least, for their expenses! Also, a brand campaign or a celebratory day doesn’t change much, but it sparks conversation, be it good or bad! Hopefully those conversations transform into actions.
At last, you’re undeniably someone others turn to for music taste! Do you mind sharing the last five tracks you’ve saved in your Spotify library!
Branko, Nosso (I saved the whole album!)
Omar Apollo, Ashamed
Spice, So Mi Like It
Young Clancey & Matthew Progress, Grown Lil Boys