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Meet the Lineup: Sha Ru

 A Sonic Duo Breaking Boundaries

Meet Sha Ru, the kind and electrifying DJ/artist duo comprised of Masha and Ru, known for their enchanting vocals and deep electronic beats. Fresh off the release of their EP “They Are Textural,” they bring their genre-defying sound to Glamcult Selects, blending heavy basslines, hypnotic rhythms, and immersive vocals. Openly exploring their queer identities, Sha Ru infuses their music with themes of liberation and self-discovery. Despite the challenges of constant travel and visa restrictions, they remain dedicated to their craft, advocating for social causes and connecting with communities worldwide. Juggling a relationship and musical pursuits, they manage both with happiness and enthusiasm. During our chat, Masha exuded vibrant energy while Ru, with his calm and kind presence, grounded the conversation. This balance translates into their music, creating a harmonious blend of creativity and stability. Sha Ru’s music journey spans across New York, Berlin, and beyond, incorporating real-time audience feedback to refine their tracks. This ensures each live set is an engaging mix of both new and familiar sounds.

Sha Ru’s live shows are mesmerising, offering a blend of danceable beats and profound lyrical content. As they continue their EU tour, audiences can expect an unforgettable journey through their innovative and heartfelt soundscapes.

Hi. How are you guys? How’s the EU tour going?
Good. Well, we just arrived in Paris literally yesterday!

Nice! And you, are you jet lagged now?
It’s okay. Nah, I mean, a little bit maybe.

But you guys travel a lot, so I think you’ll probably know how to sleep on the plane by now.
No exactly! We’re feeling very excited and grateful to be here for sure. The only thing is, New York was so hot and now we’re here and it’s raining.

Right, the European summer… Honestly, it’s such a joke. But on a positive note, congrats on your EP “They Are Textural”! It came out earlier this year but it’s still fresh. How do you look back on the process of making it?
First of all, thank you so much! It definitely feels fresh. I mean, basically the beginning of March was just a few months ago. And as for the process of working on this EP… it was a very extended journey because it took around two, three years for us to write the music. It was also interesting how we wrote it in multiple locations. We started some tracks in New York and continued working on them in Brazil. Some tracks we started in Kyiv when we were living in Ukraine. So yeah, it was definitely very cool to keep working on it until it was ready.

Yeah, exactly. And it feels like a sort of physical memory of all the places that you’ve lived and you’ve been travelling to and creating.
Yeah, a beautiful timestamp.

You’ve just started your EU tour, but so far have you toured and performed the EP already since it’s been out?
We kind of performed it even before the EP was out. When we were still writing the music, we noticed how much it makes the live sets more dynamic, the mix of released and unreleased material. The reaction of the crowd also obviously affected how the tracks came, we were just like “Let’s actually try to perform this music while it’s still a work in progress”.

Sounds like a nice process! And their responses were positive then?
For sure. There was just one track we completely changed. We felt that maybe it wasn’t fully finished yet. And then we just stripped it down and redid it. So again, all because of people’s energy, it’s good to have this kind of exchange. You understand how things actually work.

This is definitely a cool aspect of your production process. I can imagine that when working with people in the music industry who have to hear all the tiny bits and bobs, the track itself can almost easily get lost. But when you have people who are not professional artists, you can get real-time feedback on it. Well, we’re obviously big fans here. We love how you have this electronic bass, vibration-heavy beat, and it’s all together with your chanting voice. And I was just wondering, what’s the vibe that you’re looking for with your music? In other words, are you trying to enchant us? Is it a spell? What’s the direction you want it to go into?
I’d say we always start with our stylistic elements: bassline, drum pattern, and then some kind of vocals, whether it’s full vocals or chops. And then we start layering things. We always want to craft a piece where people can immerse themselves, adding a tactile feeling to the music. So a track is done when we achieve a feeling of immersion and a hypnotic kind of music. And overall, we like to take a break from the music and listen back to it with a fresh mind later on. If we’re talking live sets, what we try to do is to combine club music with the band feeling, so you can both dance to it and sing the songs.

That’s super nice. Your EP dives into queer identity. You guys have identified as pansexual and use all these queer motifs. It’s quite a vulnerable take, especially considering where you guys are from and how that’s been quite stigmatised. So how is it to now be completely open, but yet vulnerable about this in your EPs?
It definitely felt very liberating, a very strong freeing moment. Ru grew up in the countryside, remote areas ahah, so he was not even really exposed to it. And even though I come from a country where the queer community is seen as a big threat, I moved to New York when I was eighteen years old, and there the community is very open. I was able to embrace queer culture, but I never had a moment to actually, you know, speak out about it publicly. At the same time, it does feel very freeing because it’s such a big part of our personality and our identity.

Well, because, Masha, you grew up in Russia, right? And where did you grow up, Ru?
R: I grew up in Italy… remote, countryside, farms. Catholic. I actually just started exploring my pansexuality, my queer identity, when I started dating Masha. So it’s been seven years and it’s been quite a process for me. Especially exploring this through music, it’s almost therapeutic. We’re putting this feeling into music and then looking at it back. This record helped me to grow up and to explore my identity. There was a lot of self-reflection. Because again, we took almost three years to finalise it so, you know, so much stuff happened during that time span.

You’re New York via Berlin based, but you’ve called a million other places home. What does home mean to you?
It’s a very interesting question. Because of the passports and visa restrictions and stuff, we’re always on the move. So the concept of home is something very blurry to us, home is something very ephemeral. Obviously, any place we go to, we’re always trying to get involved in the local community and respect the place and truly explore it. So home for us is more like a place where we’re comfortable living and working together, but eventually home is where we can make music.

Is there anything specific that you always take with you besides clothes and your computer, like the music stuff?Well, we have speakers that are always in our luggage, as well as our live set-up and some clothes that we share between each other (convenient!).

Work with what you have, right? Do you have one place or a time where life has inspired you the most or do you have a specific city where you feel the most grounded or that you have a specific influence from?
M: Yeah, for sure. I mean, a few cities, and I think one obvious answer is New York, just because it’s a starting point that inspired me to get into the music scene. The next place was Berlin, because it’s where we met and because it was very inspiring in terms of the electronic music scene. Then Belarus, Minsk, because we lived there during the first few months of the pandemic. It was also during a very intense political situation. I come from a human rights activist family in Russia, and my background is heavily affected by this. So I resonated deeply with the people fighting for their rights and freedom in Belarus. During this time, our music became much darker and rougher, the lyrics were political and we started putting out releases to raise money for different political charities. So I think Belarus was definitely a time where a lot of things came together in terms of our music.

R: It’s a few cities for me too. Definitely London, because it is the city where I moved after I finished high school and so it definitely played a big role when it comes to music and culture. After that was Berlin. Eastern Europe was definitely a big influence for me, too. Nowadays, definitely New York. Since the post-pandemic, New York has been very inspiring. The community is very cute, and musically speaking, it’s a very fresh environment to be in.

That’s good to hear. Do you know about astrocartography? It’s like a sort of star sign map, where they say that your Venus line, where you find love or inspiration or your work or whatever, is situated in different points on the world map, and it’s supposed to be where you will feel more inspired. But my next question is, as a couple with different passports, you must have struggled with the travel restrictions and everything with Covid and being constantly on the move. And you’ve said how this is affecting your music, can you elaborate more on how this impacts you personally?
It was definitely a very complex and emotionally charged time. I think unfortunately we just got used to all the visa restrictions and challenges that come with it because we’ve just been doing it for so long, for like seven years. We’re just dealing with it because there is no other choice. The war going on between Ukraine and Russia has affected us very heavily. I highly disagree with the Russian government and I left Russia when I was 18 and came back only a few times to visit some parts of my family. But I spent much more time in Ukraine living with Ru and we really respect the community there. We’re just trying our best music-wise, speaking about it openly, raising awareness, also raising money, going to protests and doing fundraisers. Ukraine is going to win! Слава Україні!

It’s good that you’re doing whatever you can to speak up, use your platform, use your music, that’s beautiful to see. I can oftentimes in the arts feel quite frivolous because people are dying so literally everybody should use their own powers, do what they can. That’s what I strongly believe in.
100 percent agree.

And then, of course, you guys are together, and I wonder how it is to make music with your partner, because obviously a lot of people will think it’s quite the dream, but I can also imagine it’s also sometimes complicated.
Well, I think that making music with a partner is definitely a privilege for me. We can travel together and experience all of this together. And definitely the best part is that you’re able to share this moment, you can constantly support each other in the process of going through the stress of travelling or going through the stress of submitting some music or even before performing. At the same time, it comes with the fact that we live together and we work together. So we are 24/7 in the same space. That can be kind of intense, but it’s also really funny because usually the only argument or disagreement we have is about music. I guess what we’re trying to do is to keep our music and our relationship as separate as possible, although it’s very hard.

I can imagine. And especially if you’re having some other argument, then obviously, you’re not going to like the sound that the other updated on the track. But it’s really fun to see you guys also working together. When I’m watching your DJ sets, it just looks so much fun and really cute and lovely. So what are your biggest inspirations inside and outside of music?
M: Definitely the people around us, especially in New York. I love comparing New York to that scene in Finding Nemo where all these turtles swim in one direction and Nemo’s father tries to follow their flow. I feel that every time I’m in New York, when I’m surrounded by my friends who work so hard and are so dedicated. So that’s my biggest inspiration, it just makes me work harder and harder. Last year, there were a lot of live performances that really influenced me. One that I particularly remember is Marina Herlop, the energy exchange with the crowd and how she performs, so it really stuck with me.

R: For me, it’s definitely my surroundings. For example, whenever we go to a new house, I like to set up the studio in front of the window. Just observing what’s going on around and the surroundings definitely gives me some kind of inspiration, just zoning out, looking outside. It can really give me ideas for the music. And I like to go to see DJs I love. Being completely immersed in the crowd and the music usually gives me a lot of ideas. I will just put down a note on my phone.

And what’s your biggest accomplishment?
M: Damn. Damn… Not killing each other for all the seven years…

That’s a big accomplishment.
R: You know, for me, it’s about putting out music that when I listen back to it after some time, I still feel very proud of.

And what’s your favourite song at the moment?
M: I’ve been revisiting this track, “Sully Vérité.” It reminds me of a lot of nice moments, like playing it during sunrise on a New Year’s Eve.

R: For me, when I feel anxious or stressed, I like to play acoustic guitar and sing on top. And I don’t know, this song that I’ve been trying to learn at the moment is from The Clash, which is one of my favourite bands. “Guns of Brixton.” I love this song. The bassline riff is just amazing.

And what do you do, Masha, when you’re stressed out or sad?
I listen to ambient music a lot, specifically Music from Memory. And I love watching videos with surfers or cats.

And what’s your most used emoji?
M: For me it’s the purple evil face.

Ru: For me, it’s the heart shape, the one with the hands.

And what makes someone in the crowd stand out to you?
M: During our performances, I really like making eye contact with people. It’s super strong, like a personal connection. So that really makes someone stand out to me. Or if we speak of the crowd, like on the street, if someone walks very confidently, but has a very curious gaze about the world around them, that makes this person stand out to me.

R: For me, I would say the energy of the people, especially in the club. Having someone who can really feel the music and give a lot of energy back to the music and to the space.

Who are you most excited to see at Glamcult Selects?
DJ Marcelle!!

I’ve seen DJ Marcelle in upstate New York, at Sustain Release Festival. She was playing at this swimming pool party during sunset. It inspired me so much that I even cried. And I’ve never cried during DJ sets. I was just like, whoa, it’s so amazing.

That’s cute. And what are you manifesting for the rest of this summer?
M: I would say being fully immersed in the music and going to the territory that we don’t expect to reach.

R: Yeah, for me to just experiment with music and come up with something that I’m going to be very proud of. It’s always what I like to manifest, something new. And since we’re going to be in Lisbon for like two months this summer, it’s the biggest wave ever.

I’ve seen that there’s this one spot with like the biggest waves of the entire world. Oh, I’m so worried for you. I trust you. I’m already getting stressed out. No, it must be fun.

Words by Pykel van Latum
Images by Karla Del Orbe
JUNE 6 – Dr Jan van Bremenstraat 1