The femme, non-binary and trans DJ collective making waves in Berlin.
Disrespect is tired. Shade is old. We’re all human—and that’s why No Shade is a philosophy worth believing in. When founding member Linnea Palmestâl wanted to revamp her event series at Acud Macht Neu, Berlin, and struggled to source gear “with no access to new equipment for regular practicing and no real mentor for learning CDJs properly”, she united a posse of like-minded sisters to help tick all the boxes in forming a non-profit organization.
Funded by Musicboard Berlin, their aim is to “locally help even out the current gender imbalance within the DJ world”, providing each other with a support system and creating a network for hopeful talents. Anyone who identifies as female, non-binary or trans is free to join the workshops or apply for the mentoring scheme, which welcomes “committed beginner DJs with a big interest in music…”
No Shade nights are not to be missed, and are worthy of your full support. “The club space can act as a perfect example of how to properly exercise inclusivity. First, by recognizing that white supremacy is not thwarted by the mere act of playing music and billing an event as ‘inclusive’. [Second], by employing QTBPOC to give a workshop and assist in developing a code of conduct, anti-oppression/de-escalation action plan, and setting up community guidelines in which everyone within the chain of command must follow.”
How, when and why was No Shade born?
Linnea: Over two years ago, I realized I wanted to rebrand and develop my already existing event series that I had been organizing for about a year already at ACUD MACHT NEU. I acknowledged the fact that it would be too much work for me to cover all the tasks of managing a new, bigger project on my own, and I knew I wanted to focus on teaching, rather than doing things I’m not as good at, such as artist booking, administrative work and promoting. So, I asked a bunch of friends if they would be down to do this together, which is how No Shade’s core crew took form. Since then, we’ve naturally grown as a crew through the mentoring program, with the first five rounds of beginner DJs being welcomed to join the family, and with the addition of a VJ and another project manager. We now have 18 active members.
We started the project with help from, and in collaboration with, ACUD MACHT NEU. Acud had already been super supportive during the time of my prior event series, giving me access to practice on their DJ equipment, which enabled me to both develop my own DJ skills and share my recently gained knowledge with as many other beginner DJs as possible. We wanted to focus on female, trans and non-binary beginner DJs for the mentoring program as a direct approach to locally help evening out the current gender imbalance within the DJ world. A big motivation for me personally was the frustration with my own limitations as a beginner DJ, with no access to new equipment for regular practicing and no real mentor for learning properly.
What does it take to be part of a No Shade workshop? Who can/should sign up?
Linnea: The regular workshops we do are usually open for anyone who identifies as female, non-binary or trans, and same goes for the mentoring program. We mainly look for committed beginner DJs with a big interest in music who want to learn how to use CDJs on a professional level.
ACUD is an essential part of what you do. Could you describe the magic of this Berlin spot? Why is it such a good match?
Natassia: Acud is pretty much No Shade’s crib, as Linnea has mentioned before. As part of the mentoring programme, our No Shade journey starts at Acud, where we do intensive training and practice sessions. My first month of training was heavy loaded, and I would say Acud became my second home—I would be there practicing on the decks every second day for long hours finding my style, experimenting, making mistakes, getting surprised with how some blend sounded, happy when I nailed a transition. In the meantime there would be people working at Acud, loading the bar, cleaning, showing the space, having meetings, asking where the cinema is… [Laughs] Eventually they react to your music, interact. Through all of that we developed a close relation with the space, the people, the booth. So every time we play at Acud there is this feeling of being back home and somehow that is expressed to the crowd in our parties. A large part of DJing is about the sonic environments we create that can express our moods, ideas and ideals, and sharing that with the group of people present in that moment, and it’s great we have been able to do that consistently throughout this time at Acud.
What’s the role of Musicboard in what you do?
Linnea: Musicboard has given us funding for two years in a row now, which has not only enabled us to provide the mentoring program free of charge, but also made it possible for us to get paid for a lot of the work we do. We’ve also been able to use the funding for our events, for booking headliners and being able to pay them properly and to help us cover the rent of the venue and other expenses.
What are the key ingredients for a No Shade club night? Are there any specific memories or instances you will never forget?
Clarisse: Actually, one of our best nights just happened with our last party end of April. I had planned to leave early, because I was going on a business trip the next day, but when I looked at the clock, I just thought whatever, I don’t want to leave now, it’s too good. Our newest mentee Armando aka Bad Puppy was destroying the dancefloor! Another unforgettable night was the No Room 4 Shade party, where we teamed up with Room 4 Resistance at Griessmühle.
I think the key ingredients, apart from our underlying goals, are evolving with every event that we are organizing. However, I would say, that funding opportunitues from Musicboard and ACUD MACHT NEU were the primary pillars for our events so far. Because of the funding, we didn’t have the financial pressure that normal promoters experience, and that gave us a lot of freedom to just kind of like cook our soup with ingredients partly unknown to the party goer. As for Acud, it being our home base, it’s kind of like the stove were you put your pot on!
Musically, it seems that No Shade likes to think in terms of endless possibilities rather than boundaries. What’s the craziest or most unexpected sound that’s ever been played at a No Shade party?
Clarisse: I think ‘most unexpected sound’ is our normal modus operandi, not because we look to do something crazy, but because we are a very heterogeneous group. At the same time, as we are all DJs, we pass a lot of our time surrounded by music, so we like to invite artists who push the limits of what has been heard before. You probably know the feeling when you sit at home and suddenly hear a track where you just don’t know how it is possible that something so fabulous can exist. There isn’t one night when I don’t look around and think “wtf is going on?”
How do the members of No Shade support each other? Is there a set system in place or do you spontaneously stay in touch?
Adrian: No Shade members support each other in many ways that include (but are not limited to!) promoting each other’s individual events, curating events together, scheduling personal meet ups to help each other advance their DJing skills, offering musical equipment/programs/deals to each other, and any other interdisciplinary skills that can be shared.
We are on a messaging platform where we are able to practically keep track of everything we are organizing, discussing, or offering. Through that we then are able to set up a channel where we can further discuss how we can help each other, or another organization our members might be affiliated with that is also focused is uplifting marginalized identities.So, the way we go about supporting each other is very structured and efficient, and because it’s laid out categorically within group chats, we are then able to better discern how and what we can offer to support each other effectively.
Speaking to Resident Advisor, SHYBOI once said: “You can not dismantle white supremacy in the club. Last year a student promoter invited me to DJ at a New England college. They wrote my biography for me and it was like, ‘Here’s SHYBOI. She’s dismantling white supremacy in the club with, like, these types of beats.’ If it was that easy do you think white supremacy would still be around? All I have to do is show up to one club and play for an hour and a half, and the entire paradigm would be destroyed? I know we’re socially conscious, and these are nice buzzwords, but it’s a fucking lie…” What are your thoughts on this matter? How can we move from more diversity on the dancefloor to more diversity in society at large?
Adrian: The dance floor, I would argue, is a curated alternative dimension where community guidelines are set in place in order to activate a microcosm of society in which folks within that space are leveled on the same playing field. It’s naive to think that simply because someone is playing Cumbia or a new track by a black trans femme artist that all of a sudden white supremacy is destroyed. Furthermore, it is naive to think that, just because an event is billed as a safe space for QTBPOC this makes it inherently that, without doing the work to enforce it actually existing as such. Being socially conscious isn’t enough, practical application of measures set in place to ensure that the dance floor is safe(r) must be fulfilled and also agreed upon- not just by collectives and organizations curating the event, but also the staff employed by the venues hosting the events.
Simply put: if a collective wants the party to be diverse, then the venue has to do that work as well. Most clubs do not have an action plan to de-escalate racist/transphobic/queerphobic/misogynistic behaviour at the door, let alone within the club space. The argument is that implementing a suitable policy such as this would cost money. However, clubs fail to ask, “how much money are we losing by continuing to employ problematic staff who have been known to make the space unsafe for our party goers?” The reason why I focus on money in conversations around diversity in the club, over focusing on ethics and morality, is because money talks, and we live in a toxically capitalist society. What sustains a club is money- at the door and at the bar. If folks are already feeling unsafe from their first interaction at the door then this feeling will only be exacerbated. Instead of using the word diversity, I’m going to use the word inclusion because that is what we are actually talking about here. Society IS diverse, the problem is inclusivity. The club space can act as a perfect example of how to properly exercise inclusivity by first recognizing that white supremacy is not thwarted by the mere act of playing music and billing an event as inclusive, but by employing QTBPOC to give a workshop and assist in developing a code of conduct, anti oppression/de-escalation action plan, and setting up community guidelines, which everyone within the chain of command must follow. This would ensure that the dance floor is safer. Using these standards in everyday interactions means holding space for people’s diverse experiences, backgrounds and identities.
Since breathing life into No Shade, have you seen Berlin’s nightlife change/diversify? And are you hopeful about the near future?
Sibel: Berlin’s nightlife is still growing and changing, I would say there has been more diversity in the ‘scene’ of Berlin parties, more trans/femme parties being thrown with a diverse line up, and, of course, fresher sounds breaking their way onto the dancefloors. Even seeing more playful mixing of different kinds of genres at a techno party is something to be hopeful about!
If you had to pick one track as the No Shade family soundtrack, what would it be?
Words by Lawrence Harrison
Photography by Ryan Meyer