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This sonic compilation raises funds for queer refugees

Jasmín and Axmed Maxamed curate charity compilation place: the netherlands.

Urgent times call for urgent measures, and music is no exception to the rule. Community building and finding one’s safe haven in club scenarios is, and has forever been, both a survival mechanism and tool for growth for marginalized people. Yet still, how do we translate a night out’s sense of freedom and togetherness beyond the dance floor? Air Texture might have an idea.

The Brooklyn-rooted label partners up with Kompakt Records for place —a geo-specific sonic series, each compilation of which centres a country and grants its proceeds to local human rights advocates. Having stopped by Georgia and Colombia already, place’s next stop is The Netherlands. For this edition—launching November 15—they’ve linked up with our dear DJ and writer Jasmín, and activist and music nerd Axmed Maxamed, co-founder of Dance with Pride. The (expectedly) dynamic duo, driven by their personal experiences within the clubbing scene, have hand-picked 15 tracks by local talent, ranging from Loradeniz’s immersive sound world to Jarlentji’s sultry, forceful rhythms. A kaleidoscopic sonic bundle in itself, the compilation will grant all its proceeds to Open Closet LGBT Netherlands, a forefront non-profit organization that assists and advices queer asylum seekers in, and beyond, their migrant procedures. Enthralled and wholeheartedly supporting the cause, we sat down with Jasmín and Axmed for a chat on how to effectively put your money where your mouth and ears are.

As a non-Dutch person, I must say I’m able to observe, from an outsider’s point of view, how segregated society is here; regardless and even against the liberal, open and “tolerant” image the country, and specifically Amsterdam, sells internationally. Would you agree, and why do you think this is the case?

Axmed: Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with this, and I’ve experienced racism first hand, both in the Netherlands and also within the LGBTQIA+ community. And right now, it’s that time of the year again, when the racist tradition of Zwarte Piet (Black Facing) kicks off. This is something that still is a massive issue, even though it’s clear as day how deeply racist this tradition is.

Jasmín: I think even liberals are hesitant to join these struggles or speak up, but would rather point fingers, especially at the people in the countryside of the Netherlands, or even the USA. There’s entitlement and a lack of self-reflection to ask certain questions or make certain remarks, because we’re still “tolerant” and see ourselves as open-minded. Besides structural discrimination, asking certain questions and making remarks can be alienating. “Well-meant” behaviour can also make people feel excluded or unsafe.

Can you elaborate on your personal observations of the ways queer refugees have been treated upon their arrival to The Netherlands? 

A: In my work as an interpreter and translator, I have first hand knowledge of how refugees in general are treated in the Netherlands, which is mostly from a starting point of not believing refugees. And in addition to that, LGBTQIA+ refugees have a specific burden of proof—together with having to prove that they are from their home country, they also have to prove their sexual and/or gender identity to the interviewer from the IND (Immigration Office). This process has been criticized as being too invasive and lacking important sensitivities needed to ask such personal and sometimes traumatizing questions. You can read more in this piece, and other pieces online, or follow the #notgayenough tag.

Axmed, your personal background perhaps resonates with the cause of this release. Can you tell us more about how/if your experience informed your work on this project? 

A: When Jasmin asked me if I wanted to work on this project with her and told me that we could choose a cause, I strongly felt that it should be a LGBTQIA+ focused initiative. Open Closet LGBT NL was amidst the first ones that came to mind. I arrived to the Netherlands as a refugee at a young age, so the reason for leaving my home country Somalia was related to the civil war and not my queerness, which at that moment I wasn’t fully aware of myself. Even though this wasn’t my personal reason, I still identify with and experience parts of their [Somali queer people’s] struggle. These past years, I’ve met and connected with a lot of LGBTQIA+ refugees, which made me even more aware of how important community building is while going through the asylum procedure and for the times after it as well.

What were the main factors that defined your selection of artists and tracks? 

J: Our main focus was, of course, their sound. We were both familiar with the artists, and liked what they played as DJs or some things we had already heard from them. Then, we decided to give this platform specifically to artists who deserve to be seen and heard more in our local scene and beyond. Besides, the Dutch scene is often very centred around Amsterdam. We wanted to focus on other parts and cities of the Netherlands too.

We’ve seen some shifts in the way local club culture tackles inclusivity and safety on the dance floor, but I wanted to hear from you personally about the key factors we need to urgently focus on if we are to ever experience true freedom of expression for absolutely everyone; on and beyond the dance floor.

J: First of all—hire people that are most affected by unsafe spaces and who experience exclusion. Let them make the decisions concerning these topics. Right now, it’s still cis white men making decisions on things they’re actually not affected by. There needs to be a shift in who’s in power and making the decisions in general, everywhere.

A: Secondly, clubs need to do more than just have their staff follow a one-off training and have list of house rules. There needs to be an actual awareness team on staff that people can recognize and approach when they feel the need to. And thirdly, it’s important to also create spaces beyond clubs, outside of nightlife, where people from marginalized communities can gather. It’s vital that our community building possibilities are not limited to nightlife.

J: Exactly—if you meet someone on the dance floor, ask them to hang out outside of parties too.

Can you tell us more about Open Closet and the work they are doing? Why did you choose them as a partner for this specific project? 

Sherwyn, from Open Closet LGBT Netherlands: Open Closet LGBT Netherlands is a non-profit organization. Mr. IT Molaudzi, aka Teddy Lyon, founded it after experiencing personal difficulties with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND). Open Closet assists and advices queer migrants in their asylum procedure and other things needed. They help them in getting a comfortable place to live (shelters), legal aid/advice, psychological advice and referrals, medical advice and referrals, and help in finding suitable work. They organize monthly meetings to build community and provide a safe space to meet up. If needed, Open Closet covers the transportation to their meetings as well. Open Closet fully depends on donations and fundraising actions to operate.

Very importantly, in what ways can our readers contribute effectively to this cause?  

Axmed and Jasmín: All proceeds from the compilation go straight to Open Closet LGBT Netherlands, so people can help by purchasing the compilation and making extra donations. On December 21, we’ll host a release party at The Grey Space in The Hague, and proceeds from that event will also go towards Open Closet. We would recommend coming down to that event—there will be a day and night programming, so keep an eye on it.

In addition to funding, it’s also important that there’s more awareness around the experiences of LGBTQIA+ refugees in the Netherlands and that we, as documented people, use our privilege to make their stories heard among our friends, family and beyond, especially about how our government treats LGBTQIA+ refugees.

Pre-order place: the netherlands now!


Words by Valkan Dechev

Photography by Teddy Lyon