Bass Angels: Berlin’s Femme Bass Mafia provide a safer space to learn the art of DJing
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There’s an aesthetic compatibility between the bustling sound world that Femme Bass Mafia (FBM) inhabits – electro, jungle, breaks, garage, juke – and the look of Melt Festival, which is set within the post-apocalyptic Ferropolis, an open air museum of imposing industrial machinery in Gräfenhainichen, Germany.
So it’s no wonder that FBM will take over Melt’s Paper Stage this week. Two of the three DJs at the core of the organisation – founder Dangermami, and events coordinator Marie Midori – are pumped about the warm connectivity that FBM will cultivate among the chain riggings and looming metal structures (courtesy of sets by Dangermami, FBM mentor MSJY and a mentee of their 2022 graduating class, Yungfya). “When we travel and play together, we always manage to create a good vibe,” says Midori. “We hype each other up and that translates in any booth. It’s about support and being together, seeing each other grow and enjoying the same music. It has an effect on the people dancing, too. They catch the same energy we’re on.”
A genuine sense of community was the most crucial ingredient of FBM for Dangermami from the start. “FBM is a sacred space,” she explains, “there is automatically love for each other. We become close friends, we go on vacations together, we have dinners. We trust each other. We bond over sharing tunes and learning together as a group, which is intimate because there’s so much vulnerability in trial and error. Even when you’re like, ‘Oh, I fucked up this mix,’ it’s OK because everyone’s cheering you on.”
When Dangermami began sketching out the shape of what would become Femme Bass Mafia, she was sitting on the floor of her bedroom in the 2020 lockdowns, surrounded by ideas written on post-it notes. As someone with a real desire to learn how to DJ, this pen-and-paper process allowed her to identify and then counteract the frustrating barriers that had stood in her way.
After moving to Berlin from Paris in 2015, Dangermami worked in Artist Relations for Beatport and flatshared with a DJ; two connections which would theoretically provide her a certain type of access, but this wasn’t her reality. “I thought, ‘This is so depressing,’” she says, “I was only working with male artists, and I couldn’t see myself asking any of them for help. My flatmate was inviting friends over to play records, but only the guys would spin and the women stayed on the couch. I tried a few times to practise with men, but they would say stuff or do things that wouldn’t feel right. Like standing behind me breathing down my neck, or saying in patronising tones, ‘Oh no, love, you shouldn’t touch this button.’” The feeling of being both underestimated and judged extended to her music tastes as well, which were extending towards booty bass, footwork and UK bass. “This music is, like, really wack,” she recalls hearing as unsolicited advice. “The music scene in Berlin was a bit bland, in my opinion. I wanted to go beyond traditional house and techno.”
“FBM is a sacred space. We bond over sharing tunes and learning together as a group, which is intimate because there’s so much vulnerability in trial and error” – Dangermami
After purchasing a second hand set of Pioneer CDJ850s, and borrowing her flatmate’s complicated analog mixer when they were out, Dangermami faced the steep learning curve of teaching herself how to mix. This inspired her to try and seek out fellow femme DJs who were bass heads. “Having a crew of friends and the notion of community was so far away from me at that time,” Dangermami sighs. “I hadn’t found my roots in Berlin yet – my real family. I was trying to find where I belong.”
Dangermami launched FBM on her own in November 2020, having secured clubs Paloma and Crack Bellmer to host training sessions, as well as partnerships with HÖR and Refuge Worldwide so that graduates would have connections to platforms where they could continue their DJ practice. As she began reaching out to potential mentors, everything began falling into place.
“I reached out to Luz1e [now FBM’s Community, Education & Content Coordinator] on Instagram,” says Dangermami. “We had a few friends in common. I invited her over to my house to eat guacamole. She was like, ‘I’m in.’ I saw Marie play at Crack Bellmer, so I was like, ‘I have this project I want to talk about.’ She came to my house, and we ate cake. Food is real magic! I knew DJ Fuckoff from friends of friends; she called me and was like, ‘Yo, I want to be in babe!’ in her New Zealand accent. Suddenly, we had courses on performance and how to use your voice during DJ sets.”
Since 2021, FBM has seen through four iterations of its programme, which runs between three and six months. By mid-summer of this year, there will be 25 graduated FBM mentees – lovingly named ‘Bass Angels’ – and tallied up hundreds of hours of training, multiple events, five editions in a mix series, a handful of takeovers, and an immeasurable amount of safer space support for this community of bass heads to learn, practise and excel. “And,” excitedly exclaims Dangermami, “a lot of gun fingers!”
At Melt Festival this weekend, 8-11 June at Ferropolis Museum, Germany, Femme Bass Mafia are hosting a stage takeover and Dr. Martens will be connecting with artists and fans to celebrate and explore the future of festivals. DMs are also hosting a special campsite stage with Arkan54, DJ Fuckoff and Baby B3ns playing