Words by:
Photography: Bex Day
Styling: Lee Trigg
Hair: Shy Mason
Makeup: Luz Giraldo
Styling Assistants: Damali Tyson Eastmond-Scott, Neny Chikwendu, Iris Lakhal

“When you stop being curious, you stop moving,” says Bambii. Through her artistic practice, the Toronto-born polymath continually sets new challenges for herself, first as a DJ, then promoter, and producer. This desire to never stop learning is central to her practice. “This industry makes you feel like you’ve gotta know everything before you make a move, but I don’t want that. I want to be cool with being a beginner.”

It’s an approach that’s done much to shape Bambii’s open-ended sound. In a March Instagram post, she described her style as “jungle, garage, hard breaks, future dancehall, industrial and 15 other genres with annoying names”. Her sets are exhilarating rides through oscillating tempos, chopped-up vocals and razor-sharp layering of different tracks; some familiar, others less so. “People want to create these false separations so they can keep this weird prestige around dance music,” she says, sighing. “I don’t like that. Obviously I just love what I play sonically, but I’m also making a point: I hate pretension in dance music.”


Bambii’s musical interests have been broad for as long as she can remember. Growing up in a multicultural neighbourhood, she was exposed to a range of sounds from the Caribbean and South Asian diaspora early on, from reggae to Bollywood scores. Meanwhile, her earliest memories of listening to music are at home with her mum, whose collection spanned everything from Celine Dion to Meatloaf, via house and dancehall. “She gave me the juice,” Bambii says, smiling. “There was obviously no intellectualisation of it, but that inclination to listen to multi-genre sounds has always been inside me.”

But it was the variety and richness that she found within dancehall that has done most to inform not just Bambii’s dynamic approach to DJing, but also her production and event curation. “If you look at the tracks from the late 80s to the early 2000s,” she says, giving an on-the-fly history lesson on the genre, “there’s so much experimentation happening.” She reels off the abundance of samples and offshoots to be found in the genre’s outliers, including bhangra and hip-hop. Speaking from across the table in her London Airbnb, she adopts the tone of both an expert and fan. “If you just listen to the three top dancehall tracks, you’re not gonna get that,” she asserts, before disclosing her digging techniques with a giggle. “We’re talking YouTube, we’re talking LimeWire, we’re talking the shit that will give your computer a virus.”

BAMBII wears Sunglasses: BONNIE CLYDE, Necklace: FOUND AMBITION, Earring and Rings: DOSISG6C

A self-proclaimed “seasoned partier”, Bambii started clubbing in her early 20s as a way to escape the humdrum of the community and youth work she was doing at the time. She describes these opportunities to dance with friends as “pure escapism”. Nino Brown’s rowdy underground queer bashment Yes Yes Y’all became something of a touchstone; it was one of the only times she’d see other queer people of colour on the dancefloor. “I was able to build my identity in a way that was honest,” she says, wistfully. “Being in that space really helped me.”

“At their best, parties can bring people together in this sort of third space where it has nothing to do with status and commerce”

But her journey towards fully appreciating dance music was much slower; she says she only figured out what sounds she actually liked when she started going out proper. “People, particularly men, feel this inclination to gatekeep,” she says, recalling an embarrassing memory of being scoffed at when asking for a track ID. Still young at the time, the encounter left a deep impact. “I had to build up a lot of self-belief to even be able to say, ‘I like this,’” she tells me. “And to be like, ‘Yeah, there’s so much more of this out there for me to find.’”

Armed with her newfound curiosity, Bambii downloaded Traktor and took up DJing. “I’d literally play anywhere that would let me,” she laughs, reflecting on slots at yoga studios, restaurants and store openings. These early gigs offered her an opportunity to hone her craft, but she wanted to push things further. Around this time, she started her own party, Jerk, in order to play the music she and her friends actually wanted to hear. “It was just me being a bossy bitch,” she laughs, before squealing in a mock bratty voice: “I was literally like, ‘Give it to me!’”


While she laid the foundations of Jerk herself, Bambii doesn’t see it as just her party. Rather, she considers it a communal experience created by those on either side of the decks. It’s a proud family affair, with its feverish energy driven by music and movement alike. “I want chanting, I want dance-offs, I want it to be a full experience where it actually becomes participatory,” she says, describing a time when a punter broke her arm while dancing on stage, before calling an ambulance from a block away for fear of ruining the vibe. “I was like, ‘Oh my god girl, what the fuck,’” she cackles. “There’s a loyalty to the event that I just really appreciate from my city. I couldn’t do it without them.”

In line with Bambii’s own sets, Jerk champions an open genre policy within Caribbean and global club music, bridging the gap between known, vocal-led songs and more experimental tracks. You’re just as likely to hear an early noughties Beyoncé or Sean Paul refrain as you are a blistering jungle cut. Her intention is to not only tackle the snobbish attitudes she sees elsewhere, but to create space for people to really lock in: with one another, and with new sounds. “There’s real value in familiarity – in anthems – that brings the community together,” she says. “I am answering to my community with this nostalgic sound that we all grew up on, however I’m presenting it alongside music that you don’t know, music that I think you should listen to.”


Now in its eighth year, Bambii believes Jerk’s diverse line-ups and celebration of crossover sounds has contributed to changes in programming across the industry. “I feel uncomfortable saying I single-handedly did this but I was definitely one of the first to not only vocalise, but execute, this framework,” she says with confidence. “I often get kind messages from people starting parties saying I’ve inspired them and that means a lot to me.”

Despite its reputation spreading far beyond the confines of Toronto, she still sees many of the same faces at each edition. Though not explicitly a queer party, Jerk draws a strong LGBTQ+ contingent and women always make up the majority of the crowd (“that’s how the fuck it always should be,” she says, only half-joking.) And it’s not just a space for the underground kids, it’s for everyone. “I want someone who’s used to listening to Billboard music to come to Jerk and be like, ‘I didn’t know I liked Jersey [club]!’” she says, excitedly. “I really appreciate someone having that experience at my party.”

The act of creating that specific atmosphere of release and freedom has been revelatory for Bambii. “It got me thinking about dance spaces in a whole different way,” she says. “It’s helped me on a psychological level, figuring out what kind of experience you’re giving listeners.” Her approach is meticulous: she describes assessing what the crowd needs at various timestamps while striking a balance between sensuality and aggression. It’s something she achieves with finesse. At one point, she’ll have the crowd locked into a slow whine with her low-slung dancehall selections, before making the room boot off in an instant with a dizzying drum‘n’bass drop. But the underlying function of her sets is straightforward. “I am always just trying to keep the energy up,” she says, emphatically. “I try not to get too cerebral about it


The space also serves an even more important function for Bambii and the club’s regulars: it’s a chance to tip the scales in an industry – a society – weighted against artists of colour, and where racism and cultural appropriation is still rife. When Bambii curated a Boiler Room line-up in Toronto last year, a flood of racially motivated abuse on the livestream meant the comment section had to be shut down. She compares the “hyper-aggressive” nature of this behaviour to sports hooliganism: “It’s ruthless, it’s obsessive, and it’s not just a couple of people,” she says, urgently. “It’s reached boiling point.” Meanwhile, Caribbean sound system culture is highly referenced in all corners of music, but the people who get the most visibility and credit, Bambii notes, are always white. It’s part of the wider, age-old issue of overwriting the Black origins of dance music, something that has only recently entered popular club discourse and still has a long way to go. “I think there is resistance towards acknowledging work from Black and brown artists, period,” she says, soberly. “There are so many who are struggling and cannot get a grip on the things that are coming out of our community. The erasure is just insane.”

Bambii believes it is critical to challenge these narratives and remind people of history. “I’m making a point of playing Black music,” she says firmly. “It’s a statement. It says, ‘I’m not going to lean into the sonic formula that erases the origins of the music. I’m interested in blowing it open.’” But the task can be exhausting. “It feels like a tidal wave,” she sighs. “When I look at how festivals are curated, I still don’t see people who look like me. So many of my talented, hard-working peers deserve to be playing these main stages instead of the same old white guys over and over again.” She takes a moment before continuing. “I’m not a capitalist, I don’t need to be rich and famous. But I would love sustainability in my career.”

“There’s a real value in familiarity, in anthems, in things that bring community together”

For Bambii, production represents a means to strengthen her message, allowing her to express herself in a way that feels authentic and unmediated. The urgency, she finds, is what powers her. “I find that the faster I make a beat, the better it is,” she explains. “When I ruminate, I know it’s probably because I didn’t have the idea in the first place. It’s about what’s in my gut.” In what she describes as a “full-circle moment”, she was invited to assist on production for Kelela’s dancehall-tinged On the Run, featured on her most recent album Raven. In the future, she wants to write for others, something she thinks she’d be good at. “I want to have the type of career where I can do anything,” she says, determinedly.

This summer, she casts her net even further with the release of her latest EP, Infinity Club, via Innovative Leisure. Lead single One Touch is a romp through skittish breaks, euphoric synths and warped vocal samples, while tracks like Hooked and You Are Now Entering the Infinity Club, where silky vocals and atmospheric samples drift over filtered backbeats, offer a breather. The record is an homage to a fictional space she created in her mind, tying together her love of sci-fi (something she turns to for comfort while on tour) and her dreams of what the future of dance music should look like.

“At their best, parties can bring people together in this sort of third space where it has nothing to do with status and commerce,” she says. “I think we exist in a rock-hard world that is deeply unfair. As well as inequities in housing, education and healthcare, I’m also focused on the intangible – time, imagination and joy – and who gets to experience these things in their lives. That’s why when we talk about dance spaces, we need to protect them – we can’t leave them up to chance. This is all we got.”

Infinity Club is out on 4 August via Innovative Leisure