Words by:

When footwork veteran DJ Manny joined Tomu DJ on the bill at her album launch party at Brooklyn’s Bossa Nova Civic Club, it was, as Tomu describes it, a “full circle moment”.

The California-based producer and DJ credits the discovery of footwork – while at college in Oregon – with setting her on her path. Thanks to friends who introduced her to labels like Planet Mu, Tomu began putting on parties in Oregon before she’d ever stepped into a club as a punter. Among her bookings? Teklife luminaries such as DJ Spinn, DJ Taye and DJ Manny. “I’ve been working with Manny on doing shows together since 2015,” she says, “he played three or four over the years. It was great to play with him for real.”

After a couple of years DJing at her own parties, Tomu began producing music herself, turning out immaculate and disparate releases for Slime Death, Juke Bounce Werk and Side Chick Records, as well as self-releasing a couple of projects. Then, shortly before Covid-19 hit, Tomu was in a car accident. Though she walked away physically unscathed, the incident impacted her psychologically, causing a period of traumatic psychosis. Going into lockdown perpetuated her symptoms to the point that her identity felt fragmented. “I lost myself,” she says, “and the concept of how I connected with the outside world.”

Her debut album, FEMINISTA, tells the story of Tomu finding herself again. A transformative and contemplative record, she describes the album as “trying to find a sense of self and inner peace after an extremely turbulent period”. There are hints of footwork and harder, faster club sounds in the percussion and rhythms of FEMINISTA (Exposed Nerve, Pretty Stuff), but overall the record embraces a softer, more delicate palette. In the featherlight keys, gentle twangs of guitar and watery synths that make up the album, the fragility of a road to recovery is swathed in fuzzy, nebulous layers. “People probably would have expected something more clubby,” Tomu says, reflecting on her discography up to this point. After all, recent EPs like Fruit 2 and Four Dance Tracks essayed a fizzing, vibrant energy. But the muted tones and textures of the album capture something else: a vulnerability and searching clarity. Preceded by the simple, sun-kissed melodies of Cali / Florida, FEMINISTA closes with What’s Next, a bright and expansive track that feels optimistic, and not just because of its forward-facing title.

As she looks ahead beyond her album release, Tomu stresses that she wants to take a moment to slow down. “I’ve been hyper-fixated on making music this year,” she explains, “but now my goal is to work on accepting myself and get in touch with things.” With FEMINISTA, and the meditative space created within, Tomu has been able to find healing as an artist. “I want to foster a sense of sustainability and stability in my life,” she smiles, “to be a positive light in other people’s lives as well as my own.”

Sounds like: Playful, hazy melodies with a glimmer of footwork
Soundtrack for: Daydreaming at sunrise
Our favourite tune: Cali / Florida
File next to: Kelly Lee Owens, Facta
Find her: @tomudj