Nik Nak’s artistic journey through Both Sides Now

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Nik Nak’s artistic journey through Both Sides Now

DJ & turntablist Nicole Raymond (NikNak) lets us in on her artistic journey whilst taking part in our Both Sides Now residency with Shiva Feshareki in March.

Recently, I had the esteemed privilege and honour of taking part in a five-day residency run by Brighter Sound, collaborating with fellow amazingly talented women from all walks of life, backgrounds and ages, and being tutored by fellow turntablist Shiva Feshareki.

A few good pals linked me to this opportunity and I applied thinking “it would be great to give this a go if I was selected…but might not be so ah well…”… but I was! And I’m so happy that I got a place!

Up until this moment, I hadn’t really collaborated with other instrumentalists in this way before. To date, I’ve done countless DJ sets and have started collaborating in some band projects with friends, like Necktr for example – GO CHECK THEM OUT!

And so, to fully be engaged with the turntables as my one and only instrument amongst 16 creative women and all their tech was interesting to say the least.

Day one was basically the icebreaker day and I think we were all pretty nervous and excited about seeing who plays what. I didn’t have any expectations, I was just looking forward to the experience of collaborating with other instrumentalists in such a condensed time-frame and seeing what came out of that both in the final performance and afterwards in my own practice.

“What happened next was magical”

What followed from then was 4 more intense days of composing, jamming, thought-provoking insights into composers like Eliane Radigue and Daphne Oram, sound checks, peaceful deep-meditation exercises, and all 16 of us getting to grips with the space in which we were going to perform together in: Leeds College of Music.

On the final day of rehearsals before the event itself, which would effectively kick off the Sounds Like This Festival, there was a particular buzz and excitement in the group. Although it was our last day, it felt like we’d been composing for a lot longer. We really connected and developed into more of a creative and eclectic team while still bringing our own individual skills and techniques to the residency and time spent with each other. To say that this was empowering is totally an understatement.

When we did our final performance in the college’s auditorium, Shiva brought everyone into another hypnotic and calming meditation routine: calming our nerves and guiding the audience into what was going to be a completely improvised performance. This was incredibly effective as it allowed everyone in the room to be on the same level as each other, allowing for our collective and individual confidence to grow.

What happened next was magical – We performed for an hour or so, peaking and dipping out with drones and noise, but also more rhythmic and melodic features. There were moments of silence but we’d listen hard to try and make sure if anyone else was doing anything subtly, and there was at times.

“this feeling of growth and development not only in my career but also personally with my confidence isn’t going away”

Plus this was the first time that I’d played with a female turntablist, which was even more intense and amazing than I’d thought. During day 4, when Shiva was demonstrating Deconstructed Music by taking apart Sweet Love by M-Beat, looping it, changing the pitch and add effects, I felt so inspired to try and do the same although my approach to turntablism is different to hers. I soon bucked up the courage to share an improvised “call-and-response” moment with Shiva where we were both using jungle beat samples whilst our compadres where creating beautiful textures with us.

Returning to my day job the next day was very odd for me but this feeling of growth and development not only in my career but also personally with my confidence isn’t going away, and I’m so happy about that. Making the choices between playing, not playing, and when it’s ok to do so was a big challenge for me that I felt I’ve overcome during this residency. Another factor is that I feel a lot more confident with beat juggling, as that’s something I’ve not done in a normal DJ set yet. Before the performance, I’d only really done this when practicing at home.  That’s DEFINITELY going to change.

Big thanks to Brighter Sound, Leeds College of Music, The Wardobe, Shiva Feshareki and the 15 amazing women I had the esteemed privilege of learning from, collaborating, and performing with, and I wish them all the biggest luck in all their careers.

Our futures will be bright, noisy and epic 🙂

N x