Hi, thanks for chatting to us today! Can you tell us who you are and what you get up to outside of SEEN?
Kamila Rymajdo (K): So I've been a journalist for about seven years. I sort of fell into it. I was doing a club night in Manchester, and VICE got in touch to ask me to write about it. That kind of spiralled and I ended up writing for a lot of music magazines like Mixmag, DJ Mag, Dazed and i-D. I'm also an academic, predominantly writing about popular music and the creative industries. At the moment I'm working on a project looking at the future of public interest news at the University of Central Lancashire, and writing a book about a Polish rapper called Taco Hemingway.
Balraj Samrai (B): I co-founded the Swing Ting club night and record label. That was maybe 13 or 14 years ago now. Swing Ting was profiled by a lot of press so I got to work alongside people like Resident Advisor, FACT Magazine and Bandcamp Daily. I've also released music on record labels all over the world, and performed at lots of festivals. Alongside this I do education and freelance facilitation for people like Brighter Sound and working with young people in schools.
Tunde Adekoya (T): I started one of my many lives in Manchester about 15 years ago, via London. My time here allowed me to run parties under the moniker of Big People Music (BPM), which I now run as a music agency curating artistic, cultural and musical experiences. Everything evolves and this inspired me to create a community agency called Big People Community CIC; a network of creative and entrepreneurial social change makers. Both companies propel me to make moments I love, with people I love.
How did you originally meet and what made you want to start the magazine?
B: Kamila wrote an article about a Swing Ting release I was involved in putting out and we stayed in touch. Tunde and I met at the University of Manchester. I think he was doing student radio and events with Big People Music. We crossed paths a lot because we were doing similarish things but in different spaces.
The idea for this magazine actually came about through a bit of a conversation with Debra from Brighter Sound and Manchester Music City. In 2020 there were obviously a lot of conversations happening online. We ended up talking about systemic issues in the industry and ways of combating them in a positive way. So the magazine was something that we started talking about. We were also talking about things like spaces and venues, and there not being that many that are Global Majority owned or run. That was the seed of it in a way. I thought Tunde could be an interesting person to speak to. We both knew Kamila separately and in our own ways. With her very accredited journalism and writing background, we thought it’d be great to get her involved.
"We're all about celebrating people that might not get celebrated in other press."
HMD, cover star of Issue One
You’ve spoken about wanting SEEN to counter the London-centric narratives of music journalism. Could you tell us a bit more about this aspect of what you’re doing?
K: I came up as a journalist writing about things outside of London. VICE came to me to write about Manchester as part of this series called F**k London, which was very much needed and I loved being part of. But other times when I was asked to write about things outside London it almost felt tokenistic. So as my career progressed in journalism, I was often frustrated that it was difficult to get articles commissioned about Northern artists or Scottish artists or even Eastern European artists, which I was interested in because I'm from Poland. So I was passionate about it and thought there was a big problem. When music magazines did commission articles about things outside London, it was always within the context of a 'scene'. It wasn't ever a profile of one artist, or it felt that way at least. Which I was getting frustrated by. Like, why can't we just profile this artist? Why does it have to be about a 'scene'? Aren't they good enough? So that's another thing that enthused me about this project.
T: I think just wanting to make something that is of current worlds and environments. It seemed pertinent to what we’d like our futures to be, personally.
Can you tell us more about the magazine itself? Is it digital or printed?
B: So it is printed. That was kind of a priority in a way. There’s a lot of digital media out there. Access to online isn't always the same for everyone and print can get into different spaces in a different way. We felt like maybe doing it in print would be quite a nice idea, or an experiment in a way. We do plan to have some of the articles up digitally, but will probably phase it over time. We'll also have it in an audio form as well so you can listen to it.
K: Around the time we had this idea, I was doing a course on journalism innovation, and I was reading a lot about slow journalism. And I think the printed version of the magazine aligned with this ethos of slow journalism. We consume so much content on a daily basis and forget it really quickly. Whereas I think if you read something in print, it perhaps stays with you longer. You consume it in a different way, you know? You have to sit down and read it, rather than quickly reading some of it on a bus or whatever. That appealed to me.
We were all passionate about archiving things. Like in Manchester there's this celebration of the Hacienda. But a lot of that history from other people who were part of that scene, for example women or Global Majority people, isn’t celebrated. They were kind of marginalised in the history books. We had quite a few conversations about that and thought, well we wanna document people and have that record of it. What better way than a paper version? You'd hope that it might have some kind of longevity.
B: A hundred percent. It's leaving something a bit more tangible. Sometimes digital things can be taken down or it's hard to find the articles later. Or there's things that were written but then that magazine's since folded. So yeah, putting something in that print space felt like an important thing to at least try out to see how it goes.
T: We just want anyone in the universe to read it and let us know what fascinates them about it, and we can gauge if we’ve done our job or not. There's no limit to how we may present it. We’ll let our growth and technology take us to platforms that feel accessible.
"We just want anyone in the universe to read it and let us know what fascinates them about it, and we can gauge if we’ve done our job or not."
DJ Paulette, who has written an article in Issue One
I love that idea of slow journalism. It makes you want to seek it out and have it in front of you.
K: I also think it validates the people that are in the magazine and gives weight to what they've said. We're all about celebrating people that might not get celebrated in other press. We think these stories are worthy of being printed and existing for a long time.
B: And also having a chance to go a bit more in depth with some of the stories. Some of them are slightly different formats. We didn't want it to be the same thing. Because sometimes I feel like you do get this thing in journalism where it's people covering the same thing all the time. And it's almost about click baiting a little bit, and trying to get revenue. SEEN is not about that. If it reaches a small number of people but it has a large impact, that's still valuable.
K: As a journalist, you often get a brief, and you almost get told how to write every single paragraph. There's a formula to writing a cover story, for example. It's very rigid. For me as a journalist, I kind of got bored of it, like I wasn't being challenged anymore. So I really like that we've given the writers freedom to do what they want. For instance, for our cover story the writer (Isaiah Hull) has written a poem about the conversation that they had with an artist (HMD). It turned out to be one of the strongest pieces.
T: Taking your time with stuff I find usually holds the best results as reflection brings true perspective. I'm sticking with that in relation to this magazine and my future ventures moving forward.
What kinds of voices and communities does SEEN platform and celebrate?
B: Some articles have actually been written by the artists themselves. Like DJ Paulette, a Hacienda resident that wasn't necessarily celebrated at the time, but is thankfully getting their dues at the moment. As Kamila mentioned Isaiah Hull has spotlighted the migration journey of Somalia hailing musician HMD who’s settled in Moss Side via Denmark. And we have Santina Robinson who hasn't been published before. That was another part of it, trying to bring people through that maybe hadn't written before. Kamila did an excellent job of supporting them to write this piece. Santina has done a really great Q&A interview with Ms Dee and Artist Lebo, South African DJs currently based in Manchester who are playing a lot of Amapiano and Southern African electronic music.
K: It's really great to support emerging writers and for us, as we go forward, we'd like to mentor emerging creatives. Whether that's writers or photographers or anything else. That was a really nice experience for me, to mentor someone through that writing process and give them confidence. Because when I was starting out, I was very much working on my own and didn’t know if I was doing a good job. You send it off and then you have edits or you don't have edits. It can be really daunting. I actually didn't know that was part of the process. So it's nice to let someone know it's normal to have edits and encourage them. Just having more communication which you don't always get with editors in traditional music magazines because they don't have time. So yeah, it was good for me to reflect on my experience and then put other practices in place to make writers feel comfortable.
"Sometimes I feel like you do get this thing in journalism where it's people covering the same thing all the time [...] SEEN is not about that."
Where can people find SEEN, and how regularly will you be releasing new issues?
K: The best place to go is our website www.seenuniverse.com. The launch event at Bound Art Book Fair at Whitworth Art Gallery couldn’t have gone better to be honest! We had such a great response, it was really encouraging, especially with people from the communities we want to represent coming to support. In terms of releasing new issues, we envisage it might be between twice to three or four times a year in due course. That seems realistic given how many other things we've all got going on and how long it takes to put a magazine together.
Support SEEN magazine
The print edition of Issue One is currently sold out. A digital download can be found on their website.