Renaissance is out now via Mad Decent: Stream
Aluna is on a mission to make the dance community more inclusive. Embarking on her solo endeavor at the height of the pandemic, the iconic AlunaGeorge songstress is exploring an ‘Afrofuturist’ and highly personal era of her art while also highlighting fellow BIPOC creators and attempting to restore dance music’s rich history.
“I want to diversify dance music because I want to make the party better,” she shares ahead of her first-ever solo DJ set. A mission that feels uniquely fitting for an artist that has given the world so many timeless hits, and she’s doing exactly so, as seen by the spectrum of stars featured on her Mad Decent solo debut album, Renaissance, like Princess Nokia and Jada Kingdom, KAYTRANADA and Rema, Mr. Carmack, and SG Lewis, and her focus on fostering a community for artists and fans.
First culminated in the ALUNA & FRIENDS: RODEO RAVE, a personally curated all BIPOC, Female electronic virtual festival broadcasted from the Compton Cowboys Ranch in Los Angeles, and now as the star prepares a new charity to create safe spaces within festivals, Aluna is showing the world what the future of dance music and its community can be.
Over the weekend, I caught up with the “Body Pump” hitmaker at Firefly Festival to discuss her debut album, latest release on Diplo’s Higher Ground imprint, and her vision for diversifying the future of dance music. Read on below.
How are you feeling today? It’s your first solo DJ set at a major festival.
I know! I’ve been trying to stay that and people don’t believe me, and I’m like it is, I promise you because at a festival I usually do a full-on live performance, but during the pandemic, I just got so into my DJ-ing, and it became this opportunity to highlight black and brown and LGBTQ artists in a way that obviously I can’t do when I’m playing just my music, so it’s really really fun to be able to showcase that today.
A lot of your solo project is about representation and highlighting other BIPOC creators, right?
Yeah, in my collaborations, I’ve been able to work with loads of good people. That’s another thing that I like to do when I’m doing a DJ set is be able to do the remixes and stuff that I have created and collaborated with black artists on.
You kicked off your solo project by posting a manifesto on dance music and rewriting history. How are these festival sets helping to accomplish that?
It’s going to be a long process. I can’t vouch for how festivals are actively making change, I can just vouch for what I’m doing personally, and there’s a huge amount of change that has to happen with the festival booking process and the people they book on those lineups. I know for the foreseeable this year and next year I’m going to be walking into the same situations that I’ve been walking into but I’m bringing with me my ability to uplift the black community in my way.
During the pandemic you also hosted the Rodeo Rave. Can you tell me about the event?
That was a really really amazing opportunity to show that cowboys are black and they have been. There’s a huge part of cowboy history that’s been written out of the history books, so that was an incredible thing to discover myself and be able to have a conversation with them about what it’s like to build a community using horses and the ranges, the philosophy of being a cowboy.
You also elevate the history of black culture throughout the visuals on your album, Renaissance. Can you tell me about the video you made with Kaytranada for “The Recipe”?
In a way, the purpose of my music videos was slightly Afro-futurist. I wanted to speak on the fact that slavery and the money and the wealth that was created from that endeavor created all this royal wealth and gorgeous visual but you didn’t see the black people in that space, so I wanted to kinda rewrite history and put us into that gorgeousness because we were there, we were just invisible.
That’s something you also draw attention to as a female producer of color in dance music. How did that influence the creation of Renaissance and the people you’re working with going forward?
It’s just a personal journey. I haven’t felt welcomed in the dance community, I felt like an outsider, and discovering the black history of dance music was really amazing for me but it came after the fact of me deciding to make dance music and then when I was planning on releasing the album, I was just going to accept that some people were going to get it other people weren’t going to get it but I really had to start looking at why it was going to be such a challenge for me to release such an album and that’s where I realized that there was so much work to be done to diversify the genre and to do a combination of building unity between people of different cultures but also reclaiming the original founders of dance music that were black, brown and LGBTQ as the heroes of dance music as opposed to the forgotten ones.
That’s just made the whole process of making music, releasing music, and showcasing it, so much more fulfilling for me, because there’s something that’s bigger than me that can be happening. I know for a fact when you dance, your body becomes a whole different type of body, it’s not just the body you go to work in, the body you go to sleep in, it’s elevated, it’s energized, and that’s a gift to the human body and so there shouldn’t be whole communities that don’t feel welcomed to explore that experience with their body. So, that’s why I want to diversify dance music because I want to make the party better and I want people from all walks of life to be able to access that party.
Did that play a role or influence the genres of music you pulled into your album?
Yeah, that was really about me taking a risk and looking at my cultural makeup as well as where I grew up and deciding that it would probably work if I just combined all those things together in one album, haha. It took a lot of experimenting, there’s a lot of duds that got left by the wayside but I’m really pleased with the end result because it is a reflection of who I am. I am a mix of those things and so is the album.
You recently released “Summer of Love” with Punctual. Can you tell me about it?
The songwriting process – I really wanted to encompass the feeling that myself and many black women who were trying to change after George Floyd and that pressure of giving and trying to move change and make change that felt like it was overwhelming – it just wasn’t going to work and so I needed to allow the people closest to me, my allies as well, to pump me full of love, and I had to accept that love in order to get enough energy to keep going and I didn’t feel like I was alone in that and I felt like I needed a song about it.
We’re here at Firefly now but what’s next for you? How can anyone interested contribute?
In so many ways. What’s next for me is that I am working and collaborating with so many incredible artists. I’m doing a lot of visual stuff that is really exciting for my live show. I’ve just done a collaboration with UNDERCURRENT that was an installation that was just so moving and connects us with nature and climate change. So, I’m loving projects like that. I’m planning to do an NFT.
In terms of wanting to join the bandwagon of moving the needle for dance music so that it’s more inclusive, it’s really about encouraging unity. If you’re a white person going to a festival, supporting any of your black friends who might want to come with. If you’re a black person who’s never been to a festival and you’re thinking about going alone, I’m actually building a charity that will create spaces that are welcoming in festivals so that the black community can start feeling like they’re safe and when they get to one of those festivals they’re not going to be alone, even if they’ve come alone they can meet other people. I think that’s really important. I’m very very tired of seeing just like two of my black ravers out there all alone feeling like they just have to grin and bear it. It’s just not acceptable anymore, so if you see my development of that get involved. That will be sort of happening next year.
Do you have a name for it yet?
I think I’m going to call it The Function Collective.
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