Anna Norbury explores the issue of gender imbalance in electronic music and explains how producer and DJ Kito bucks the trend
In preparation for this article, I asked a few friends to name me the first five DJs that came into their head. Predictably the result was overwhelmingly male. Also predictably, the only female mentioned (by a girl, actually) was Annie Mac. It might not be too far of a stretch to say that electronic dance music production and DJ-ing are some of the most male-dominated areas, not just in terms of career paths but also just in terms of hobbies. Ask yourself, do you know many girls who own decks or produce tracks?
The issues of sexism and gender bias in the electronic dance music scene are far too deep-rooted and complex to be explored in this article. Greg Wilson, electro-funk DJ and a longstanding important figure on the UK dance scene, notes that “female DJs have always found themselves sexualised in a way that the men have never had to endure.” Certainly, in my research, this notion cropped up numerous times.
I came across a really disappointing article by Marie Claire entitled ‘Top 10 Female DJs’. There was startlingly little mention of genre or musical preference of each DJ in any of the ten descriptions. The focus was largely on the personal style of each DJ or duo: “Harley is also internationally known for her street style, and is often among the best dressed ladies at the parties she spins.” I don’t think I even need to point out how ridiculous it would be to imagine this type of shallow, irrelevant description accompanying an article on ‘Top 10 [male] DJs’.
Amidst this sea of inequality and misrepresentation, there are actually some excellent female DJs and producers out there. Australian born Kito is one of the most interesting, partly because she is foremost a producer, and a bloody good one at that. She has conquered the most particularly male-dominated areas of electronic dance music, production specifically, and, genre-wise, the ‘heavier’ end of the beat-spectrum. It’s hard to be more specific than this. She released her debut EP on Skream’s Disfigured Dubz label and has since released on Diplo’s MadDecent label.
Association with these two heavyweights would suggest a dubstep slant; this is certainly the case for some of her releases. However, collaborations with the vocalist Reija Lee, such as their Sweet Talk EP, have resulted in what could almost be called a glitch-hop sound. Ahead of trend, she ventured into the world of trap with a couple of killer remixes; her versions of Beyoncé’s ‘Who Run the World’ and Jay Z/Kanye’s ‘Who Gon Stop Me’ are well worth checking out.
Kito recognises the gender imbalance in the world of production. In an interview with MTV, she says: “It’s a nerdy guy thing. You spend so much time just engineering and mixing a track. I think it just interests guys more.” Fair enough, but I’m glad Kito doesn’t let the perception of production as a “nerdy guy thing” put her off. If only it didn’t seem to be putting off the rest of the world.