Where jazz meets dub for a meditative takeover
Anja Ngozi transports her listeners into a space where the personally peaceful becomes energetically present. Building a name for herself as a DJ on global airwaves, Anja reaches people’s ears through colourful sets that confidently move between rare jazz, soulful disco, meditations, and deep dub. These genres feed Anja’s evolving style as a producer and inform the sound she is building with fellow musicians within her community. As one-third of the DJing trio ‘Creole Cuts’ with Jodie Yates and Rabiah, Anja celebrates the sound of her Caribbean heritage; feeding off a culturally rich curation of music to inform her craft as a producer.
With only 2% of music producers worldwide identifying as female, Anja is an encouraging example of how a sense of passion can become a growing career
With only 2% of music producers worldwide identifying as female, Anja is an encouraging example of how a sense of passion can become a growing career. By fearlessly exercising her skills as a producer, Anja is transforming song formations and realigning them to fit her own rhythm and pace. In this way, she is paving out a new style that rings with dynamic excitement. To learn more about Anja's process we asked her about the unconventional route she has been on from studying engineering to co-founding and running the record label and collective, Síbín. As well as the power of community in helping drive forward creative ideas.
Having grown up in Birmingham, Anja’s introduction to music came from her father who plays in a jazz band. Inspired by these sounds, alongside a steady love for dub and reggae, Anja relished in the joy of listening to music. It wasn’t until she started studying chemical and environmental engineering at University that Anja’s curiosity in channeling her own sound grew. On the lowdown, she began developing her skills mixing tracks, “I was listening to so much music and heard songs that would blend really well so I got a controller and practised at home and at friends house parties.” It was in her final stages of studying a Masters in Environmental Engineering and Sustainability that Anja felt an overwhelming calling towards music and decided to change the direction of her life. “I didn’t know my place in [music] but I wanted to get more experience. So I moved to London and did an internship at Worldwide FM”. By following her instinct and refusing to be held back, this experience became the bedrock for Anja’s musical journey today.
Music for me is really communicative. It demonstrates freedom in a way, freedom of character, freedom in the lyrics; of self-expression and showing your identity
Worldwide FM is a global family of artists and innovators that pride themselves on shining light on marginalised music from around the world. For Anja, she explains how “My time at Worldwide FM was great. It introduced me to a lot of the community I still know now and it catalysed opportunities and relationships that I’ve been able to grow from.” One example of this is Anja’s epic project and collaborative album that she co-produced with Lexy Morvaridi 'Untitled (18 artists)' - a musical response to the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. In this album we hear 18 artists, including Nubya Garcia, Layfullstop and Lex Amor, bring a complex compilation of narratives to life through liberated musical expression. Through experiences such as these, Anja has been able to broaden her understanding of how music labels work, equipping her with the knowledge to determinedly move in her own direction. This took the form of Anja setting up ‘Síbín’ with fellow musician Maxwell Owin. This initially started as a club night and then evolved into a label and more expansive collective.
Having built up my DJ skills, I felt I was able to transfer that into my production; enjoying the process rather than being too tough on the outcome
When reflecting on ‘Síbín’ and her work as an independent artist, Anja reinforces the wonderful way in which music allows her to communicate ideas. One source of inspiration that we see fueling her sound and song choices is Anja’s Jamaican heritage. Her creative connection to the sound of this island is something which Anja was able to explore further when visiting family in and around Kingston. “Dub and reggae are some of my favourite kinds of music, I think it resonates with me spiritually the most. So hearing that in the context of where it’s from, where it’s birthed...gave it a lot more meaning.” During her trip, Anja gathered field recordings of nature and the community, building a library of sounds she hopes to include in future work. The impact this trip had on Anja is something she speaks about from the heart. After talking through some of her memories, she explained how “knowing that so many generations of my family had been on that island, and me going there for the first time, made things sonically imprint a lot more.” This heightened the spiritual and cultural connectivity Anja seeks out within her work, feeding her with more inspiration from her Caribbean roots.
Listening to Anja talk, it is clear that the steady undertone of care-filled awareness and attention to detail is something that translates into her music. Besides playing out at gigs where Anja enjoys the conversation between the music and movement of the audience, radio has allowed Anja to explore and share tunes without the pressure of getting people dancing. One example of this has been Anja’s show for Dulcet Tones, on Threads Radio. Forever casting a spell of metric energy, Anja creates a welcome space for healing through hearing. Sounds and songs reverberate through her mixes, effortlessly moving between melodies and moods.
Asking what has helped Anja to grow as a DJ, she notes how it’s the area of work she has practised the longest, “I’ve expanded my music palette a lot, found different artists whose tunes I like to play. And being exposed to different technology has enabled me to work with effects which I like to do in my mixes.” This is present in Anja’s skilful manipulation of music, developing a transient, yet dynamic signature style that echoes with ambient, clashing sounds. This is reflected in Anja’s ever-growing back catalogue of production credits. It was during the past year, with events being cancelled, that Anja was able to sink into this role. “Having built up my DJ skills, I felt I was able to transfer that into my production, enjoying the process rather than being too tough on the outcome”. The results of which opened up another whole world of Anja’s creative imagination.
One of the strongest things is having a community, whether it’s big or small. Having people who inspire you and who help you to keep seeing the potential in yourself even though you may not.
As a producer, Anja can be heard forever taking her listeners on a journey through shifting tempos and key changes. Creative jazz chords and overlapping melodies transport us into different rooms of Anja’s mind as she orchestrates beats to build a mood. When asking about Anja’s process she describes it as being abstract. “I think of it like a shape that I’m moulding or sculpting. It’s just this form and a bunch of frequencies. Different layers add different frequencies so the more I finesse it the more I’m changing that shape”. Approaching her work with this intuitive mindset is something that Anja describes as being her outlet to express her emotions and feelings, and in return, move through a process of healing. Even in those moments of vulnerability, it has been Anja’s creative family that has kept her driving forward ideas. She explains how “one of the strongest things is having a community… having people who inspire you and who help you to keep seeing the potential in yourself even though you may not”
This is something Anja is now wanting to build upon to help others, explaining how “I want to be supporting activities, creative endeavours for kids. It’s massively important for anyone who is young to be exploring their identity by doing something that allows you to express yourself… to teach people in general about how much autonomy you can have over your life and passion if you want to.” It fills us with hope witnessing Anja’s own proof of this by changing her course of life to focus on music. When asking what advice she would give others on a similar path she offers us these thoughts. “Don’t be afraid to explore whatever makes you happy. For a long time I thought studying chemical and environmental engineering was a waste of time. But I realised it was my love of maths and science which allowed me to do a course like that. And now I’m doing music, I can see the parallels... and how it applies to music.” Anja’s own mathematically orientated perspective is something that shines with unique strength in her compositional work. As we wait for further releases from this up and coming producer, it is clear that Anja Ngozi will forever be in tune with her own forward-thinking sound.
Interview by Bethany Burgoyne
Portraits by Joana Lirio
Featured Tracks by Anja Ngozi -
Flutter, Little Things, Dry your eyes: pls dnt cry
Filming by Joana Lirio and Zoe Fayaud
Production by The Sassy Show
Edited by Joana Lirio