Picture it, Miami Winter Music Conference this past March and Soul Clap's House of Efunk was blowing the roof off of Electric Pickle. The main room upstairs was being housed by Kenny Dope, Dâm-Funk and Soul Clap meanwhile, the decks downstairs were spinning an ill vibe of funk with techno beats. Turns out the auditory candy I was hearing downstairs was being dished out by Miami-based, Beki Powell.
New York born and raised, now turned Miami local, Beki Powell is in the business of respecting the groove. First and foremost, Beki is a visual artist and it was not until her first year in college that she discovered dance music and club culture. Love at first sound it was and it motivated her to learn everything about the music, including hauling ass to the library every day to read any book on history dance music and club culture. This lead to her actually doing an independent study on the subject of dance music. In 2006, she was introduced to DJ'ing by her (still) boyfriend, who had Technics 1200's and an impressive vinyl collection.
I’ll never forget the first moment he let me touch the record while it was spinning. I knew I wanted to learn — just for myself — so I could play at home when we got back from the club. I practiced every day, & then...it happened. The divine moment when I got two records beat-matched, in perfect sync. I kid you not when I say, this was the moment I became a woman. I started making mixes & putting them up on SoundCloud. One day I got a message: “Would you like to play at my party in NYC?” I said: “But I never played out before.” Their response was: “So what?” That was good enough an answer for me.
Magnetic Magazine had the pleasure of learning more about Beki's background and love of the music, as well as premiere and exclusive set on our Soundcloud:
Magnetic Mag: Do you remember your first gig? What was it like?
Beki Powell: So, my now good friend Marvin invited me to play at a badass party he threw at the National Underground in NYC. It was the first time I ever heard my music over a club’s system (a very well crafted one, I should mention) with a crowd of people to absorb the energy I was giving off, & give that energy back to me. It was a feeling I had never felt before. It was the REAL DEAL. The missing piece. PJay, the club manager/sound-design mastermind, made me a resident that day. I must say I’m forever grateful to them for instantly embracing me & recognizing my potential from the start.
MM: What was the most memorable gig you ever had?
BP: In October 2013, I played b2b all night with Maus at RedRoom in Montréal. We played 1&1 for 6 hours. I don’t know how else to describe it except to say, that room was literally ROCKING. The energy was on another level, & the vibe was infectious. The thought of playing with Maus was like a dream come true. I always looked up to her, inspired by her boldness and style as an artist and as a person. It was our first time playing b2b — & our connection, our chemistry, the seamless flow of mixes was just uncanny. Our music melted together like butter, rich & delicious, from start to end. It was probably the most surreal night of my life. I still get chills talking about it.
MM: You have such a smooth blend between techno & soul/funk, where does that connection with the groovy style come from?
BP: I love old-school funk, soul, organic music with groove. Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Ohio Players...are some of my favorites. I also love 90’s hip-hop, R&B, new jack swing….& of course, underground disco from the 70’s & 80’s. The less-commercial stuff you won’t hear on the radio. This kind of music has an undeniable quality that moves you, that you don’t have to figure out. It’s an intuitive groove. And that’s what I want my music to be like. Intuitive groove. Sounds that just make you move.
MM: I know you are now based in Miami. In your opinion, what makes the Miami music scene different from the NY scene? Which do you prefer?
BP: I’ve definitely had my share of special experiences going out in New York over the years. Considering its historical role in shaping the evolution of music & nightlife, growing up there afforded me many opportunities to experience club culture, proper. But things have changed a lot. New York’s infamous big room clubs have slowly disappeared. There’s a lot of oppression from authorities which has made throwing parties & running successful venues difficult.
Despite being known for its nightlife, it’s become harder & harder to nurture an underground music scene in New York. I didn’t grow up in Miami, so I’m not familiar with how the scene has evolved over the years. But I know partying & nightlife are more accepted as a part of Miami’s culture & economy. I’m super proud to be from New York & I always will be. I hope this resilient ride-or-die city will persevere & uphold its legendary status as pioneer of music & party culture.
MM: Any projects you are working on?
This past Miami Music Week we launched our collective & now record label FM Elle. Much credit & props to DJ Cry Baby who brought five of us together with her inspiring vision. The other three bombshells are Kora Noir, Marianna Dias & Dani Lehman. Our goal is to claim greater space for women in the electronic music industry. To grow together by building each other up, & supporting one another. No one really wins in a competition. It’s so much more rewarding in the long run to share success with others & connect authentically through music.
MM: What’s on the horizon for the rest of this summer?
BP: On Friday, August 18, I have a really exciting gig planned in my home away from home, Montréal. I’m playing with the legendary Maus, Dave Allison & my main man Gak at The Village at Pied-du-Courant. The collective behind the project, La Pépinière, built a temporary space/beach in the city by the Jacques-Cartier bridge & St. Lawrence river. They describe it as a reinvented park & laboratory of urban initiatives, promoting the development of new practices in design, entrepreneurship & the arts.
MightyKat has been organizing events there for the past several years. I expect this party should be pretty extraordinary. Playing with some of my favourite artists/human beings, in a super cool space, in one of my favourite cities in the world, will be nothing short of amazing. Stay tuned to hear about other pop-up events that weekend.
MM: Tell me a little bit more about your art…
I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember, & I’ll probably continue to do so for the rest of my days on earth. As my teachers always told me, I’m a true painter. Naturally, in the O.G. tradition, I paint with oils. Oils have a richness & depth of color you can’t get with acrylics. You’ll notice if you ever look at my paintings, there’s always some sort of reflection in the subject matter.
When I look at reflections, I see parallel universes. The bizarre warping of imagery both mesmerizes & challenges the human eye. A couple years back I started printing my paintings on satin scarves which people can purchase hand-signed. I also do tons of different mixed media stuff & larger scale installations which you can see on my website.
MM: What are your aspirations for your DJ'ing career? Where do you want to be in five years?
Since I always had my art, I never really worried too much about what would come out of my DJing career. I didn’t feel pressured that I had to succeed, or get famous or anything like that. In the next years, I hope to evolve musically, & branch out more & more. But I want it to happen organically. I don’t want to push my name like a brand. I know I have something special, & good music has a ‘magnetic’ quality like nothing else in this universe. People will gravitate toward it, without having to try or aim for numbers. Focus on quality, & quantity will follow.
I’m not in love with the state of music these days. Even underground music. It’s become too over-saturated. It’s so easy to make a track now, the music is getting more & more watered down each day. This bothered me for a while, but then I realized it might actually a blessing. Instead of being disappointed, I now see it as window of opportunity for myself & others who share the same vision to actually make a difference. To start the next musical revolution & rebirth driven by passion & unbound creativity. I feel empowered at the thought of being a part of this, & I can’t wait to see what the future holds. Until then I say: sit tight, stay tuned, & as always, respect the groove!