From Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott to the percussion of Iannis Xenakis: Amsterdam-based DJ Jasmín cares as much about a moment of recognition as an unexpected percussion break in her sets. Her free, dynamic style and her love for the rhythmic elements of a track bring her to both major festivals and progressive clubs - from Lowlands to Dekmantel Selectors, from Tresor to Garage Noord. And the scope of her bookings is increasing: this weekend there's not only a set for the new Utrecht concept Synthese is on the schedule, but also a first gig in New York. After a working day at De School, Jasmin Hoek talks about her musical roots, the dialogue about diversity in the DJ industry and new opportunities through the wonderful world called the internet.
Written by: Dave Coenen
Photos: Nina Ivanova
“I quite often meet someone behind the decks of whom I am secretly a big fan. Then I try to keep it a bit cool when I introduce myself, but if I ran into her, I would really cry. Ever since I was a little kid, I was a huge fan: whenever The Box was on, I asked my mother if I could request her clips via text message.” There could hardly have been better timing for this conversation: Missy Elliott, creator of Hoek's favorite album Miss E... So Addictive, has just made her big musical return with a lavish medley at the VMA Awards and with ICONOLOGY, her first new album in years. “I was so happy with her new EP! I was on holiday in Croatia with my boyfriend after Dekmantel Selectors, saw the message on my phone and thought: stop everything, I'm going to listen to it."
Tracks by Missy Elliott (alongside other R&B icons such as Timbaland or Destiny's Child) can often be heard in the sets of Jasmin Hoek, who operates as a DJ under the name Jasmín. For example, the 23-year-old from Enschede broke her Boiler Room set in half last March with Busta Rhymes' 'Touch It', sublimely surrounded by percussion-driven techno, high energy house and breakbeat. “I don't want to make assumptions about what someone should be running in a set. The idea that all tracks should be obscure and credible doesn't really relax me. It's not that I don't like hard-to-find music, but I'm not going to write something off because it's considered too 'poppy'. If I like something, I just want to be able to play it.”
Before she started DJing in 2016, Hoek was already working a lot with music. She dives deep into her parents' record collection and regularly makes mixtapes herself. “My mother is from Argentina. We often listened to Brazilian music at home with a focus on rhythm. Hip-hop with broken beats also passed by. After that I started listening to things from the 90s like Massive Attack on my own initiative. In the meantime my mother listened a lot to Led Zeppelin, my father mainly to The Rolling Stones. I always had an ear for percussion, even in rock songs. I think that is a guideline in my style and taste.”
Initially, Jasmín learns the DJ basics from her friend (Esper Buursen, organizer of Broodje Aap events), whom she gets to know in Enschede. “He asked me to burn some CDs and bring them to the first 'lesson'. Came in with all kinds of tough Blawan tracks and other R&S stuff. Pretty tricky material to learn to count or beatmatch with. So then we started with acid house, haha.”
Her musical knowledge and experience as a writer for, among others, THUMP ensure that her starting DJ career quickly gains momentum. During her studies in Utrecht, Hoek gets her own radio show on Stranded.fm and in March 2017 she plays the house party For The Love Of House in Deventer for the first time. “It was my first serious booking and I had to close right away. In the beginning I was also booked a lot to do ambient sets, probably because I played a lot of 'listening music' in my Stranded shows. Then suddenly two extremes of me as a DJ arose: very experimental versus very danceable."
"I don't like the idea that all tracks in a set should be obscure and credible."
"At a certain point, people have an image of what you are playing, a kind of image, which may not correspond to what you want or think. Then you are suddenly booked with a friend who is running something completely different, but then there is an adjustment or expected middle ground. Maybe as a rookie I wasn't stubborn enough for that either and just did it all. Now I don't give a shit about that. I do what I want to do and if it doesn't quite fit, maybe it doesn't" was a good choice to book me.”
Hoek has been part of the Amsterdam club circuit for about a year: she takes care of communications at De School, is a radio producer with a permanent show on the renowned Red Light Radio and as a regularly booked DJ in clubs such as Garage Noord and De School, she earns her stripes in one of the most important club scenes in Europe. “It's the perfect city to run. You live in a kind of mini-subculture full of possibilities, places and freedoms. However, that does not mean that I do not miss the down-to-earth Twente mentality. I simply find my way around more easily in Amsterdam. It's a place with a lot of niche audiences and a forward-thinking mentality, and that's especially important for someone who's graduated in gender studies."
During her Boiler Room set, Jasmín can be seen in the All Men? Nein Danke-shirt by Emma van Meyeren and Fenna Fiction, which creates awareness about the disproportionate number of male-dominated lineups in clubs and is based on the logo of the well-known Anti-Atomkraft-Bewegung. “Emma is one of my best friends and made the shirt. It's not often that people really care about what you're wearing behind the decks, but at a Boiler Room, you'll have a camera pointed at you for an hour. If I can make a statement, then I will.” A painfully ironic fact: the space behind Jasmín in the Utrecht club WAS. is almost completely filled with men during her set.
The urgency of Hoek's statement keeps on forming itself again and again, and starting a conversation about the male/female ratio on line-ups is something Hoek is not afraid to do. “It wasn't the prettiest conversation, you know. During my studies, discussions during class were quite heated. If you deal with it every day or often experience such conversations, you get used to saying something about it all the time. There are plenty of friends in the industry and music lovers that I had to talk to about it. Many people do not consciously book only men, but awareness is necessary to achieve change.”
To make gender diversity in the Dutch club scene a topic for discussion and to tackle it, isn't it just the All Men? Nein Danke campaign, the track choices in sets and conversations with colleagues and friends. For example, Hoek hosted DJ lessons for women together with friends Emma (known as her again) and Mary Lake. “I never thought about why I actually started playing. The only female DJ I knew in the beginning was Nina Kraviz. There is simply a lack of female role models in this world. We therefore want to transfer the knowledge and skills of turning from woman to woman and thereby start a kind of snowball effect, so that our students can pass on the knowledge again.”
"People have - consciously or unconsciously - so many preconceptions about women in this industry. If I ever solve a technical problem with a mixer or the sound system in a club, people are genuinely amazed."
“We don't want anyone who identifies as a woman to feel held back from shooting or producing. I wish I had had a female role model earlier, then I would have started producing sooner.” There are also problematic prejudices within the expectations people have of female DJs. “People have - consciously or unconsciously - so many preconceptions about women in this industry. If I ever solve a technical problem with a mixer or the sound system in a club, people are genuinely surprised. The moment you are open about your own experiences to others, you create a place where you show people that their ambition is a real possibility. Knowledge is there to be shared. After that it's just do it, fail, and do it again.”
Of course, this also happened in Jasmin's career. “Drop a record that doesn't hit at all, or has to sit out a cool but really way too long break because you can't mix it out.” That's why, fortunately, there is Petting Dogs, Jasmin's Red Light Radio show where you can experiment with less club-fähige records and where she invites friends or offers suitable new DJs a place. “This week, for example, I invited Nala Brown from Rotterdam. I came across her by chance on Facebook as a suggested friend. I clicked on her profile and was blown away by her Operator show. I immediately sent her an enthusiastic message and she wanted to come over. It can be that simple and nice.”
As easily as Jasmin used to reach out to people with similar interests via Tumblr, she now makes important DJ connections via social media. “I've been following Solid Blake for a long time because I've always loved her music. Then she followed me back on Instagram about a year ago. When she was booked in Enschede we met in real life. Two minutes after the meeting came the statement "I really have the feeling that we are going to be best friends." We immediately formed a kind of evil twin duo.” And so a DJ friendship is born again. “We have done a back to back several times, and will do so again during the upcoming Amsterdam Dance Event. We also give each other advice or a place to sleep if necessary and we trust each other as equals in the same scene. I also have such a bond with (mad) Miran and Thessa (upsammy).
Not only do new friends appear in Hoek's DJ career, but childhood friends also regularly show up. Last Lowlands, a large number of friends and acquaintances stood in the front row of the X-Ray, when Jasmin was allowed to play there last minute. “During the set I was in hyperfocus, but when I looked up every now and then, I suddenly saw some old acquaintances from primary and secondary school. Suddenly there are all kinds of nice people who I thought no longer knew who I was. Super surreal!”
During her X-Ray set, things accelerate quickly. “People had been walking around the site for two or three days at that point. Where you expect an opening set in the club at eleven o'clock in the evening, that is often different at a festival, when the day has been going on for a long time. Then I thought: you wanna party? You're going to get it! And of course The Prodigy would have been there, an act that I already included in my sets. Now it was the appropriate tribute to play one of their tracks.” During her set she builds, in her own way as a kind of signature move, hard rave tracks around landmarks to give new context to monster hits such as 'Smack My Bitch Up'. “A wink like that keeps the audience on their toes.” And so it happened.
Jasmín will be performing on September 6 during Synthesis in Utrecht. She can also be seen during the Amsterdam Dance Event on October 16 together with Cosmic Force and Solid Blake. Editor's note: this article was originally published in Dutch. Some quotes may have been altered in the translation.