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In Conversation: Booty Bass and Shade Cartel

by <object object at 0x7f18eb81c580> last modified 03/01/2023 10:25 AM
In Conversation: Booty Bass and Shade Cartel

Booty Bass - Credit: Khali Ackford

Booty Bass - Credit: Khali Ackford

Booty Bass - Credit: Khali Ackford


Ahead of their collaboration as Obsidian this New Year's Eve at Trinity, we spoke to Ngaio of Booty Bass, and Betty from Shade Cartel about inclusivity, creating safe spaces for everyone on the dancefloor, and what makes Bristol audiences the best. Booty Bass are a collective of female/nb DJs formed in 2018, while Shade Cartel are an inclusive dance and performance collective of colour, consisting of drag artists, aerial/pole artists and professional dancers.


How did Booty Bass come about, and what was the idea behind it?

Ngaio: When I first began DJing I was shocked by how few women, women of colour or queer people were on the line ups I was being booked on and how intimidating the spaces were when they were filled with predominantly white, cis, men. Even if a lot of them were my friends and they were good people, I felt an overwhelming sense of having to prove myself because I was the only one who looked like me behind the decks. When I was given a residency at the Plough in Easton every other Thursday, I was able to see the type of crowd and sense of community that could be cultivated when they saw a woman behind the decks having a great time, dancing for myself and no-one else. As that gained popularity, I was given a weekend slot once a month and opened up the warm up to other women; queer women, women of colour and non-binary people. At the end of 2018 I was given New Year's Eve where some of the warm up DJs from the year joined me and from then on, that was the beginnings of Booty Bass. That was also the last time we threw our own New Year's Eve party!

How did Booty Bass come into collaboration with Shade Cartel?

N: Funnily enough me and Betty grew up a town away from each other in rural Wales but never properly spoke until 2021 when Booty Bass and Shade Cartel were booked at an event at Lakota Gardens. We knew of each other but hadn't had space to properly chat until then I think and then it all came out! That we grew up in a similar way, had worked in the festival and events industry for years, and were trying to diversify the landscape with our crews - me with Booty Bass on the music side and Betty with Shade Cartel on the dancer's side. Every time our crews got booked to play the same stages, we would have the best time, so when 2022 came about we thought let's not wait for others to put us together, let's take control as we have already and carve out space for ourselves.

Betty: Booty Bass does in the music scene what Shade does in the dance scene; so it made sense to bring them together. Both collectives are run by two creative black women (myself and Ngaio) committed to inclusion, self-empowerment and creating safe spaces. Bringing our babies together has been pure vibes and it feels great to perform onstage with DJs where you feel completely comfortable and free; it’s a beautiful queer family affair.

2022 has clearly been a big year for you both, what have been some stand out moments from this year?

N: Launching Obsidian has got to be the stand-out for me, I think. It was hard work for sure and took a lot of planning and grafting but being able to do it as 2 crews pulling together being led by 2 women of colour was seriously special. The last day our venue was open at Boomtown, me and Betty watching Grove perform Black in our venue for our community that we put together was amazing. We stood in the crowd hugging; it gives me goosebumps thinking about it now!

B: Shade have performed on lots of great sets and festivals this year but the highlight has got to be creating and growing obsidian; bringing our collectives together. We’ve had so much fun with it.

Creating a safe space on the dancefloor is clearly important to Booty Bass, do you think venues are doing enough to make people safe, and if not what more could they be doing?

N: It's very important to us, because namely on that New Year's Eve night 4 years ago, one of our friends was sexually assaulted by a man who lied to get himself on stage and even now refuses to acknowledge that what he did was wrong despite being banned from our events. It wasn't someone who came regularly and clearly thought he could get away with it. After that I began a series of Halt Harassment dinners where venues, promoters, security teams and audience members for together to talk about how to tackle this as a unit. Through that project I created a policy that we in Booty Bass adhere to and talk through with each venue we work with but these conversations need to continue. I think there is a responsibility that artists, venues and promoters have to try their best to police the spaces they invite people into and take action if they see something wrong. Booty Bass rarely runs events in venues where the dancefloor can't be seen by the DJs because I think we all have to work together to push the message that harassment is not something we will sit back and let happen.

There’s been a focus over the last couple of years about the importance of promoting diverse line-ups – have you seen this change happen or is there still work to be done?

B: I think there was a drive for diversity a couple of years ago but it feels like the movement's since fallen flat. I can’t say I've seen a massive change. Most lineups are still predominantly male. I feel like promoters and platforms still have lots of work to do here.

N: I think there's still a lot of work to be done. A lot of the music and entertainment industries made a big show and dance of putting up black squares and bringing in a tokenistic artist here and there during 2021 but since then the push for a lasting change I think has diminished. Since 2020 the number of BAME people in the music industry has actually dropped despite the claim that this was one of its focal points post-BLM. For me the question isn't just 'who's on your line up' but also, who is running the space? Who is backstage? Who's on the door? Yes, representation is key but alongside that needs to be industry-wide training around how to be actively anti-racist and uncover your unconscious biases to understand what the experiences are for those people that you put on the line ups. There should be a push in representation across the board - not just for the performers on the stage. Which is why Booty Bass and Shade Cartel make such a great match, because we understand what those experiences are - of being marginalised on the stage, in the offices, behind the scenes, and recognising all the things we would do differently to make that space once that in inclusive and diverse. It's also why I work as a trainer and consultant in this field, because I feel passionately that if everyone participated in learning and growing, the scene would be much stronger for it.

What do you think makes the club scene in Bristol unique?

B: People within the Bristol music scene are super creative and vibrant and there's always loads of cool collaborations going on. The close proximity of the music venues means there’s a concentrated party feel which is fun.

N: The fact that people ultimately want to go and dance the night away! Bristol audiences are the best - there's no pretence. No trying to look sexy the whole time or standing at the side of the dancefloor not getting involved - we go in! We dance hard, we sweat, we laugh, we meet new people, we smile at strangers, we love polyrhythms and big Bassy bangers. We are a fusion of cultures, music styles, Soundsystem children. We like to hear things we haven't heard before - we thrive on the unknown. And we're also political, we want to be part of the change and hold each other and ourselves accountable. It's a very special scene to be a part of.

And finally, any big plans for 2023?

N: SO MANY!!!! Can't talk about them yet but keep an eye on the socials! I myself am working on some new music that I'll be releasing in the new year and we've been hatching plans to build on some of the incredible work we've done this year. 2023, we ready!

B: Other than world domination we’ve got some very exciting festivals and events planned for 2023. We can’t spill quite yet, but keep your eyes on those line ups; we there!


Booty Bass and Shade Cartel will be joining forces for Obsidian this New Year's Eve at Trinity - tickets are now on final release, click here to get yours while you still can. Find out more about Ngaio's work, or check out Obsidian, Booty Bass and Shade Cartel on Instagram to stay up to date with what's next for the collective.


About Trinity Presents:

This show is part of Trinity Presents - our in-house programme of music, bringing world-class artists and emerging talent to inner-city audiences

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