Exploring the Healing Power of Sound | Dre Ngozi

It's hard to give Dre Ngozi one title, although she's widely known as a Toronto-based DJ, the multihyphenate dabbles in many forms of art and creative expression. After gaining the confidence to start DJing professionally, Dre has used her cultural and spiritual influences to create feel-good beats for her audiences to listen to. Dre is passionate about the power of sound, and you can feel it within her music. Check out our interview with her below to learn more about what motivates and inspires her. Dre also made a personalized mix for us last week. Listen to it here.

Can you give us a little background on yourself? Where are you from and how did you get into music?
I’m currently a Toronto-based multidisciplinary artist.

Music, in general, has always been my passion. As a former dancer and classical pianist, I’ve always had a strong affinity for sound. By my last year of university, I found myself specializing in sound design at Concordia University in Montreal. The first time I touched turntables, I was in my early twenties. I was dating an established producer and DJ at the time and he helped to teach me the fundamentals of DJing and music production.

I always dreamt of being a music producer, but I had convinced myself as a teenager, that it wasn’t really possible for a girl. Djing somewhat started out as a hobby, but encouragement from friends and strangers alike in the past 2 years has motivated me to take it more seriously.

How would you describe your musical style and what genres do you draw the most inspiration from?
My musical style is definitely a reflection of my upbringing, overall aesthetic, mood, and personality. When it comes to the music that I play out, I try to only play tracks that I would listen to personally. I have to feel a song in my chest or it’s got to make me say “ouuwee” at some point! It’s always about feeling for me. I like playing more upbeat tunes that are danceable. But, when I’m working on beats, I definitely spend time listening to banger hip-hop tracks and house/electro music.

Best and worst parts about being a DJ?
I really love seeing people dancing, enjoying themselves, and forgetting their problems, even if it’s just for a few hours. Life can get really heavy at times and I feel honored if I am able to help folks self-heal through dance and expression in any way. I also like introducing different genres and songs to unsuspecting crowds. There’s so much great sound out there and I think it’s important to try and expand people’s musical knowledge.

The worst part about DJing is probably adjusting to the late-nights and navigating the occasional inebriated folks who like yelling in my ear. Oh, and requests for songs on Youtube… just no.

There are a lot of female DJs on the come up nowadays, how has the DJ scene changed since you first started?
When I first moved to Toronto from Montreal, the only female DJs I would see/hear were DJ L’Oqenz and DJ Lissa Monet. I was in awe because until then, I don’t think I had ever seen women behind the decks in real-life. I try to shout them out as much as possible because I think it’s important to acknowledge the ones who paved the way for others.

Female Djs are definitely a hot ticket right now, which is great. For myself and I think maybe for a lot of other women, the music and entertainment industry was so heavily male-dominated, it was difficult to imagine a space for women. I started to practice DJing 8 years ago and stopped because I didn’t see enough safe spaces to explore the craft. It’s really exciting to see that this is changing.

I still feel some type of way when we’re promoted as “female” DJs and not just DJs; the acknowledgment of gender sometimes takes away focus from the artistry. I guess it’s still a relatively new phenomenon for the public and it’s probably going to take some time for it to be normalized. On the other hand, I do love DJing with other women and taking up space with them. It can be quite empowering.

“Life can get really heavy at times and I feel honored if I am able to help folks self-heal through dance and expression in any way."

If you could collaborate with any musical artist who would it be and why?
Oh wow, that’s a tough answer to narrow down. I’ll have to go with FKA Twigs because I’m obsessed. To me, she is the epitome of an expansive artist. She’s beyond a triple-threat, her artistry is other-worldly and I think her airy falsetto voice sounds good over any instrumental. I would love to produce a track for her. #dreams.

What other forms of art do you dabble in?
I am a professional dabbler. But specific to art, like I mentioned, I come from a classical piano background and various forms of dance. I used to do photography and videography, mixed-media visual arts, spoken word, and theater performance. I like being versatile.

You also appear to draw a lot of inspiration from your cultural background and spirituality, can you go into depth about how this plays into your music and art?
Much of my creative work incorporates some form of identity exploration. As someone whose lineage derives from the Caribbean, West Africa, and Europe but was raised in Canada, understanding who I am and where I come from has been an ongoing journey. I am often motivated to share the cultures and narratives of marginalized and racialized folks. They are so rich.

Recently, I’ve found myself spinning more tropical riddims and afrobeats and it’s interesting to see how much crossover is happening in those genres right now. It has all become surprisingly personal for me because I’m also interested in the cultural history and impact of these musical genres. A lot of people don’t know that I’m also a holistic practitioner and energy-worker, so I’m also currently exploring the healing power of sound and frequencies.

You have amazing hair! What’s your number one natural hair care tip?
Thank you! I’m actually quite passive when it comes to taking care of my hair. Like, I do my own hair and I love to express myself through different styles and colors, but the main motivation is to not have to do anything with it for as long as possible. In terms of tips, I’d say snip it and oil it on the regular.

What does MISSBISH mean to you?
It means not being afraid to be who you are.

Who’s your MISSBISH? Tell us who she is and why she’s an inspiration to you.
This is probably a very common answer, but the obvious choice for me is my mother. She came to this country at a young age with nothing and nobody. She was able to build a life for us and still be help her family back home. She’s hands-down the most generous person I have ever met and has been exceptionally supportive of my life choices. I owe a lot of my intuitive nature and wisdom to her. She’s my hero for sure.

Photographer: Nathalia Allen

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