I recently had the pleasure of photographing the DJ and musician Ashibah as she prepared for a performance at Generator Hostel in Copenhagen.
She’d brought with her a collection of musicians, instruments and a sound system, which, at first sight, beautifully contradicted each other. There was an acoustic guitarist sat warming up on one side, changing between Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ and Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida,’ as a cellist joined in against the rhythmic backdrop of a drum box on the other.
In the middle stood Ashibah herself, complete with her bright green urban trainers, a hoody and a voice that made everyone in the room stop what they were doing. Even the Welsh lads on their stag party joined in at one point, even though they only knew a few words from the Coldplay chorus.
It reminded me of one of the reasons I wanted to move here in the first place. I’d seen plenty of musicians during previous visits and the live music scene appeared a lot more manageable. For instance, London is such a huge place that its easy to get swallowed up by the thousands of venues and other musicians competing for the same bit of space on stage. When you see a poster on a lamppost or wall in Camden it’s easy to ignore it, because there are just so many of them all advertising the same thing. I can remember walking around Camden one afternoon, handing out flyers to promote my own band’s performance that night. In the end we got a good turn out, which was odd because nobody was interested in taking a leaflet from us.
On the flip side, we even managed to blag a gig in Brixton on the very same stage as The Clash had once performed. We were the headlining act in front of a crowd of a dozen – and they were the other bands and their girlfriends. So to come to Copenhagen and see all the open mic sessions and cosy (and often busy) music venues is a great experience. Now all I need are some musicians to join me.
Going back to Ashibah, I was interested to discover that she’d actually started out DJ’ing around the city several years ago and eventually started adding her own vocals over the music in her sets. Being one of the first DJs in Copenhagen to make music this way, it didn’t take long for other DJs to start requesting collaborations with her and by 2010 she had caught the attention of music producer Phil Jones and songwriter Nikolas Larion from Copenhaniacs Music. The trio began to develop and build on the characteristics that already defined Ashibah and her music and the result is what exists today. Discovering that Ashibah was, at heart, an underground club DJ was what made the soundcheck with guitars, drums and cellos even more interesting to hear.
I’m a huge fan of so many different styles of music but I’m still definitely fussy when it comes to live performances. It’s easy for big bands to ‘switch it on’ at huge festivals and for bands that you absolutely adore to just make your skin tingle when performing at small, intimate gigs. Some bands and singers often pass me by when I see them for the first time but then there are a few that actually make me listen. It was just a simple sound check, but Ashibah was definitely one of those performers.
For more information you can visit www.ashibah.com
And if you play the piano, drums, violin, guitar, or any other musical instrument, feel free to get in touch with me regarding a possible musical collaboration. Let’s see if we can make something happen.