bushfya: an afropunk dj mix
By Sound Check
March 6, 2020
There’s nothing we love better than finding young DJs who are making the musical connections global Black music when they play. So when we first heard about Bushfya’s set from last year’s Nyege Nyege Festival in Uganda, we knew we had to investigate. And DAAAAMN, so glad we did. The young lady born Bella Mutaaga is in love with a wide world of dance music, and is great at marrying its rhythms on a dance floor.
The mix Bushfya made for AFROPUNK goes from Brazilian batucada and kora-based house remixes, to hardcore Afro-Latin drum vibes, Afrobeat and gqom. And it is All! Fire! As we were new to Bushfya’s work — and the world is too — we took the occasion of this mix as an opportunity to ask her where she is coming from. In short, if you’re anywhere near Hamburg’s Washington Bar, where Bushfya has a residency, do yourself the favor.
We first heard about you because of your participation at the Nyege Nyege Festival, as a DJ from Kampala, Uganda, but then your bio identifies you as living in Hamburg. Tell us a little bit about yourself, who and where you are.
I go by the stage name Bushfya, but started out as “Fya LeBoof.” That name came about at the very beginning of my career, when I was still playing for free at a small rooftop bar in Kampala, Uganda. I had just moved to town, as a semi-decent DJ, nobody really knew who I was, and I didn’t quite know what I was doing either. A couple of guests who enjoyed the music, pulled me aside after my set and had asked me what my DJ name was. I shrugged and said I didn’t have one. Little did I know they were the ones who would lead me to my next gig. It turned out they were bar owners and really wanted to put me on as a guest DJ. So we all decided to come up with a stage name for me that night. One of the guys was raving about how the music was “Fire in the DJ-Booth” and after about five drinks the term “Fire in the Booth” was remixed into “Fya LeBoof,” and that was how it all began. I started playing at their venue and things just snowballed from there, and the name stuck for over three years. After my time in Kampala, I moved to Hamburg, Germany, where I decided to rebrand myself with a more simple version of my name, that I feel suits me better and also has a nicer ring to it. So as it stands, I am Bushfya, based in Hamburg, Germany — originally Ugandan, but born and raised in Zürich, Switzerland.
Your mix is great, pulling music from all around the world. Can you tell me what your connection is to these songs? Or, what was the overlying idea behind combining this mix?
I have one strict rule: I only play music that makes me feel good or makes me feel like I’m on holiday. And that feeling can come from any music, anywhere in the world, so I wanted to make a mix that demonstrates exactly that. Every single song you hear in this mix, makes me feel great! So my fundamental goal is to make people feel the same and to take them on a musical journey around the world, with sounds they don’t know, and deliver it in a way that makes them dance anyway😊
Who were some of your models for DJing, folks you first heard and thought, ‘this is great” or “this is what I want to do”? Who are some of your inspirations for being so eclectic behind the decks? We’re always interested in hearing about great secret influences, no matter how local or international.
I didn’t really have any models when I started out. I started out as a Spotify selecta at parties, and a few months later, my Mom (believe it or not) was the one who thought I would make a great DJ and got me my first controller. But at no point was it the plan to become serious about deejaying. It was something I did on and off. From birthday parties, I moved on to small venues, and as I got better at mixing, I started considering becoming more serious about deejaying. I distinctly remember when I heard “Punch Koko” by Boddhi Satva for the first time. It was THE track that made me find my sound, and made me realize that there was a whole other world of music out there, that I didn’t know about. To this day, I still play that very track in almost all of my sets. It’s when I decided, I wanted to be unique as a DJ. Before that, I was mostly playing commercial tunes, which I also loved, but it wasn’t really setting me apart. After having widened my musical horizon, I gained an appreciation for traditional instruments and vocals in productions, and old local songs being remixed and brought to life again in a new and exciting way.
Because I collect individual tracks from many varying sources, being eclectic wasn’t necessarily an inspiration from anyone DJ or artist. It’s just a result of collecting music from everywhere, mixing and matching it, and not limiting myself musically. But I definitely always strive to be different behind the decks.
AFROPUNK’s mantra in 2020 is “Strength in Struggle.” Does that phrase resonate or carry meaning with you? if so, what?
Strength in Struggle resonates with anyone who has done anything that challenges the status quo. Anything that carries enough weight to change the world, requires a level of strength and struggle. A strong mind is the cornerstone in situations where you’ve been dealt a bad hand. How you handle that bad hand is all dependent on your mindset. Your mindset is what what will determine the outcome of your struggle. So, once your actions, thoughts and your visions remain focused on making that impact you dream of, and you truly love what you are doing, you will make it to the finish line!
To me, “Strength in Struggle” means not letting roadblocks waiver your focus. If you trust your instinct enough to know you are on the right track, then you should always see things through until the end, because soon you’ll realize, that the strength you developed throughout the struggle is instrumental when you reach the top, because the work doesn’t stop there.
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