Close to Home: Sara Dziri talks process, identity and belonging
Producer and DJ Sara Dziri is one of the most exciting names coming out of Brussels right now.
On home turf, she’s working to level the playing field. Her Not Your Techno parties were founded on the philosophy that, just like identity, techno can come in many forms and from different places, she’s created a space for diverse voices to come together and fostered a safe space for trans and female identifying persons, POCs and queer people.
When she’s not at the controls at NYT or at Fuse, where she’s a resident, you’ll find her playing regularly on Kiosk Radio where her sound swells around dark and intricate house and techno.
It’s these sounds and moods that feed into her productions too. She may have only released her first EP into the world a year ago, the acidic cold wave of Vague Realities on Lurid Music, but she’s already gearing up for the release of her debut album, which is coming out at the end of this month on Optimo Music. Close To Home deals with themes of identity, belonging, feelings of loneliness, self-discovery and finding peace with oneself, channeled through driving atmospheric techno.
Ahead of the release we spoke to Sara about the philosophy behind her party, the process of making the album and the subjects it explores.
Hey Sara, how was the lockdown for you? Are things easing back into a “normal” routine over in Brussels?
Hi there! Yes, it finally is, although now it feels a bit like a tsunami 🙂
Did you find the lockdown period to be a time of motivation or was it difficult to be creative?
It was the time where I finished my album, so indeed quite creative, although I wonder how my album would’ve turned out if it wasn’t a lockdown!
Your debut album, ‘Close To Home’, is out very soon on Optimo Music. Tell us about how the relationship came about?
Yes it is! Actually, I didn’t know them personally: I reached out with my music, Optimo Music loved it and it and offered to release it. I take that as a big compliment and am very thankful to them for giving me this opportunity.
How was the process of making the album? Did it come together over a long period of time?
I made the very first track that inspired me to make an album about three or four years ago. It took a few months before I continued working on this idea, thanks to a supportive fellow artist who motivated me to do this (making and releasing an album as a virtually unknown artist is quite unusual in our scene I would say). He told me it would help me grow as an artist if I took on such a big endeavour, and he was right, making this album has taught me many things.
I made the first version of the album in about a year, and then the lockdown happened, which made me revisit it before actually starting to look for a label. Once Optimo Music reacted positively, it took several more months before the release. So yes, you can say it was quite a long process!
In title and theme the release deals with subjects of belonging and racial injustices. It’s a personal release. In what ways, through your music, did you try to channel and translate the negative experiences you’ve encountered being from a North African background in the west?
The racial aspect is only one part of it. For me, the album shows how multi-layered my identity is, and how most parts of who I am don’t fit ‘mainstream identity’, or are somehow perceived as different. I feel like wherever I go, there’s always a part of me that doesn’t belong there, whilst another part does. It’s like living in a constant twilight, always feeling close to home but not completely home. I guess this is one of the reasons I’m so attracted to rave culture and nightlife, as – if done well – it’s a place where you can forget about those daily differences and feel like you belong for a moment in time.
There’s also a political aspect to the album, one that mocks the prejudices people can have about you – this is something I would like to explore more in future work. ‘Fille de Racaille’ would be the best example of this. But I also touch upon feelings of loneliness, self-discovery and finding peace with oneself despite what people may think of you or project on you.
Have you always found music to be a useful and powerful tool to explore personal subjects and approach difficult topics?
For me, music is an emotional outlet: when I play dark or melancholic music it’s as if I get rid of any darkness I have inside of me – it actually makes me a happier person. People often ask me if I’m a dark person, I say no because in fact by doing music I manage to get rid of my own darkness, find a better purpose for it.
Music is also a powerful tool for dreaming and imagination, by making and listening to music I can discover worlds outside of what is physical, all the while connecting to the here and now, but on a different level.
All of this is even more powerful when shared with an audience. Despite it often being very personal, I feel like through that I can connect with people. They can feel what I feel, and we form a group through it for a moment in time.
What do you hope that listeners with a similar background, or who have experienced similar prejudices to you, will take away from the album?
Feeling home is something that comes from you and that you create in your own unique way. They don’t care about us, but we care enough about ourselves to feel good and move on.
Your ‘Not Your Techno’ collective and parties is another avenue to celebrate artists from marginalised backgrounds and level the playing field in Brussels. How is the climate in the city in terms of representation and what do you hope to achieve with the party in the future?
NYT is a translation of the same philosophy: identities are multiple and complicated, and that is something we love and cherish. Techno music doesn’t belong to one group of people, it’s open for interpretation and all kinds of backgrounds. So, we want to create space for different voices, and make more room for trans and female identifying persons, poc people and queer people.
What else can we expect release-wise? Anything else on the horizon you’d like to shout about?
Let’s first have this album come out and be received by the audience, after that I will be sharing more on what’s next!