INTERVIEW : DJ MURSI LAYNE

Trinidad-born Mursi Layne, co-founder, with Alexis Casson, of The Artchitects, spun with Tom Tom Magazine at Ace New York during October — and she’s back on the decks Monday night at Bembe in Brooklyn. A turntablist who prefers the wheels of steel to all that audio digitalis, she’s been mixing her bad self into a wider range of roles as deejay, documentarian and voice for her communities. We talked with her about Hands On mini-ball DJ MikeQ, being homesick, and the hats she wore back in the day, including some that she’s still wearing in the here and now.

What age were you when you arrived in New York and what song, sound or smell reminds you of that moment?

My first visit to NYC was at age 13. My mom and dad had already lived here for at least 8 years. My dad was a driver back then and every time he picked me up, he had a cassette tape with steel drums playing. I was into Dancehall and Soca, so I really couldn’t take the steel drums for too long. However, it reminded me of home — Trinidad — which I missed. I don’t hear steel drums often, so when I do it takes me back to my first time in New York. 

The term Afropunk is a part of the lexicon for a wider audience, especially since Afropunk Fest hit Brooklyn in August. You’ve been involved — it’s a website, it’s a festival, it’s a lot of bigger things. What is it to you?

The Peculiar Kind has partnered with Afropunk to be the LGBT voice on the AP network. We also had a booth set up at the festival this year. To me, the term Afropunk has become synonymous with “community.” Although most New Yorkers are much more open-minded than some, there’s still a sense of hatred toward others for being “different.” Whether it be because of skin color, sexual orientation or any way you present yourself to the world that isn’t considered the norm. It was amazing to see such a diverse crowd together in one space celebrating art, music, love and life.

You’ve been getting around the globe quite a bit for work. What’s the most exciting regional sound for you right now? 

This is really tough because I have so many sounds that get me going at the moment. My DJ sets are like a melting pot! I can go anywhere from cunty beats like MikeQ-produced tracks to Stuttastep tunes such as DJ Kiva’s remix of Erykah Badu’s Out My Mind, Just in Time. At some parties, I have to throw in some Soca and Dancehall, naturally, because I am an island girl. Speaking of regional sound, I am super excited to guest DJ this Monday at iBomba, a monthly party where deejays spin a fusion of Global, Bass, Digital, Cumbia, Future and Dancehall.   

You’re working on a documentary for The Peculiar Kind with The Artchitects. Tell us about it.

The documentary is based on a web series where Alexis Casson and I, known as The Artchitects, have candid and unscripted conversations with queer women of color about issues within the LGBTQ community. The ultimate goal is to build awareness and expose the world to a subculture that is often misunderstood. You can get it on DVD, and you can arrange screenings through our website — Season Two of the web series will begin production in Spring 2013.


9-piece Cumbia “musical collective” Quita Penas from Southern California play Afro-Latin & Latin-Afro sounds influenced by cumbia in Colombia to semba in Angola. Translated as “take away your worries,” the collective is working to revive traditional feel good music, getting people to dance and enjoy each other’s company. Quita Penas plays poolside tomorrow with Luke Top of Fool’s Gold and DJs Walking Phoenix & Mor Elian. See the full schedule here and get a room.


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