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.
Mindy Seegal Abovitz is the creator and editor of Tom Tom Magazine, and she is a force to be reckoned with. A drummer who noticed a glaring lack of representation for female beatmakers and drummers, she rose to the challenge and has, in very little time, taken her efforts from a side-project blog to a full color, beautifully-designed, totally engrossing and inspiring quarterly with booming circulation and a packed touring schedule — it seems every week they’re having a release party on a new continent.
Mindy’s been drumming for over 11 years with various projects, including Taigaa!, Hot Box, More Teeth and Chica Vas — the only one she really has much time for these days amidst the gleeful insanity. She’s also a drum instructor with the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls and Vibe Songmakers. But she will tell you all about that.
Tom Tom holds its Issue 5 NYC release party, co-hosted by Kim Thompson (of KTMUSIC, and, until recently, a drummer for Beyoncé), in Liberty Hall at Ace Hotel New York on Saturday night.
I read that Tom Tom started as a blog, and I was wondering both what inspired you to start it and then how it transitioned into a magazine?
Well, I’m a female drummer, and I’ve been drumming for a really long time and involved in a lot of different groups that empower women to play music, like the Rock Camp For Girls and Vibe SongMakers, and I’ve also had my own personal allegiance to play with women my whole life. I don’t consume any drummer magazines because they don’t speak to me and never have. I was sort of sitting around wondering if there was a magazine for female drummers, and thought that if there wasn’t I wanted to start one.
So, initially the blog was a test to see if anything like this existed. I started the blog with that in mind — “here, I’ll just start approaching drummers I respect and interviewing them and posting it on this blog and seeing what happens.” And with that little experiment I discovered that there was no magazine like it and that we were, indeed, in dire need of something like that. The blog turned into a website and then some benefit shows gave me enough money to put out the first issue. And then it just happened after that. I decided it was a quarterly print magazine and it’s just been growing since then.
And how do you feel about special categories for women making music — is it limiting or liberating or both?
I believe it’s both, but because we’ve been living in a draught — we female drummers and female musicians in lots of specialty fields or whatever…or not specialty fields — we pretty much go unrecognized in the media. So, essentially, while it could potentially be holding us down, initially, it’s not — I believe that it’s really empowering and necessary. I feel like we’re asserting ourselves in the media. I do believe we’ll live in a climate where that’s unnecessary. Until it’s unnecessary, I do believe we need to have these places where we can go to communicate and share and promote each other.
In an ideal world, we would be represented in these current magazines and it wouldn’t be necessary. I would open a drummer magazine and see myself or someone like me and I could relate and I wouldn’t feel the need to have this magazine. But, right now that’s not the case. So, you know, it may appear to be a limiting sort of resource, but for me and a lot of other women and men that I know it’s totally necessary and encouraging and a move in the right direction.