Josh Fundafunda talks to Leila of Exeter’s Sister Sounds
I spoke with Leila, one of Sister Sounds’ resident DJ’s, who’s been with the group since its beginning last October. She explained that what started out as just a brand is now becoming a collective, to express themselves through their music, but more broadly through their collective platform. The lack of representation for Women in the Exeter DJ scene drove them to begin the group, and remains their main purpose. It is etched into every aspect of the group from the advertising to, visual design, music production, to their events.
Leila, one of the group’s founding members, spoke about her love for mixing and how the group has only enhanced that passion, and given it a focus like no other. By allowing creatives, DJ’s specifically, to gather under one collective, Sister Sounds is a space created by women, for women, within Exeter. In her experience, many people have approached her from different professions; photographers, videographers, filmmakers, visual artists reach out because of the platform Sister Sounds creates. Simply having a starting point is an important step in including those underrepresented. The entirely student driven group provides a space for many different types of electronic music; drum and base, house, techno, breakbeat, electro are all played by at least one member of the group, Leila herself specialises in techno and a bit of house. Leila is trying to take her music a step further and introduces her nationality into her music. She weaves in lots of Arab influence into her music as she is part Arab originally, and what better way to introduce a unique sound to Exeter’s music scene than through Sister Sounds. We spoke about how World music and Afrobeat is gaining popularity in major labels in the Western music sphere, and Leila tries to support that by promoting an international sound here in Exeter.
Sister Sounds is a space created by women, for women, within Exeter
Continually, as the group was born out of the necessity for representation, they have a host of struggles to confront. First and foremost, one major difficulty the group faces is that, being a completely student run group, many of the members will be leaving or moving away from Exeter. And although the group has been growing since its creation, keeping the same vision and drive will be difficult for a group without consistent membership over the years. Although Leila is sure that the solid platform they create will curate a passionate group of people to carry the flame. Besides that logistical issue, the main focus the group tackles is the problem of representation and inclusivity surrounding women. They hold workshops to promote the teaching of mixing to women, trans people, non-binary people, etc. all in an effort to bring more women into a spotlight which has been held back from them. This shows through the charities that they support and raise money and awareness for. For example, one such Phoenix event was aimed at raising money for the CoppaFeel breast cancer charity, and their most recent even focused on raising awareness for Recognise RED, Exeter University’s student led anti-harassment campaign. Coupled with visual design to support them, the group performs in an environment which perpetuates their message. It is especially important that the group promotes these messages in the clubs within Exeter, as much of the harassment, and other issues that women face, occur on nights out.
We ended our discussion on how there is an increasing wave of smaller scale music nights coupled with promotional campaigns about targeted issues. It’s groups like Sister Sounds which help push for progressive efforts within music scenes, and their influence shows. While they specifically focus on women, non-binary and trans, there is a growing number of groups pushing similar agendas. Being a student led, all women group, they can focus on the issues which immediately impact them, and in turn immediately be impacted by them.