Catu Diosis is A DJ and activist from Kampala, Uganda. Her music is flavorful, energetic and heavily afro and bass influenced. Playing underground music since 2016 her sounds vary from Kuduro to Gqom and Afro-house. Based between Kampala and Cologne, she’s an active member of the Nyege Nyege Collective, a collective in Kampala that promotes outsider music, primarily electronic by African artists. She is also the founder of Dope Gal Africa (DGA), an organisation supporting and nurturing African Female talents “Too many amazing female artists on the continent, and not enough are given the opportunity to shine” she explains — that is how DGA came to be. “As a young African woman, you have to face multiple issues, both at home and internationally. At home, challenges come from being a female, often the only one” she says, as she is often finding herself as the only female DJ in a commonly male-dominated space. Never seeing anything as a challenge she continues to use her international career as a platform to champion others.
We caught up with Catu to chat about her struggles as an African woman in the music industry and the end to music genres.
Tell us why you love music?
I love music because it allows me to interact with my body, my feelings and identity. Like when I play or listen to Acholi traditional music from my hometown Gulu, I am taken back to local dance scenes among the Acholi community that define my culture. Music is a massive part of my childhood and fills me with joy every time. I grew up dancing to my mother’s drumming, she ran an all-female Acholi dance group in Kampala, and they rehearsed about three times a week. I remember attending most rehearsals and joining the women on the dancefloor haha, it was such a powerful vibe. My brothers and I used to sing and organise dance competitions during celebrations and school breaks so I grew up with a vast appreciation of music. Music has helped me cope with many things; I am not sure what my life would look like honestly without it.
Who was your biggest musical inspiration as a kid?
Hmmm, I remember really enjoying Missy Elliot’s style of music. I still have so much love and respect for her.
Talk us through your creative process?
Well, it really depends, I don’t think I have one specific working model, but with music production, I usually start by laying down some kick and snare patterns, set tempo, and then move on however the vibe rolls. Sometimes I also start with a melody. It mostly depends on my inspiration and mood at that moment. As for DJing, I listen to tracks, practice with Traktor or Rekordbox depending on which equipment I’ll use to record or perform. Then I organise playlists in the DJ software from which I select tunes for the mix.
How do you feel our concept of the musical genre has changed over the years?
Today people are tired of boxes, genres, categories, and who makes these anyway? Today there is a trend against classification. I see more artists doing their thing and not letting anyone else fit them in something they will get stuck with. That’s why there is a lot of deconstruction, fusion, post this or post that, but people quickly try and name it.
In music today, you either make music according to a genre, like afrobeat or techno or make music without particular references in mind, like Slickback or Afro Rack, create your own genre is how I like to try to approach things. I feel the same things are happening with culture, and gender, young people want to be more free and flexible.
What is your go-to artist/genre when dealing with heartbreak?
I loved listening to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”. It always made me feel unbreakable haha. But I can’t say I play it every time I’m sad. Sometimes I might just cry it out and move on.
What has been the biggest struggle in pursuing your dreams in the music industry?
As a young African woman, you have to face multiple issues, both at home and internationally. At home, challenges come from being a female, often the only one, but trying and making it as a DJ and producer from Africa can be hard to reach.
Although our African societies greatly value music’s power, there are still many aspects of the music industry that don’t include women. One of my biggest struggles has been dealing with the anxiety that comes with being the only female DJ in some spaces. But it also makes you strong, and you feel good when you see other girls follow your footsteps. Obviously, to breakthrough internationally, you can’t give up, you have to keep working and try to make space for yourself and others.
What are some of the challenges you’re facing during Covid-19?
I was in the middle of a tour, and then got stuck in Germany. I was at the airport about to board a plane when I got the news that I would be charged $1400 upon arrival. I decided to stay longer in Germany and weather the pandemic, but then I couldn’t wait and had to get busy —
so I found an internship and started taking some shows, working on my music and kickstarting workshop sessions with black women in Germany under my grassroots organisation Dope Gal Africa(D.G.A).
But honestly, I feel blessed every day I am alive, and that’s the energy I ride on, I never really see a challenge, more a situation that life throws at me and that I deal with to the best of my ability.
How do you personally navigate the creative industries as a POC?
I really start to pay attention to who the promoter is and whether their parties are diverse, safe and inclusive, but sometimes you still end up wondering where exactly you are. In the end, I just try and work hard and take opportunities as they come, for my people and me. I try and keep loving what I do and who I’m becoming, and know that I’m bound to make mistakes and come into some bad situations, but I just can’t let myself down. I must keep going.
Who do you think is currently changing the music industry?
From an economic point of view, it’s really reaching its limits — there is a lot of money in the music industry, but the way it’s redistributed doesn’t seem to be working out. I feel like the world is turning more to Africa for inspiration, and I hope Africans will take advantage of this global attention.