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Bambii Gives Us Her Seven 'Songs in the Key of Life'

The mysterious Bambii untangles her musical obscurity with a new mix.
February 5, 2015, 1:25am
Photo by Sammy Rawal

Despite having never produced an original tune, Kirsten Azan, or Bambii, has become one of Toronto's most productive DJs. Coupled with her infectious enthusiasm, Kirsten brings a mindful, uber-curious approach to her craft. In her sets, she seamlessly unites electronica, hip-hop, house, dancehall and everything in between. Elsewhere, she's eager to debate and discuss current issues, like the artistic value of trap, the modern musician's obsession with obscurity, or Zoe Saldana's casting as Nina Simone in Cynthia Mort's upcoming feature about the seminal jazz singer.

Whether she's putting on her own event series (JERK) or turning her Facebook status into an editorial column, Bambii's voice is being heard across Toronto. Surprisingly, the mix we're hosting below will eventually become the first post on her new Soundcloud page?until now, she hasn't really needed one. On her skills alone, Bambii has had opener slots for artists as diverse as Machinedrum, Bun B, Shad, and Nguzungu.

In the realm of producers and DJs, her unique work ethic deserves recognition. So we've given her the opportunity to immortalize herself with an emphatic mix and seven carefully chosen songs?à la Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life?both of which are perfect for a loud evening.

1. "212" - Azealia Banks

Bambii: When Azealia Banks came out with "212", it was really the first time I saw a female rapper spit over an up tempo electronic production and receive a significant amount of mainstream attention for it. That kind of genre hopping is something I'm consistently trying to do when I mix?you'll hear me use vocals to bridge two songs a lot [in the one below]. Recently, Azealia's also been very vocal about appropriation and corruption within police. Politicizing art and using your public platform to say something critical is pretty brave. She's definitely an inspiration for me, both creatively and politically.

2. "In Da Club Before 11 O'clock" - DJ Rashad  

The use of retrospective samples is a big trend in electronic music these days. In recent productions, super mainstream or corny R&B samples have appeared a lot. Songs that normally wouldn't have alternative value are being referenced in very different spaces than the ones in which they were first popularized. DJ Rashad is a huge influence for mad producers/DJs in a wealth of different genres, partly because of his ability to execute that sort of inter-genre retranslation. This track's a perfect example of his skills in that respect.

3. "Ooo Baby" - J-Lah 

"Ooo Baby" finds its way into most of my sets. I think the production is incredible. The seemingly contradictory pairing of Smokey Robinson with classic 808's really works. It's a great example of sounds from different eras working to each other's strengths.

4. "Everybody's Free" - Quindon Tarver 

"Everybody's Free" is a part of the score for Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, which is one of my favourite childhood movies. Quindon Tarver's solo in the song is one of the cleanest gospel vocals you'll ever hear. I used to rewind the movie to listen to that specific part on repeat. I think nostalgia, and the instinct we have for it, is an important tool for DJs. Your memories are constantly being embedded with sound.

5. "Six Flags" - Progress

Lyrical minimalism and the production features of futuristic trap are two massive trends in hip-hop right now. In my opinion, the basis of hip-hop?whether the narrative is critical or complex?doesn't really fit with that trend. I think Toronto rapper, Progress, successfully bridges that opposition on "Six Flags." Kaytranada's trendy vibes get a shot of complex lyricism in this blend of classic and forward-thinking sounds.

6. "Slow Motion" - Vybz Kartel

If you can muster up the strength to look past his obsession with skin bleaching and the murder allegations against him, Vybz Kartel's talent becomes undeniable. Since he hit it big, Vybz has become a significant influence on other artists from the Caribbean. His lyrics are a bit ridiculous, but his tracks with Major Lazer have become massive hits outside of the Caribbean. This is one of my favourite tracks to play at the end of the night when people are too drunk to hide the fact that they are dry humping.

7. "Africa" - D'Angelo 

"Africa" is one of those rare, timeless records. Originally, neo-soul was cheesy but also idealistic and wholesome. In my opinion, this is a major contrast to the sense of nihilism in today's R&B. The theme, grandiose production, and vocals in "Africa" will probably never be matched, let alone surpassed. I throw it on sometimes and get all solemn, one hand on my chest, "Lest we Forget".