Identity

Musician Asmara on What It's Like to Break Out and Do Your Own Thing

Los Angeles-based DJ Asmara, aka Asma Maroof, loves digging through old beats to find inspiration for fresh new sounds. Now that she's breaking out on her own, she reflects on how her past has helped to shape her dreams for the future.

by Kat Aileen & Keenan MacWilliam
Nov 23 2016, 9:20pm

Photos by Angel Pacheco

Words by Brittany Joyce.

When it comes to music, Asma Maroof is an explorer. As fascinated by the old as she is by the new, it's the intersection of the two that interests her most. "I'm really into the digging aspect of music," she tells Broadly over the phone from her Koreatown apartment. The Los Angeles-based DJ and musician has been on the scene for a decade, and collaborated with a number of other talented artists.

Teaming up with Daniel Pineda, she's put out five EPs under Nguzunguzu, spent two years as M.I.A.'s touring DJ, released an album with Future Brown (Fatima Al Qadiri, J-Cush, and Pineda), been a key player in label and collective Fade to Mind, and played with Kelela.

Maroof says it's her support network and sense of community that's encouraged her to become a DJ and helped her to thrive as an artist. "It was really my friends that made me feel like, 'Oh, yeah, I could do something like this,'" she says. "Honestly, it never crossed my mind." But while she never imagined a life in the DJ booth for herself—partially due to the lack of women in the scene—she remembers giving her DJ friends music and constantly requesting specific songs. Her passion was easy to spot. "[My friends] were like 'wait, why don't you DJ?'" she laughs.

It was really my friends that made me feel like, 'Oh, yeah, I could do something like this'

The first time Maroof DJed was in 2006 at Wildness, a club in LA revered for celebrating the queer community and started by filmmaker and performer Wu Tsang. "There was all of a sudden just all these people dancing, and my friends were like 'what the hell, we never have people dancing this early.' It was such a good night." For Maroof, that was her no turning back point, and it was a natural progression after that—from becoming a resident at Wildness to collaborating with Pineda.

Both Maroof and Pineda were inspired by improv, Sun Ra, and just having fun. "We kind of just played together with no preconceived notions or any idea of being a 'band,'" she says.

Questionnaire photos by Keenan MacWilliam

Now, she's turning her attention to her first solo project. "It's something I've been wanting to do, even just to get to know me better, have other people get to know me better," she tells us, her first EP almost done. "It's been pretty cool, it's been a dream of mine."

For her playlist, Maroof gathered "parent" and "child" tracks of some of her favorite songs, an ode to what brought her to music in the first place.

"Similar to the lineage of a family, many songs that we know and love have sampled been from older songs that give them their special sound," she explains. "Yet, they still remain unique as ever."