Our next guest for our Sundowner. mix series is Ksenia K, a talented Ukrainian DJ and also event curator. Ksenia has been organising parties and involved in the underground music scene back in the days in her hometown Lviv. Get to know her better in the interview and enjoy this powerful, sincere mix she did for us.
Inés: Hi Ksenia, How are you?
Ksenia: Hi, I am mostly fine, but I go through very different emotional states and I allow myself to do that now. I am currently based in Berlin, looking for a job, Anmeldung, trying to learn local laws and culture in general.
Right now, I am sitting on the balcony of my umpteenth apartment, which I moved into a few days ago and will move out soon… drinking Club Mate and smoking Pueblo, a classic 🙂
Inés: Where are you from and when did you came to Berlin? What is what most excites you about living here Berlin?
Ksenia: I came here from Ukraine (Lviv). I always say that this is not how I planned my trip to Berlin to be, but we have these crazy neighbours – Russia, I mean… and well… I think you understand how I got here.
The first thing I noticed was that Berlin is slightly bigger than Lviv. Some things are frozen in time, and some things are developing rapidly. Here it’s difficult for me with all these government institutions and so much paperwork. We have similar issues in Ukraine as well, but everything is becoming more and more digitalised nowadays, and all processes are slowly getting simplified.
I have a bit of “topographical cretinism” so to say, so for the first few weeks it was very difficult for me to navigate the city. Imagine: you don’t know the city, is big and your iPhone battery is constantly low. Once I got lost at night, and was trying to find my way home by talking to people, trying to be as brave as I possibly could.
Ah yes, the names of the streets – they were not just difficult to remember at first, but it was even more difficult for me to read and pronounce them.
Inés: What’s your family’s relationship to music? Are there any influences from there?
Ksenia: Voices from TV programs, sounds from the street, from which my imagination drew musical images, and music on cassettes – all of it was an integral part of my childhood. My dad worked a lot and was building a big, beautiful house, my mom also worked and had a lot of household chores outside of work. My sister, who is 5 years older than me, as a teenager was interested in all kinds of relevant things for that age. I spent a lot of time alone by myself, I was bored at home for 5-6 hours after kindergarten, and later after school; so I explored the world, including sounds, on my own. Maybe it was my family who made me believe that I was born an artist, because when I was very young, I asked Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus) to bring me a piano. And he brought it! From that moment on, I was trying to play everything that I heard, – songs, commercials, even birdsong, on that small children’s piano that actually worked, believe it or not! I also sang everything that I knew; I replayed some cassette tapes over and over again. And I used to rewind the cassettes manually to catch what was being sung in English, so I could write down what I heard in Cyrillic as I heard it, I cut, glued and listened to what I created… hmm when I performed at home on the couch in front of my family – everyone applauded 😂
Now my mother often writes to me: give me something to listen to, show me a video of your performance. While I understand that she is interested in what I do, and this is how she shows that she cares, I also know that she doesn’t fully understand this kind of music, but it’s still very nice to receive messages from her at 5 or 6am.
When I was 14 or 15, I was already all over different platforms and was digging the music; back then I really liked minimal and trance. At the same time, I started going to one of the two parties in our small town (Zolochiv), they always played all kinds of pop hits… often you could order a song to be played, but as soon as the space would get empty and my friends and I would stay, I would, for the first time, hear something similar to what I was listening to on my player. One of those friends was a regular DJ at those parties, so he was allowed to do it.
There is a family that you choose. The one I chose later on inspired me a lot to keep searching and listening.
Inés: How has been your evolution since you started DJing for the first time?
Ksenia: My friend always jokes about himself that he is a budding DJ, and I can say the same about myself. I played for the first time last year at one of the parties that my friends and I organized in Lviv. 4 girl friends who know how to do cool stuff – such a female clique inspired us to create a female line-up. Muza at TBA – Lviv, Ukraine . Well, it was an attempt and it was an interesting first experience.
Sometime after Christmas this year, my friend told me that Thom would come to us (it was his set at The MUDD Show that I listened to plenty of times). The second thing he told me – you will be the warm-up.
It was a great private party in my hometown, at the Promiselove club, where I am currently a resident. I got a lot of feedback about my selection and it was a little push for a shy girl to get back to the DJ spot so I could share the love.
Three weeks later I celebrated my birthday in the company of my homie’s Kizoku, Simi. and NHNT…
Check some memories of that incredible night: https://www.instagram.com/p/CZ4ogFCgerL/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=
After that I recorded a promenade set:
Next, my team and I had plans for the spring-autumn season. We were preparing for our next events. At that point, I was not just an organiser, but also a DJ.
And then… on February 24th, our entire musical community started sharing not only tracks for charity compilations, but also our apartments, money, food… event organisers turned into volunteer leaders. During the first month of war, music calmed me down. At night, we would often hear air alarms (a signal that sounds from the streets of the city and warns of danger). I would put headphones on, and would just keep digging and go to bed in the morning.
When in Berlin, I started collecting my first bag of records. Together with my friends, I did a lot of things for the first time. Like producing… I continue to search, listen, play and learn here 🤍
Inés: Before moving to Berlin, what were you doing back in your hometown Lviv and how did you got involve into the electronic music scene there?
Ksenia: As I mentioned before, during the last few years I was involved in organising events in my hometown. We organized parties, from small (100 guests) to large-scale (1000 guests). Big thanks to Chad who once welcomed me into the Night Ambassadors family Night Ambassadors. I can write a lot about it, but it’s better to see and experience it. Even before NA, I worked in the restaurant industry for many years, so I was able to transfer some managerial experience to the events, and everything else I learned while working with the team there.
Then, there was a series of events called Muza, the first of which was MUZA at TBA – Lviv, Ukraine, in the same native Lviv. The warmest memories.
Yes, I knew a lot about the DJ’s place, more than once I had to connect and check everything myself… and plan… and book… carry out the event… and even do the decorations so you get an idea.
Inés: Is there any city that inspires you musically?
Ksenia: I’ll start with the current one, okay? It’s people and community hubs that inspire me. The most interesting thing is to observe the path of an individual, and of an entire community. Participate in that story. Also, Lviv, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Frankivsk – these are the cities that have always been close to me; it’s the Ukrainian community that is my greatest inspiration. And now I feel it even more. The musical culture as a whole impresses with its stories related to specific cities, and overall, of course, brought me exactly here.
Inés: What was your inspiration to record the Sundowner podcast and how was the process of it?
Ksenia: I listened to the mixes on Sundowner. Soundcloud even before I met you guys personally. And I really like them! And of course, I would love my mix to be featured there one day. Great people with great taste. I met most of them through your podcast. I want to share with others too, that’s why I’m here…
I recorded this mix in July, when I first came home after 4 months here. There is still war in our country, there is not a single corner of our land that can be called 100% safe, because Russia commits crimes that are hard to even imagine, hence it is necessary to understand that we are dealing with a terrorist country. Despite this, I wanted to go and hug my family and to play in Lviv to collect some more money at one of the daytime charity parties –Ganok . On my way there, I already knew that I had to record a mix for Sundowner. and imagined what kind of story I would like to tell. During the recording, an air alarm sounded again on the streets of Lviv. Just so you know I was, of course, warned about it first by a notification on my phone and then by a friend. But I did not run, I stayed to finish my mix. So the entire spectrum of my feelings and emotions is on this recording.
Inés: How’s the future looking for you? Any plans, or is there something you would like to try or to get involved into?
Ksenia: Here I want to thank the entire music community for supporting Ukraine in this difficult struggle, your music and participation in charity events and helping our artists in their cities. Thank you for refusing to play at parties that sponsor the war, for not playing in the same line-up as Russian artists who close their eyes to what is happening, while repeating their slogan „music and politics are different things“. Obviously, they are incapable of digging deeper. I love the family I chose for myself with all my heart.
Inés: Thank you so much for sharing your stories and thoughts Ksenia, we are so happy to welcome you in our family and we are very looking forward to see what Berlin will bring to you.
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