Standard Sounds

Karen Nyame KG Sets the Rhythm

Dubbed the "Goddess of Rhythm," Karen Nyame KG the Ghanaian DJ, musician and resident at The Standard, London sits down to talk seducing audiences, Missy Elliott and auras. 

Your performances are known for their high energy and infectious vibes. How do you curate your sets to create an immersive experience for the audience?

Sound-wise I veer towards tracks that are emotionally provoking, deep and provocative—heavy on the soul, the percussion and the low end too. I love seducing audiences into a groove, into a state of euphoria! I create peaks and dives whilst in the mix, tension releases—it is a ride!

How does the venue change your process? 

My process I’d say has remained quite consistent – I alter my vibe intermittently. At this stage in my career, I toggle between different performance formats – some of my DJ sets are standard, then, depending on the venue, some are hybrid; focused with all the theatrics: lighting, smoke, haze, etc. For example, if I am playing at Berghain’s Panorama Bar, doing one of my four-hour sets, I can be as dramatic as possible because logistically, the venue can accommodate that intensity with visual additions.

How has your Ghanaian heritage influenced your musical approach and the way you connect with your audience?

My heritage seeps through my veins, it’s ancestral. How I perform and what I create is a reflection of that. I sometimes sing in my language “Twi” on my tracks or work with artists that have the same diasporic connection. I grew up on the sound of our native Akan Highlife music. I always try to fuse those grooves and melodic elements into my own work. It is a way of paying homage to my roots.

London has a vibrant music scene. How has the city influenced your artistic development?

London is a cultural melting pot. Variation and creativity are vast so inspiration is always abundant. You will always learn resilience in major cities. It's great because it propels and prepares you for the wider world. I am so grateful for the networks, community platforms, collectives, labels, and promoters that have assisted with my artist development and in general just revived my passion for music as a whole.

 Are there any specific tracks or artists that have had a profound impact on your musical journey?

I think every Missy Elliott project has blown my mind. Her songwriter's catalogue is GOALS as well as her own discography! She is the blueprint for everything that I do. Big fan of Timbaland, Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins and the artists they work with. I also adore The Neptunes as a production unit, their otherworldly approach to R&B has influenced some of my work too. They stylistically push against conventions. They were so ahead of their time, especially with Kelis’s first offering in 1999, “Kaleidoscope” — I still play that!

As a prominent figure in the music scene, how do you see your role in representing and championing diverse voices and cultures through your music?

I love collaboration. Working with those at the helm of the cultures that inspire me the most has always been my thing. As a West African, Queer woman these nuances often bring challenges, bias and barriers, all of which I had experienced initially trying to break into music the first time around. It’s my primary aim to bridge gaps and involve my community in all that I do because I didn’t have that support coming up. Whether it be through music features, my own production programmes, master classes, front lining and sharing resources with emerging or established acts, giving creative advice, or opportunities to be visible—I am very intentional with all of the above.

Can you tell us about your journey as a DJ and how you got started in the music industry?

I started music programming at the age of 7/8. I became familiar with a demo DAW on the PC called “Acid PH1." I was fascinated. It had a database of pre-made House, Jungle presets, vocal snippets, loops, chants, drum patterns and piano loops. I was obsessed and as a result, began developing my musical ear almost immediately.

I also used to make music on the first edition of the PlayStation console—it was a game called “Music 2000”. I have been hooked on production ever since. Beginning composing original works in my teens, I was also the main drummer for my steelpan group in secondary school. I studied Music Technology in college and failed because our tutor accidentally deleted our coursework from the system. We had little time to compose new projects and submit them (can you imagine ha!). 

My entry point into the music industry was when the “UK Funky” surge took place in the early 2000s. My tracks made headway through university campuses and parties, pirate radio, neighbouring forums and then national radio stations. Fun fact: I only started DJ'ing publicly in 2018!

You’ve played at The Standard, London three times, how would you describe the vibe of the space and its crowd? 

Every space at The Standard has a mood, has an aura – it’s one of a few venues that aesthetically compliments my playing style, my vibe—it’s sexy. I do find that it attracts genuine music lovers, I always have a blast playing there!

Let's make a mini-playlist: 
  1. What’s THE ultimate Rooftop track? Blue Moon by Kelvin Momo ft Mhaw Keyz & Howard
  2.  What song do you listen to when you want to wallow in your feelings? Ambiance by Nia Sultana
  3. What song would you send to your unrequited lover to express what’s in your heart? Good & Plenty by Alex Isley
  4. What’s one song you listened to growing up that brings you back to your childhood? Human Nature by Michael Jackson
  5. What song would you want to play in the closing credits of the movie of your life? God Made Me Phunky (Original Mix) (Mike Dunn) by MD X-Spress


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