Studio Session // A Conversation With Jelz
Jeldin Okurapa, also known as Jelz on stage, is a DJ taking over the underground nightlife scene in Toronto. The Ajax born artist, known for her party series Bi or Bye and the events she DJs at across the city, continues to cultivate her sonic talents as a DJ having landed gigs at Half Moon radio in New York and Apartment 200 in Montreal.
We sat down at Diptych studios in the heart of downtown to discuss her career in DJing, her most memorable performance, and her goals for the future. Listen to Jelz’s exclusive mix for Glossi Mag while you get to know the DJ who is becoming a force to be reckoned with.
How did you start as a DJ?
I’ve always been a creative person, I knew that, but I never felt like I had a thing that was for me. I tried photography, writing, and a whole bunch of different stuff until one day I got a notebook and made up a list of things I could do. DJing was one of them and once I looked at it I was like, “why didn’t I do this sooner?” My dad is a DJ and I’m used to choosing music when I go to parties so it’s always been in front of my face. When I started, it was like “wow this whole new world”. I really found my creative outlet and way of expressing myself.
What is your approach when you are making a mix?
My mixes can be all over the place. Usually, other DJs will base it on a mood or genre. When I’m DJing I’ll have one song that has been playing in my head that I know I need to start the vibe of the mix. Usually, I will feel it out after that. Mixing can get frustrating but usually, in the end, I come up with good work.
Who are your musical influences?
The first person that comes to my mind is FKA Twigs. Before I started DJing, I was getting into a lot of alternative and electronic music. I love her and that vibe so when I DJ its electronic and house sounds that influence me.
What was your first event like?
When I started, Kiga was one of the first DJs I knew, so he put me on to my first event at The Libertine. I was playing songs I wanted to play which was a lot of trap, I didn’t understand the whole selection and reading-the-crowd thing but that’s something I learned over time.
What show stands out to you the most to you?
Probably Bi or Bye when we had the block party at Church and Wood for Pride. That was a really nice moment because it was outside and also free since it was a block party. So many people were there from the parade and all of our friends came out. It felt like a gay family affair, it was amazing!
What is Bi or Bye?
Bi or Bye is a party series that happens monthly, give or take. It’s a dance party for people to feel free, to not feel like they are uncomfortable in a space or worried about what other people think. It’s a dance party a cultural experience, and something I love very much. Over the past few months, it has developed a lot and we have a loyal group of people who come out every month and support. I’m super excited about its growth.
Which techniques does a DJ need to focus on if they want to improve their craft?
Definitely selection and considering your crowd. DJing is about 65% selection and 35% mixing so what you play is important. If your transitions aren’t perfect the crowd on a wild night is probably not going to notice it so you want to make sure your selection is on point. You can have really good transitions, but with a bad selection, you can ruin the vibe. Also, networking is big too. Being likable and a good person to work with is important because if you’re not nice or welcoming people won’t want to collaborate with you.
What would you like to accomplish as a DJ?
Just to spread the vibes. I feel like my taste in music is unique and all over the map, I go through phases where I’m into different types of music at once. For example, I’m into afro-beats and house right now. I ultimately want to move people through the music and offer the unique sounds that I bring to the table.
Follow Jelz on Soundcloud and Instagram
Image credits: Georgia Acheampong