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Sherelle
SherellePhotography Isaac Lamb

Sherelle’s label Beautiful is carving out space for Black queer artists

The label head and DJ talks to Dazed about her new venture, and why ownership and community are so vital

Just like the high BPM music she blitzes through when DJing, Sherelle shows no sign of slowing down. Already co-running the Hooversound Recordings label dedicated to the best new footwork, jungle, and drum and bass, while being a consistent presence on radio, the London artist’s latest venture is a new label – and future community – Beautiful. Seeing a lack of spaces for Black LGBTQI+ artists in the electronic scene, the former Dazed 100er was inspired to create a ”multifaceted platform that will look to address ownership, wealth and building and maintaining community”.

In an announcement, Sherelle candidly discussed her own journey navigating a notoriously difficult industry. As she put it, ”It’s actually long being a Black queer woman in the electronic scene”. The label’s debut release, excitingly, is due to be a compilation of tracks from artists ”pushing the boundaries of Black electronic music”. To find out more about the future of Beautiful, we spoke to Sherelle about the changes she’d like to make happen within the music industry, and why just doing stuff is the best work practice to have.

How did the idea for Beautiful come about?

Sherelle: My younger self didn’t have a version of me growing up. I also got the idea based on frustrations I had with social media, with amazing people that I know constantly looked down and frowned upon when mentioning the disparities with the electronic music scene. Some were ostracised for simply pointing out that the scene needs to change in order to build a better music community. From this I thought that Beautiful can work towards making the scene better.

As a Black queer woman in the industry, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?

Sherelle: I’m obviously still very much within a male-dominated industry, and the genres that I play – as much as they’re a lot better in terms of equality and representation – they’re still very male-heavy. Luckily I’ve done so many mixes by this point now that people know who the fuck I am. With regards to navigating the industry as a whole, people like to say that they don’t see colour, but they definitely do. And I think sometimes it translates to where I’m booked and who I’m booked for.

I’m fortunate that a lot of the promoters that do book me anyway are very open-minded, but I have sometimes found with bad ones that I’ll be just pushed to some sort of ‘bass’ stage or my billing won’t be correct in comparison to someone else.

Travelling while being Black is also annoying when you’re going to all these amazing places but then you encounter subtle and sometimes overt racism, especially at airports. With Beautiful, what I would like to do is explain all of these various things to the artists that are coming through. It’s really good to educate people on how the scene works and how you can combat against (these things). I’m super happy that I’m in a position where I’m able to talk very openly about my experiences as a Black queer woman in the music scene. Hopefully I’m influencing bare people to just live their truth.

What are the biggest changes you’d like to see take place within music?

Sherelle: The biggest changes I would like to see are ownership and influence. I listened to a talk with Nadine Artois about ownership of space and how that would really change the game for queer, Black, POC communities. In a few years’ time, I would really like to own some space(s) in and around the UK and Europe, hopefully branching out to the US, and cultivate amazing things in the Black and queer scene. I feel like we need these safe spaces and for them to actually be safe and be owned by someone who is queer and just wants to see our scenes grow.

The Beautiful clubs will protect these scenes, and will also protect the people that are within them, because it’s desperately needed. There isn’t enough influence, I think, with regards to any Black or queer club owners that allow for people to take risks, basically. And those risks that get taken is what creates amazing genres, that’s what makes amazing music and that’s what makes amazing dance, really.

“I think that's super important in terms of representation, people like yourself doing the same thing as you and being like, ‘Fuck, I feel really inspired to be in the music scene’” – Sherelle

As well as creating a label you’re also planning to take things wider and build a community. What will Beautiful look like?

Sherelle: At the forefront, Beautiful will be a label putting out up-and-coming artists’ music alongside established artists within the scene, primarily from Europe and the UK. I’ll definitely be including anyone outside of there, but primarily I would really like to showcase the amazing talent that is in this neck of the woods. We're so fortunate to see such amazing talent, from the likes of (New York’s) Haus of ALTR or (LA’s) Juke Bounce Werk, that I definitely want to showcase what Europe and the UK has got to offer too.

The other side of Beautiful is putting on workshops – these would be educational and technical; DJ and production workshops that explain exactly what to expect within the industry. I would really love to build a community from this; a space where people can just be existing with each other. I think that's super important in terms of representation, people like yourself doing the same thing as you and being like, ‘Fuck, I feel really inspired to be in the music scene’. I want this to be a collaborative effort, especially if people feel they could get involved for the better. I really hope that when people see Beautiful, it will be a place combating the really unfair systems that are against Black communities and especially black LGBTQI+ communities.

”I know that people expect the label to be faster tempo, but what I really want to do is showcase how open and diverse Black electronic music can be” - Sherelle

What’s the musical direction of the label going to look like?

Sherelle: Musically, Beautiful is an all-encompassing electronic music label, which just provides the best fucking music you’ve ever heard, really. I know that people expect the label to be faster tempo, but what I really want to do is showcase how open and diverse Black electronic music can be. So I don’t want there to be any guidelines when people are sending in music. I want the best Black music out there. And I think the beautiful thing about Beautiful is that I want people to express themselves. The visual direction of it is nice and super clean, thanks to our designer Marcus Eubanks. All will be revealed, and I am so excited about that. Honestly, I can’t wait for the compilation to come out.

Can imagine you’re gonna have your hands full with radio and also Hooversound. Do you hope they will all feed into one another?

Sherelle: Yes, I am going to have my hands full with two labels and I’m super fortunate to have an amazing best friend like Naina who fully supports and backs what I’m doing with Beautiful. Naina does her own amazing work, working on things like Daytimers and her own No ID which is about uplifting different parts of the South Asian community, and making sure that representation is key. They’ve got exciting things coming up for them too, which I’ll leave to Naina to speak on, but it’s a beautiful thing to be able to have two labels representing two different things against the mainstream electronic music scene.

I liked your point in the announcement about just doing things rather than sitting around and thinking about them. Is that an ethic that you try and live by?

Sherelle: If you overthink things, sometimes it stops you from doing them because you’re scared of what the outcome may be. Putting out Beautiful on the day that I did, writing every single social media post then jumping from Twitter to Instagram in quick succession and updating my own socials... it was very daunting to do.

And then having to watch people’s response to it, wondering whether they were going to be horrible or whatever, was very scary stuff. But I’m grateful that, obviously, people were super nice. How could they not be? But that’s what happens if you think too much – you come up with the worst possible outcome in your head. I think also because of all the plans I wanted to do, I wanted to make sure that I was ready to do them. And I think I’ve reached a point now where I’m more ready than ever.

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