DJs Doing Good (Part 2) – How LP Giobbi, Blond:ish & Cakewalk Are Giving Back in 2020

Written by

Megan Venzin

Nov 20, 2020

8 min read

LP GiobbiLP Giobbi

LP Giobbi

Photo by Shervin Lainez

DJs are some of the busiest people on the planet. That didn’t change in March when the pandemic shuttered nightclubs and halted music festivals. While the overwhelming majority of tour dates remain on hold, some artists are using that extra time to drive change in their communities and beyond. 

From saving the environment to organizing in the streets, beat-making activists prove there’s no limit to what creative minds can achieve when the stakes are high. Festival Advisor had the opportunity to catch up with a diverse handful of artists leaving their mark on dance music and the world.

Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

LP Giobbi

Womxn are still largely underrepresented in dance music, and Los Angeles-based producer and synth wizard LP Giobbi (real name Leah Chisholm) wants to change that. Through her self-launched educational platform, Femme House, LP uses her expertise and studio savvy to inspire fellow gals and non-binary folks find their voices in a male-dominated industry. When fresh sounds breakthrough during this quiet winter, we'll know who to thank. 

How have you used the unique circumstances created by COVID-19 to focus on activism?

I feel grateful to have more time to focus on and give to Femme House, my non-profit that teaches womxn how to produce. We moved our sessions from in-person in LA to online, which allowed us to reach more womxn all over the world. We also rolled out more in-depth online courses in tandem with doing a livestream on Moog's channel covering synthesis and sound design. The online courses allow people to take the month-long course at their leisure to deeply dive into each topic. Friday, Nov. 13, we are doing a workshop on Creative Tools with guest speakers BLOND:ISH (Producer / DJ) and Hanoi Lamtharn (Google / TikTok).

Why is this cause important to you?

In the music industry, still only 2.6 percent of producers are women. The role of producer is a gatekeeper role that shapes the narrative and sound of the song which is our art and, therefore, our voices. I started out as a synth player in a band when I first started pursuing music, and it wasn't until I heard that Grimes produced her own albums that it even occurred to me that I could have that role. That made me question what other things I subconsciously (or consciously) do not think I can do or become because of lack of visual representation. That lit my fire to start Femme House.

How can others get involved?

You can sign up for our free online monthly workshops or our online courses at thisisfemmehouse.com and stay up to date at @thisisfemmehouse. 

Find LP Giobbi on Soundcloud

Cakewalk

CakewalkCakewalk

Photo by Kayte Demont

Hearts and bellies are full in Boston thanks to a groovy house DJ named Cakewalk. Born James Walker, the native Bostonian uses his role in the community to fight police brutality and hunger. He and a group of advocates who go by the Black Cake Collective have taken to the streets to protest and perform on behalf of the BLM movement and other causes. Marches become opportunities to raise money for organizations including SAYPA Boston, Black Minds Matter and Jamad Basketball Camps, as well as a chance to feed hundreds of Boston’s homeless individuals. 

How have you used the unique circumstances created by COVID-19 to focus on activism?

I teach and work with children with higher needs and traumatic behavioral issues. Once COVID hit and schools shut down, it really affected me mentally. Teaching remotely was weird AF (sic), and I just felt useless with a side of hopelessness. After the murder of George Floyd, I finally felt like I could use the platform I worked my ass off building for so long (I’ve been spinning for 10-plus years now). I felt like I could finally, comfortably, share about the trauma black people especially deal with on a daily basis. I just knew I had too many motivated, supportive friends to not step up my own actions by marching and feeding the homeless in my city. 

It just so happened that I have a bunch of DJ buddies that are also chefs, or vice versa. That’s when the lightbulb went off and I came up with the idea [behind] these actions. Actions are so necessary when it comes to this whole movement, no matter how big or small.”

Why is this cause important to you? 

Personally, my ancestors fought and went through way too much for me to just “fall back and stand by.” I can remember my mother being hesitant to tell certain stories about her and my grandmother, especially. As I got older, I understood why she had to wait until she felt comfortable for me to hear these awful stories.

Growing up black in the Boston area is a different type of “tough.” Everyone wants to focus on the southern states, but just a couple weeks ago, one of my oldest childhood friends got stopped by ICE for jogging while black. He has a family and daughter, and it was not too far at all from where we grew up.

Lastly, losing my grandmother and very good childhood friend within three months of each other was easily the toughest [period] of my life. To be able to put my energy into something that will benefit not only the less fortunate, but everyone, gave me a sense of purpose when I really needed it.

How can others get involved?

Try asking yourself: What are you good at? Have you listened, learned, and educated yourself enough first? Everyone’s role is not the same, but I do encourage you to get out in the streets if you haven't found where you can fit in with all of this. It’s not easy, and even if you’re just donating silently, that is awesome! Is it all you can do for now? Or this week? Or forever? One of my favorite quotes I’ve seen lately is “A revolution has many lanes. Be kind to yourself and to others who are traveling in the same direction. Just keep your foot on the gas.”

Find Cakewalk on Soundcloud.

BLOND:ISH

Blond:ishBlond:ish

Photo by Makers Tulum

Canadian producer Vivie-ann Bakos, aka BLOND:ISH, is committed to turning activism into “actionism.”  The self-proclaimed “eco-warrior” has made sustainability a cornerstone of her ethos as an artist and in her everyday life. Her dreamy, tech-house beats have won admirers at transformative events Burning Man and Envision Festival in Costa Rica, and she’s found powerful advocates in her work with Bye Bye Plastic Foundation (which she helms with Camille Guitteau), a nonprofit organization with a mission to help eliminate single use plastics from the live music industry by 2025. This year, she’s spreading her message through livestreams via Twitch on Abracadabra.TV, recruiting fellow artists to adopt eco-riders, and raising money for aligned organizations with her own online festival.

How have you used the unique circumstances created by COVID-19 to focus on activism?

There are people who have been into sustainability since the ‘60s and there’s movement, but it’s been fucking slow, so we thought, “how do we make this fast paced?” This is the best time to move ahead on sustainability, so we used Abracadabra Fest to push our #plasticfreeparty initiatives. We collaborated with Parley for Oceans and Lonely Whale and curated a lot of content around sustainability, round tables and workshops. We want to become this hub and safe space for the music industry -- if you want answers for sustainability come to us. So, we had more time to hone in on that.

[This year] has been amazing, because I’m meeting people in sustainability who I wouldn't have met if I was touring, and there’s amazing cross pollination happening. You know what two creatives can each deliver separately, but when you put two creatives together that intersect, you have no idea what’s going to happen, and that’s the magic. We realized in 2020 that we need to go deep on intersections.

Why is this cause important to you?

It’s important to me because I see the disconnect. I’m a Libra, and we are a sign of balance, and I really feel how out of balance the world is because of humans. I’ve traveled the world, experienced culture and biodiversity and without action. I see it disappearing. I really feel that I can make a change in the music industry.

How can others get involved?

DJs can get involved by adopting the eco-rider, where they add to their hospitality rider that they want a single-use-free DJ booth. There are over 1,500 people on it. DJs and eco-warriors can use #plasticfreeparty on their livestreams, and that creates a conversation in the chats on Twitch and Facebook.

Take any kind of extra time that you do have now to really rethink how to come back in the next phase [of events] in an elevated and more conscious and balanced way. If anyone needs anything, get in touch with us. It’s all about collaborative efforts.” 

Donate to Bye Bye Plastic, or purchase a face covering from Masks for Music that was made in partnership with BBP, and find Blond:ish on Soundcloud.

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