Rebekah: the techno DJ fighting sexual abuse in dance music | Dance music


DJ Rebekah remembers the day she walked right into a document store in her native Birmingham to ask for a job. Her mother and father had purchased her a set of turntables simply earlier than her seventeenth birthday and he or she was eager to start out constructing her vinyl assortment. “I stated to the fellows working there, ‘Oh, have you ever obtained any jobs going?’” she recollects. “They replied, ‘Yeah, you can provide me a blowjob.”

Rebekah, who’s 5ft 1in, says she would have appeared about 14 on the time. “I simply used to take it in my stride,” she says. “It took me aback a little bit bit and I used to be like, ‘OK, I’m not going to get taken severely,’ Not getting taken severely is only a frequent theme all through my profession.”

Practically 25 years later, Rebekah is certainly one of Europe’s main techno artists, revered by her friends, trade media and a whole bunch of hundreds of followers who flock to see her play pounding, industrial rhythms at golf equipment and festivals everywhere in the world. In digital music, feminine, non-binary and transgender DJs are nonetheless far outnumbered by males, however at present a few of the scene’s greatest stars are ladies – amongst them fellow techno DJs Amelie Lens and Charlotte de Witte, each from Belgium. When Rebekah was beginning out within the mid-90s, there have been no such function fashions and no clear path to success.

The document store incident would set the tone for the sexism, harassment and abuse that Rebekah has skilled all through her profession. Alongside the way in which, there have additionally been many supportive males who’ve nurtured and inspired her, she says. However for some, her ardour for music was one thing for use towards her – both as a topic of ridicule, or as a way of sexual exploitation. As #MeToo tales start to emerge within the dance scene with latest allegations made towards Derrick Could (which he denies) and the late Erick Morillo, Rebekah’s profession is pockmarked with the identical patterns of abuse.

Pushing for change … Rebekah. {Photograph}: Camille Blake

One 12 months after being laughed out of the document store as a 17-year-old, Rebekah was raped by an acquaintance, who had come spherical beneath the pretence of instructing her to combine data. At 21, when she began touring internationally as a DJ, she believes she was sexually assaulted in jap Europe by a promoter who snuck into her resort room whereas she was handed out. A couple of years later in one other European nation, he tried to coerce her into intercourse. She refused him and has by no means been booked once more in both nation. “It makes me look silly, figuring out he presumably did the primary assault to return and put myself in that place,” Rebekah says. “That is the place, as a younger DJ, I used to be form of ruthless as a result of I might do no matter, after I had my eyes on one thing, at the price of myself.”

A few a long time in the past, persisting within the face of continuous disrespect was the norm for a feminine DJ. Rebekah recollects rejecting a former reserving agent who got here on to her one evening in London. “I stated, ‘I can’t consider that you just’re doing this. I assumed you place me on to your company since you revered me as a DJ,’” she recollects. “He was like, ‘You’re not a DJ. I created you, you’re not a fucking DJ.’” When Rebekah advised to a legendary US home DJ that they work collectively within the studio, he replied: “Provided that you’re bare.” In Ibiza, a widely known radio DJ gave Rebekah the once-over 3 times earlier than refusing to shake her outstretched hand. His response stung, but it surely additionally satisfied Rebekah to ditch her previously glamorous aesthetic. “I used to be like, ‘Why ought to I’ve to vary for a person who’s excessive within the trade to take me severely?’” she says. “However, ultimately, that’s form of what I needed to do.”

Her new uniform of denims, T-shirt and trainers additionally helped Rebekah distance herself from her five-year stint working within the grownup leisure trade, from the age of 19. “I used to be like, ‘No person takes me severely, anyway, it doesn’t actually matter [that I’m a model],’” she says. “I used to be younger, I wanted the cash. But it surely was additionally a solution to not have a full-time job and to have the ability to nonetheless apply myself to music.”

The stigma of getting labored as a glamour mannequin made it harder for Rebekah to realize the respect of her friends and audiences, particularly early in her profession. “All the home guys, they have been by no means going to take me severely … I used to be at all times the soiled one, the glamour mannequin: ‘What does she find out about mixing?’ That’s what I used to be up towards.” As just lately as 2017, after 20 years of demonstrating her abilities, Rebekah was accused of faking her DJ units by not mixing tracks stay (an allegation generally levelled at feminine DJs), which she promptly disproved with a efficiency video.

The brand new crop of feminine techno stars corresponding to Lens and de Witte have additionally adopted an informal look: their (principally black) saggy T-shirts and streetwear trend enhances their austere music, distracts consideration from their our bodies and rebuffs the suggestion they’re buying and selling on their appears to be like. It’s a high-quality line to stroll for feminine artists who’re each rewarded and punished for being enticing.

“Being feminine on this trade is a double-edged sword,” says Rebekah. “In a single respect, you get observed actually rapidly and issues occur actually quick. However, however, you may not be prepared for it. You get thrown within the deep finish and also you simply must survive.”

After years of merely surviving, a now thriving Rebekah feels her profession is near its peak, even whereas it’s quickly held again by the pandemic. It’s from this place of hard-won recognition that she lastly felt snug to deal with sexual harassment and assault in digital music, a problem that got here to a head in September following the dying of home celebrity Erick Morillo, who was eulogised on social media regardless of having been just lately charged with rape. The rape survivor who pressed fees was a fellow DJ who had performed a gig with Morillo earlier than going again to his home with one other girl. Quite a few different ladies shared tales of being assaulted by Morillo following his dying, and have been met with vitriol and slander on social media.

Erick Morillo in 2004: the late DJ was accused of sexual assault.
Erick Morillo in 2004: the late DJ was accused of sexual assault. {Photograph}: Victor Spinelli/WireImage

“I simply went again to being the 17-year-old,” Rebekah says. “It’s been 20-odd years, and I assumed issues have been in a greater place and, what, we’re slut-shaming a feminine DJ who went again to a fellow DJ’s home? It made me really feel sick.”

She described her outrage over the Morillo state of affairs on Instagram, and acquired a deluge of messages from younger ladies sharing their experiences of abuse. They impressed Rebekah to start out a marketing campaign referred to as #ForTheMusic, named for the ladies and LGBTQ+ members of the scene who wish to take pleasure in gigs with out being harassed or fearing for his or her security. Hedonism has at all times gone hand in hand with clubbing, however the scene’s milieu – late nights, ingesting and drug use and an absence of trade oversight – has additionally enabled sexual predators to function within the shadows for many years.

Rebekah’s name to motion was heard. The Affiliation for Digital Music launched an trade code of conduct in November and different trade our bodies have been creating their very own pledges and charters to encourage the reporting of harassment and assault, to carry abusers accountable for his or her actions and to create safer areas for clubbers because the trade appears to be like to reopen in 2021.

As a mentor to younger feminine artists making an attempt to interrupt into digital music, Rebekah says she feels obliged to proceed pushing for change. “Can we stay with ourselves, to maintain bringing extra ladies [DJs and producers] in figuring out that this is happening?” she says. “I can’t, and I feel we’re actually robust now. That is like a military. That has to talk volumes.”