Elisa Elisa is a Franco-Algerian DJ/producer based in Berlin. After studying classical jazz and piano for over a decade – and having also coming from a music-orientated family – in 2012 she landed in Watergate, a club that would come to change her world forever. Almost 10 years later (and with numerous great releases behind her), her latest comes about via Cacao Records and features the brilliant vocal stylings of a one Emmanuel Jal – himself an individual with a fascinating backstory. With Amazigh out now, we thought it a good time to catch up with the lady herself…
How are you, what’s good and bad in your world right now?
Firstly,, thank you so much for having me! In my own little world, there is a lot of excitement combined with nostalgia for the release of Amazigh. ‘Amazigh’ means ‘Berber’, this track pays a tribute to our ancestors, their legacy and to my big brother who joined them 4 years ago. Producing this track was for me really therapeutic, and the collaboration with Emmnauel Jal was just incredible, a dream came true! So I am really grateful!
Tell us about your route into dance music and how you got to where you are?
Music always played a big part in my family. Coming from Algeria, North Africa, my mum was sharing with us her Berber roots and we were dancing to the rhythms of the drums all together! Besides this, my dad is also a huge music lover and comes from a protestant heritage, which has a strong bond with gospel music. And we were there every Sunday at the church singing!
At the age of seven, I started learning music and playing the piano. At that time my older brother was diving into his new passion: Djing, and introduced me to this beautiful world. And we will always have this strong bond through music.
I then began my journey with house music when I found myself a new home at the DV1s club, which was so unique in Lyon, back in the day. The funny thing is that my university was in the same building. And I probably spent more time on the dancefloor than the classroom!
Thereafter, I landed in 2012 in Berlin at Watergate club to write my master thesis about House & Techno and to start my DJ career. I was hustling all over the city, working hard and learning, learning learning. And still doing the same!
Have you partied or DJed since lockdown ended? How was it?
I had the chance to play at Sisyphos in Berlin last month and I just cried!! At the beginning of the lockdown I was alone everyday in my studio, practicing and producing. I was really enjoying it, because I finally had all the time I needed to finish my first EP and I was just so happy about that. But during the lockdown in October 2020, I was depressed, I didn’t know why I was doing this anymore…
But I can tell you, as soon as I entered the club I realised that I just forgot the feeling that was moving me before. This feeling of cherishing the moment, connecting to the people, being alive… It is so hard to describe those emotions but it just reminded me why I do what I do.
Do you want things to be in anyway different after the pandemic? Smaller parties, more local DJs, more egalitarian entry prices and DJ fees?
I think that the pandemic forced us to rethink a lot of things… For example with travelling, I think it could be really beneficial to the local scenes and their local heroes…
Tell us about growing up in France and the musical cultures and styles that you have been exploded to?
I am Franco-Algerian and I grew up in the 90s in Lyon, France before I left for Berlin in 2012.
The soundtrack of my childhood was a mix of Jean-Michel Jarre from my dad, Laurent Garnier from my brother and berber sounds from my mother. And I was also hypnotized by Daft Punk and Bob Sinclar…
Do you try and reflect those in the music you make?
Sharing the soundtrack of my childhood actually made me realise how my productions are influenced by it. I just found out the ingredients of my own recipe!!
What inspired or influenced the new EP with Emanuel on Cacao?
The sounds of amazigh were in my gut for a while and I needed to express them but it was really hard. During the lockdown I couldn ́t avoid it anymore and I had to face those emotions! I practiced a lot with my voice and percussion… It was really spiritual for me but also therapeutic..
My big brother was always representing himself with the berber sign “Yaz“ which means free man. And I think that Amazigh is my way to accept that he is now a free man surrounded by our berber ancestors. And I feel that Emmanuel and his spirits were sent to guide us through that hard path.
How did you link with him, why was he the right person for this?
I was working for several months on Amazigh ́s groove and back vocals when I met the amazing Keene brothers, Lloyd and Kevin, last summer. They asked me if I had a track for their label Cacao Records and I felt that Amazigh was right. They loved it and thought of Emmanuel Jal for the main vocal. To be honest I never thought it would work! But Llyod contacted Emmanuel and he said yes. Even if we were only able to speak through video calls, it was just so natural and we clicked so fast! Emmanuel asked me if I had some ideas already on the vocals but I really wanted him to feel free to express his emotions.
He sent me his vocals and I was just so amazed! But we never spoke about the meaning of his vocals nor my beats. Until a month ago, and we realised we were actually sharing the same message. Incredible! Some things you just can’t ́t explain.I am really grateful I worked with an artist I have been admiring for years but Emmanuel is also such a great soul. He was always telling me how much he loved my voice and encouraged me to sing along with him!
What hopes and goals do you have for the rest of the year now lockdown is over?
I have a lot of hopes but I will say my main hope for our scene is that clubs will be able to reopen like before, very soon… I am so impressed and grateful at how clubs and organizations are still fighting to survive.
What else are you working on/looking forward to?
I am looking forward to laughing, dancing, cherishing the moment and connecting with people through music for a long time to come!
Elisa Elisa ft. Emmanuel Jal’s Amazigh is out now via Cacao Records. Buy/listen to the release here