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Recognise: Mina

Joining the dots between sounds from the UK, Ghana, South America and beyond, Mina makes tracks driven by a spirit of collaboration, demonstrated in her radiant and percussive Recognise mix. As Katie Thomas learns, together with MC Bryte and via her Earth Kicks label, Mina is on a mission to connect people through music

After rushing back to the UK on one of the last flights out of India, south London-based producer and DJ Mina spent much of the first lockdown with her aunt in Devon. With music-making taking a temporary backseat, she threw herself into new hobbies to take care of her mental health; gardening, a community project building a studio, and tennis.

A new-found love of tennis inspired the video for ‘See Something’, the second single off Mina’s recent collaborative EP with Ghanaian MC Bryte. On a sunny day in London, Mina, Bryte and their dancers took to the court in dazzling tennis whites, performing a dance challenge they’re hoping fans will take to on social media. On 19th July, the day clubs in England were allowed to reopen, Mina and Bryte — who regularly toured together pre-pandemic — performed together for the first time in almost a year. On a makeshift dancefloor in the woods, illuminated by fairy lights hanging from trees, Mina and Bryte brought their infectious, high-energy club sound back to a live setting, surrounded by their friends.

Born in London and raised in Oxford, Mina grew up in a house soundtracked by David Bowie and New Order. She’d be able to tell when her dad was home, as she’d hear the car speakers thumping as he pulled in. At 14, Mina and her dad went to Glastonbury together, but in true early-teen fashion, she felt it was uncool to spend time with him at a festival, so she ditched him for her friends.

That was until Sunday came around, when a wet, tired and hungover Mina clung to her dad for the final day. They ended up watching The Chemical Brothers. She remembers being blown away by the spectacle, and experiencing, for the first time, music’s ability to bring people together. “I feel bad about it,” Mina says over video call, “but now I’m older, we go partying together, and it’s fun.”

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When Mina was (almost) old enough, she would head out with friends to drum & bass and jungle raves, sneaking a single ID over the wall. Later she went to Leeds for university, and was immediately drawn to the city’s bubbling club culture. 

“I went to SubDub” — the legendary dub soundsystem — “in my first week,” she says. “I remember thinking, ‘This is insane’.” It was a staple at house parties in Leeds to have house and techno in one room and dancehall in the other, and Mina quickly became known as the dancehall DJ. By the end of university, Mina had downloaded Logic and was starting to find her way around production.

Shortly after graduating, Mina travelled to Ghana for the first time and reached out to Accra-based producer Gafacci, who has since become a mentor for Mina. “He’s such a visionary artist,” she says. “I remember hearing ‘I Like Your Girlfriend’” — his blistering Afro house-meets-UK funky track with Bryte — “and thinking it was from another planet.” Mina spent three months in Ghana under Gafacci’s wing, learning everything she could about the music culture there.

Alongside Gafacci, Mina names Branko of Buraka Som Sistema as one of her inspirations. It was a huge personal achievement when Branko’s label Enchufada released her single ‘Kabala’ in 2016, her debut EP ‘Sentah’ the following year, and single ‘Allo’ in 2018, with Gafacci and Omo Frenchie.

‘Sentah’ features Bryte, Gafacci and fellow Ghananian Cratus, as well as Peruvian vocalist Nané and Italian producer Lorenzo BITW. The EP is a statement of Mina’s commitment to championing club music from around the globe, and her flair for collaboration. 

Mina has since launched her own label, Earth Kicks, using it as a platform for her work with other artists. “I love collaborations,” she says, “the way that you can bring out the best in each other, and create different sounds that you might not make otherwise.”

In 2019 Mina released her debut album, ‘Flight Paths’: named after 18 months spent travelling the world, and connecting underground UK sounds with global club rhythms. Across its 12 tracks, Mina worked with 12 artists, including LYZZA, Amaarae and New York FDM producer Epic B.

For the last few years, Mina has been bringing joy to dancefloors with her ‘Greatest Hits’ series, a collection of remixes and edits of ’90s and ’00s pop and club hits. The 2021 edition includes ‘Better Off With Mina’, a playful interpretation of Alice Deejay’s ‘Better Off Alone’. Mina’s advice to producers who are nervous about releasing original tracks is to start with remixes: “It gives you that confidence if you know there’s already a great vocal, hook or melody. Then you give it your own flavour.” 

Bryte (pictured above) and Mina have been working together since meeting in Ghana in 2017. “Bryte has been a huge influence on me,” Mina says. “We really listen to each other and bring out the best in each other.” When Bryte chats with DJ Mag, he agrees. “As soon as we entered the studio, we had a connection,” he says. “The beats that she does and the vibe that I bring, it just matches perfectly.”

‘Abeka Bugatti’, Bryte and Mina’s debut joint EP, is out now on Earth Kicks. Across five tracks, the pair have been influenced by South African club sounds — thumping house, darker gqom rhythms — as well as weaving in Afrobeats, UK funky and dancehall. 

“We just wanted to create club bangers, because that’s what we’re best at,” says Mina. “We didn’t have any particular theme, but Bryte’s quite autobiographical in his writing. He creates this surrealist imagery and is really clever with his wordplay.” On ‘Cool Cool’, Bryte speaks about not letting someone else’s negative energy impact your day. The title track is about his dreams of a better life, and being able to get his mum out of the projects back home.

After receiving a grant from the Arts Council to develop their live set, Mina and Bryte are looking forward to a headline show at Camden’s Jazz Cafe . With a new set of Roland drum pads, Jazz Cafe will mark Mina’s first ever show playing live, and they’ll have dancers on stage too. Joining them on the night will be recent DJ Mag Recognise artist Hagan and KG, who will be play b2b, and Brussels-based DJ BLCK MAMBA. Tickets for the event are available here

“It’s going to be like a welcome back party for us,” says Bryte. “For the people that have missed dancing, we’re welcoming them back to the club." 

Bryte moved to London after Mina helped him apply for a Global Talent visa, which helps “leaders or potential leaders” in academia or research, arts and culture or digital technology enter the UK for up to five years. Alongside her own Arts Council application, Mina spent lockdown helping other creatives apply for grants. She wants to increase awareness of the funding that’s available, and help people navigate fastidious forms and processes. 

Mina would also like to see touring become more accessible for artists. “It’s so easy for us to tour,” she says as an artist based in the UK, “and often the music we’re playing is music by artists from across Africa and South America — but then those artists might not be able to travel and perform themselves.”

Complex visas and expensive flights mean there’s a huge imbalance between those who can travel and perform and those who can’t. For Mina, Brexit brought this to the forefront — but if anything, it just made her more aware of her privilege. “We still have one of the most powerful passports,” she says of the UK. “I understand it’s frustrating, but this is something that artists from Africa have been dealing with forever.”

When talking about Bryte, Mina recalls a review that said he sounds as at home in a basement club in Peckham as he does in Accra, and it’s that cross-culture energy that fires Mina’s passion the most. “That’s what I love about him,” she says. “People all over the world can just connect with what he’s saying, even though they might not understand it. I think that, for me, is the beauty of music — how I can connect people from different cultures together.”

Listen to Mina's Recognise mix below.  

Tracklist:

Mina ‘Better Off with Mina’
SIM ‘Stock Pile’
Epic B ‘Straight Riddim’
Uninamise ‘Dior Desert (ft SIM)’
CAJOUX ‘This Is The Remix’
M O  B ‘KokoLeCheL’
King Doudou ‘El Virus’
Mr JazziQ ‘Amaneighbour’
DJ Mavuthela, Ribbe De DJ & Rhino ‘Shay’mpempe Amapiano Mix’
MaWhoo ‘Mswapheni’
Scottie Dee ‘Lost In Abyss’
DJ Switch & Mr P ‘Punani Dance’
Hagan ‘Osh’
Mina & Bryte ‘See Something’
CampMasters ‘Ibus ft T Man, DJ Tira, Goldmax, Siboniso Shozi’
DJ Neeno ‘King of Gqom (2.0)’
Mina & Bryte ‘Awolonge’
Champion & Mina ‘XYLA’
Billy G x Lycox ‘Gasolina’
Mina & Bryte ‘Cool Cool’
Chande & yourboykiran ‘Pani Puri Pirates’
Gafacci ‘Sativa’
Greg & King Doudou ‘Dembow Tronico’
kLap & Mina ‘Bota Nela’
Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion ‘WAP (VocalTeknix & Gqom in Tunes Remix)’
Bryte x Gafacci ‘I Like Your Girlfriend’
Zinc ‘Blunt Edge’
Dekkapa ‘Satisfaction Remix’
Mina & Bryte ‘One Million’
NOIRE ‘Body Drunk’
Florentino ‘Sinner Refix’
Sickflip, Chunky ‘Gotta Be’
De Schuurman ‘Nu Ga Je Dansen’
Mina ‘Baile Love’

Want more? Check out Hagan's Recognise feature and Fresh Kicks features with Tash LC and Juba

Katie Thomas is a freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter at @katietweets26

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