Yorobi digs deep and joins some wild dots on this boundary-burning journey
Please welcome Yorobi to the 1 More Mix series!
Set to the backdrop of her crucial new release – the inexorably explorative and thoughtful Eden EP on Sneaker Social Club which is her debut solo EP – the longstanding Amsterdam-based multi-disciplinary artist, producer, DJ, radio host and art historian has gone in deep with this devilish dot-joining escapade that ranges from ambient to jungle via techno, breaks, hardcore and all kinds of fractured flavours in between.
From Jerome Hill to J Majik, Dolenz to Doc Scott, it’s a joyously wide-armed audio assault that blazes boundaries in all directions as the Groningen-raised selector takes us on a journey through her musical passions and inspirations that go right back to the Dutch free party movement in the 90s.
A regular broadcaster and curator on both Jungletrain and Echobox, Yorobi goes right back to some of the earliest content we made for this site in 2022 as she was one of the very first people to be interviewed on this platform in our inaugural video feature 48 Hours In Amsterdam.
A canny introduction to Yorobi as an inspiring artist and art historian, now get to know Yorobi even more by listening to this fantastic mix and reading this rare deep, personal interview. Full tracklist below, too.
What have I interrupted?
I’m trying to make some music but I’ve realised that I’ve made things very hard for myself on this particular project… I was awarded some grant money to fund the EP. Enough to press up some vinyl, which is cool. But the problem is that I secured the grant money because of a concept and it turns out it’s really hard to write to the concept, haha.
Oh no! What’s the concept?
It’s to do with the psychological idea called “projection” where you project things of yourself onto other people such as insecurities, prejudices and idealisations.
Like when you expect the worst? You think someone will tell you no or to f*ck off, because you naturally expect the worst and expect people to tell you to f*ck off. But then when you face that situation it’s not the worst and they don’t tell you to f*ck off?
Yeah that’s part a part of it. Or maybe more of a social anxiety situation, I think, but you get it. It could be something like if you really admire somebody but they’re not actually worth it. Or how a bully might project their own insecurities onto the person they are bullying, for example.
Racism is a projection as well, right? A racist will project a whole tonne of negative qualities onto someone they’ve never even met and have no clue about, when it’s actually entirely down to their own perceptions and prejudices.
The reason I’m making this is, that I’m dealing with this topic a lot myself. Either by doing it, assuming things that people will think about me and then basically engaging in self-fulfilling prophecies, or being projected onto. In a broad sense of what society expects of me or specifically what individuals project onto me. For example various topics from sexism to intelligence or sexual preference and the implications of it all or assuming things about what I think or my motivations, for example.
Ah wow yeah. It’s a minefield both as a the projector and the person on the receiving end isn’t it?
Yes. And for me, being of mixed heritage, growing up I was either called ugly or ‘Poop Chinese’, which is slur for an Indonesian mixed person that seemed popular in the 80s. My Jewish heritage also attracted a lot of projection. People they say they can see that, like they get to pick what parts of me are somehow valid. So yeah, it’s been a theme in my life!
I bet. So how do you reflect projection sonically?
This is what I’m trying to work out. I thought I’d record bits and pieces from my environment. I’ve also thought about conceptual soundscapes. So yeah… This is the challenge I’m facing! I’m in an echo chamber as I work on my own. So it’s a case of working out something that’s fulfils the concept but doesn’t complicate things so it devalues or dilutes the music. But the grant means I’m able to press it on vinyl which I’m really happy about.
Yeah! For some people, a label isn’t a label unless it releases vinyl. Where do you stand on the vinyl appreciation spectrum?
Vinyl for me is nostalgia. Music is about expression – be it positive, negative or whatever – and that carries nostalgia for me. I think vinyl is a great way to physically connect with the music. For example you can put on a playlist and it can carry on playing forever. When you put on a record you’re much more engaged with that process and you have to think about what record you would like to hear next.
Yes! I love that. The listening experience is the focus.
It is. And if it’s being pressed on vinyl then it means it’s being invested it. It’s so expensive to press up so from a label perspective, to press it on vinyl is a real statement that they believe in you. And from a music lover perspective, to buy it on vinyl means you really believe in that artist or that music. You might buy something for fun in the bargain bin but other than that it’s a very deliberate and meaningful investment which I think is really important.
Totally. And with the waiting time for vinyl to be turned around, it adds longevity too. You told me about this release way back in May 2022.
I sent the music to them in December 2021! It’s been postponed and postponed and postponed. I felt like the person in that meme with the sleep paralysis ghost is an MC saying ‘big things coming, big things coming, big things coming!’
I still don’t quite believe it now. It’s quite surreal. I have the test press but haven’t seen the record yet but it must exist somewhere, currently in a warehouse or something. So I’m excited to hold the release and to know it’s out there for people to buy if they want to. I have to say I’ve been overwhelmed with nice responses from the promo that the label sent out and responses through my own social circle. I didn’t really know what to expect on that front because the EP has so many different styles on it.
It’s a lot of different flavours! But what helps is that you have a very timeless sound so the wait hasn’t affected its relevance one bit. A lot of elements feel like you’re summoning the spirit of original rave or hardcore, to a degree. Flavours of Detroit, flavours of London, Amsterdam.
Yeah definitely and I try to take it further than that again, obviously within the realms of genres people can identify or relate to. For instance Stabs was made by a vocal pattern of a Jamaican MC. None of his vocals feature at all but the rhythm works off the rhythm of what he was saying.
Using something like Melodyne?
Not Melodyne, but I did extract the notes to MIDI. And it sounded awful. But the rhythm was really good so I built the track around that.
Billy Boyo who most people would know from One Spliff A day. But the rhythm pattern was from a different track to that.
That’s a really interesting technique. What other techniques did you apply on the EP like that?
Motherless Child is a very interesting one. That goes back a long, long, long way. It was popularised by the Fisk Jubilee singers, they performed it in 1870 but it goes back much further as a negro spiritual that’s been passed down and interpreted in so many different ways over the years.
The song is about a terrible practice that happened during the Colonial times where oppressors would make all efforts to destroy any type of community being built. So a mother will have her children taken off her to prevent that bond. In the US, for example, when it happened in black communities, the children would have been sold into slavery.
In other colonies – Canada, Australia or Indonesia particularly – some mixed race children would sometimes be removed from their parents and put through harsh military schools which was seen as ‘civilising’ them.
Wow, it’s impossible to even get your head around that type of cruelty
It is story with many nuances actually. If we take my own Indonesian heritage, for example, some children were sent back to the kampongs together with their mother as the western wives would come over. Sometimes children were acknowledged by their fathers, but regularly they would not have their fathers’ last name but a play on it. And often times these children (especially boys) were sent to strict military schools.
It would also happen that the children were raised by other families or put into orphanages, something that would also happen a lot. The whole thing is quite complex and even now I can’t tell it right. Mostly because we’re dealing with at least 300 years of history there from the time the Dutch got involved. On the other hand there were also many mixed race families who formed a weird intermediate social class between the Indonesians (and other Asian communities there) and the colonizer.
My grandparents became part of that layer by virtue of being mixed, their grandparents were also mixed, with each time a new influence being added in. My dad for instance was born in the capital of Indonesia, where as my grandparents grew up in what they used to call Dutch-Indonesia.
Aside from that, what I found staggering is the actual “looting” of children, be it indigenous or mixed race and raising them in orphanages or placing them in white families. There are accounts of this happening to indigenous people throughout the colonized world.
Yeah, it’s terrible isn’t it? And perhaps somewhere down the line it’s happened in my family. But the real reason why I was drawn to it was because when I was five years old my mother passed away. It was gruelling to witness. I saw her have a brain haemorrhage seizure. She was brought to hospital and that was the last time I saw her alive. She was taken off live support a week or two later, but honestly it’s a blur. Even when I try to recall it now, it’s pretty chaotic.
And the same winter, around that time, my sister had run away from home, my brother had also left, and after my mum died my other sister ran away too and my dad was terrible. I suppose that idea of being without a family or safety and living in a violent environment, the sadness that comes from it, is what spoke to me.
Wow yeah I can imagine. That must have been brutal. You were effectively left without a family at the age of five!
Yeah, just left with my batshit crazy dad. All kinds of other things happened from there but that’s for another conversation.
I can imagine. How awful. So this is how deep it goes for you. It can’t get much more personal can it?
No not really.
So this is an electronic interpretation of that negro spiritual?
Yeah. As far as I know, it’s never been done in dance music before. I took some chords from the original, greatly reduced it to something usable and the first half is the sad part then it builds into a happy part and resolves with something that’s still quite murky. I put more chords on top, I found vocals I thought fit really well one of them being Skin from Skunk Anansie who I’ve always been inspired by.
Skin is a legend! So I’m going to go right ahead and assume you’ve gone that deep on every track on the EP?
Yeah in different ways and to different degrees. Model Patient is a psychological dig. So if someone is a model patient then a doctor wants them to behave in the way they understand a condition to be and to effectively make their life easier by reacting in the way that fits them and their textbook. It’s quite condescending when you think of it like that isn’t it? So I thought about it in a punk way. Like, if I was to be a patient then I’d make sure I’d be the worst ‘model’ patient they ever had.
Haha! Yes! So how about Eden? I love how the EP is titled after a totally beatless tune! Bold statement…
I guess it is. Boldness wasn’t intentional though. I felt it would be too personal to call the EP Motherless Child. I work too hard on my shit. I’m not asking for pity in any type of way, you know? I wouldn’t want anyone to get that type of message. Plus despite my own personal connection with the music I want people to develop their own connection with the music.
And the other titles weren’t suitable as EP titles. But I thought a dystopian Eden was nice as a dark perspective on aspects of my psyche, I don’t shy away from that. And I also had an image I made for the artwork. I felt it tied with the Eden idea too.
You do a lot of artwork anyway don’t you?
I try to do as much as I can. I do the artwork for my radio shows. I’ve done the EPs for Intense, a Rupture EP artwork and some covers for a label called Spheres which is a new label from Rua Sound. I’d love to do more paid artwork to be honest!
Art is such a big thing for you in all types of ways isn’t it? You’re also an art historian and hearing the inspiration behind Motherless Child… You love to dig super deep don’t you? That link between history and all forms of art is intrinsic for you isn’t it?
Yeah it is. I mean sometimes I’ll use something and I’ll dig as I can go to understand the roots of that use and why it’s struck a chord with me. With others it’s much more of a nostalgic relationship. This is an interesting question… I guess I do what I do because it feels like the natural way for me to do it.
But I did wonder about naming the track Motherless Child something else. Had I done that, the meaning and the source behind it would only be known to me. In the end I went for the original title so that lineage could be made and people who want to dig that deep can do so too. That doesn’t quite explain why the history and the art has such an intrinsic relationship for me though does it?
I think it helps to understand where you’re coming from. From my perspective, whether it’s your radio shows or your art tours that you do in your other capacity, it’s a very strong characteristic and pretty impressive one. You know a lot of interesting stuff! You’d be a phone a friend person if I was ever on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
Haha. I just really enjoy the digging and joining those dots and finding things out about the tradition and culture and how it evolves. And with that I like to challenge it too and ask questions.
Like, ‘What is history?’ And how it’s been manipulated by reigning white men.
Exactly. And getting perspectives on it and looking at how and why people expressed themselves in the way they have, or have been able to. It’s nice for me personally because it grounds me when I learn how things make sense. It connects you through the ages of different histories and cultures and stories and resilience. I think that might be it.
Yeah! It gives weight and meaning and value to things. So what’s the most recent thing you’ve learnt in the last week?
Oh wow. I heard that scientists have been able to clone a new mouse out of XY chromosomes so they didn’t need a female mouse to do that which is interesting. I’ve also recently discovered that King James 1st liked to wear pearls. Oh, and I also saw that aliens are coming to Amsterdam, but I’m not sure on the validity of that one.
They’re hiding in those alien with spliff posters! I knew it! Tell me about the mix!
I’m puzzling over it at the minute, getting things in order and playlisting. It’s a very chaotic process and I’m known to scrap mixes even after loads of work.
I am, which is terrible. I wish I wasn’t. But I have learnt how to draw the line and say, ‘Okay this needs to be done now.’ Or otherwise this EP wouldn’t be here. I’d still be nit-picking saying ‘I don’t like this, I don’t like that.’ The more you listen to it, the more things stand out that need changing until…
… You end hating the whole thing?
Oh no no no. Just massive parts of it. So I don’t record a mix until I know what I’m doing and where it’s going. I’ve no idea how many I’ve scrapped. Many!
The letting go thing is important isn’t it?
It is. You have to put it out there and if people don’t like it then just burn it!