Functions is Mixmag's interview series profiling parties from across the world. This week: Sicily's Fluidae.
Formed in 2021 and kicking off their first party in May 2022 — Fluidae is cutting deep into the male-centric infrastructure of the Sicilian underground scene and carving a different route. Made up of DJs and local scene stalwarts Emilia Callari, Mariana Bek (AKA La Bek), Federica Vita and Anastasia Ruta; Fluidae aims to provide a safe space for the femme-identifying clubbers of Sicily to let loose; all the while highlighting the rich culture of the island they call home. "Sicily has always been such a beautiful place, rich with life, traditions and history," says La Bek. "Sicilian people end up being linked to their land for the rest of their life and there’s nothing you can do to get rid of this feeling."
The four women, who work throughout the Italian electronic scene as promoters, festival organisers, artists, engineers, designers — you name it, came together following the pandemic with a shared vision to get more women into dance music. First starting life as a platform to begin conversations around the exclusion of femme/non-binary identifying people within their scene, Fluidae launched a manifesto in 2021 laying out their shared goals, dreams and desires for what their party could be — a document they frequently turn to now when organising parties. They chose the name 'Fluidae' in reference to Greek and Roman mythology, Sicilian folk tales, periods (yes) and Sicilians' deep-rooted connection with the sea.
While the four have continued their conversations platform, their focus now seems to be firmly on parties — having taken Fluidae to cities such as Palermo, Catania and Scicli — all with the aim to prove that inclusive, safe dancefloors aren't something limited to the mainland. The quartet usually DJ together, treating crowds at Opera, MAST and more to a selection of UKG deep cuts and steady techno bangers.
Outside of parties, Fluidae curate their own playlists to highlight the rich history of Sicilian female electronic artists, host workshops for budding femme/non-binary identifying artists to develop their skills and have just launched their very own mix series "Fluitape". They even have an editorial wing, their INSPIRATIONS series features thoughtful profiles on the unsung women of Italian electronic music.
We caught up with Mariana, Emilia, Fredrica and Anastasia of Fluidae to talk about inclusivity, working within local limitations and bringing new thinking to the old-school.
What is the Fluidae mission statement?
Fluidae’s goal is to raise awareness about gender equality in the music industry by creating and enabling a network of women working in it. We aspire to be a community made of female-identifying, gender-fluid, queer, non-binary individual figures who gravitate around the world of the Sicilian underground and music scene — as well as the wider world. The challenge is to work to deconstruct a space still codified in the masculine, we do this by investigating the reasons that prevent women from approaching the world of music tout court; activating and stimulating positively critical thinking, that aims to raise awareness of the gender gap in all genders.
Do you think Sicily needs a collective like Fluidae? What makes Fluidae different from other things going on in the region?
100% needed. We’re the only collective in Sicily which operates in a wider context; embracing not only music and performance — but also visual arts, events, workshops, interviews, round tables. All with the aim to highlight women's art and inspire others to start their own path.
How did you come up with the name?
The name Fluidae is the outcome of several brainstorming sessions. We started from Greek and Roman history, picking some of the traditional Sicilian tales, then we got inspired by the feminine fluids — periods included — and the sea, the fluid par excellence, the biggest influence over a Sicilian person. We want to communicate that the variety of possibilities in the spectrum of genders, sounds or expressions can’t be divided into just two poles. It is wide, diverse, and fluid. Humans are made of water, we’re all fluid.
Can you tell us about the first party you ever did? Or some of your first performances together as a collective?
Destination Babetown was our first event and it took place in Palermo, Sicily. We wanted to create something more than just a regular party. We were aiming to proactively work on stimulating and inspiring people — especially women — to approach the world of music. Thanks to a partnership with Ableton, we created an event which included an afternoon workshop around the basics of music production, conducted by the rising Italian soul and R&B artist LNDFK plus a night party. The party was a safe space for queer and young people, something you rarely find in the Sicilian underground scene.
Can you describe Fluidae in five words?
Space of fluid creative experimentation.
Can you tell us an anecdote that really sums up a Fluidae party?
A couple of hours before the kick-off of the Destination Babetown event, we ran into this person who was asking us where the music production workshop would take place. We invited them for lunch and while chit-chatting, they explained that they were 22 and identified as non-binary. We couldn’t believe that they lived in Palermo, you can expect something like this in cities like Berlin, London, Paris — maybe Milan. But Sicily is still very conservative, people don't feel as able to be open about their gender here. The most exciting thing was that they found a safe space at our party. That’s, for us, the sum of our purpose: discovering new people, ways, and expressions and giving them the space and the time to be and challenge themselves.
What is a typical Fluidae attendee like? What do they wear/ what do they drink/ what do they like to listen to?
They can wear, drink and listen to whatever they want. We only ask them to respect others, to not discriminate or judge the people around them and, of course, enjoy the music. The dancefloor is for everyone who’s looking for a safe space to blow off some steam — it's not a fashion show or a red carpet! And even if it was, they’re free to live it as they want.
What is the process for you guys to put on a party?
We start with a "simple" question: "What is really needed? What is missing at this moment, in this specific place? Then we try to mix in our ideas and vision to create a specific concept. The following steps are the ideation of the name, the creation of the visual identity, the research of artists, partnerships, venues, technical support and all the shit needed to make a party happen. It’s not that easy, especially in Sicily — where the logistics and the infrastructures, not to mention budgets, are very lacking.
Do you have advice for anyone wanting to start their own party/collective?
Networking. You can’t create anything that lasts long if you do it yourself. Being cohesive, consistent and patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day — changes need time to be seen and heard, especially in old-school places like Sicily. We want to give other people the inspiration to follow their desires and dreams, to create their own path and team to make the world a better place to be.
What do you think unites Fluidae?
The need for change. We’re all craving to show people within Sicily and abroad the diverse and inclusive culture that has been hidden here and not considered for too long. We want to trace a new map by connecting the points of the people we’ve been discovering around the island. We’re all also such different people, with different approaches, interests, ideas, but somehow everything merges in the common purpose - in a nutshell, we balance each other. Diversity is always the answer.
What is it about Sicily that inspires Fluidae to continue?
Since we started our journey with Fluidae, we’ve seen so many new faces behind the DJ booth around Sicily. We’re sure that our work has influenced this change. It’s not only our business but everyone else’s. That’s for sure the first reason that inspires us to keep continuing our journey. Also, the lack of equality between genders, diversity and inclusion and in general a lack of underground music and party culture. The development of a new vision, a new way of approaching the organisation of events, a more structured and coordinated organisation, more equality in the pay. The list goes on.
Do you have a favourite Fluidae set?
Besides our own parties, one of our latest favourites was the one at Mast Festival, where we were the headliners on day one. The location was stunning — an old ditch redeveloped to become a space for events, in the middle of Scicli, a baroque town in southern Sicily. The crowd was insanely hot and they were really looking for a pure club experience. We were also happy to be there because the purpose of the festival is very similar to ours — bringing the unknown to old places. In general, regardless of the place or the party that hosts us, it’s always such a great feeling to get back altogether from different parts of Sicily, and Europe. This is also something that, of course, has a huge impact on our music and DJ sets - it all becomes magic, and unique... like a family meeting again for Christmas dinner.
For more updates on Fluidae, follow them on Instagram.
Megan Townsend is Mixmag's Deputy Editor, follow her on Twitter