The Mix 010: Keyrah - Music - Mixmag

The Mix 010: Keyrah

DJ, radio host, and promoter Keyrah delivers a sunshine-tinged mix and talks edit trends, being a perfectionist, and running parties from Birmingham to London

  • Gemma Ross
  • 25 April 2024

Ever-eclectic, never-dull, Keyrah brings the same animated energy that has become a trademark of her DJ sets to our Zoom call on a rainy Thursday afternoon. She's riding off the back of an incredible 2023, having secured a Rinse FM residency, shows at London's KOKO, Phonox and the Burgess Park-based Boiler Room festival — all alongside support slots for the likes of Kaytranada, Casisdead and more. In just a few days she's due to head out of Los Angeles to work on new music and mingle with the local nexus of music creators, a world away from her native London scene.

Born and raised in Birmingham, Keyrah's now flourishing career is preceded by teachings in music from her father - a musician and recording artist who put her onto lessons in guitar, violin, and piano. “My earliest memories are of him sitting on the sofa with a guitar in hand, recording and rehearsing nonstop,” she smiles. “He introduced me to instruments and helped me buy my first guitar. It all roots back to my dad.”

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Eventually jumping ship to London to fully immerse herself in the city’s teeming music scene in her early adulthood, the DJ, promoter, and soon-to-be radio host had to retrain from one scene to another. “It was hard to infiltrate,” she says. As she picked up more shows through word of mouth, Keyrah began working alongside some of the UK’s largest names including Jorja Smith, Loyle Carner, and Sampha — a natural progression that has led her onto even bigger opportunities today.

Her resident slot on Rinse FM has allowed her to explore the sounds that she wouldn’t in the club. With a particular love for the grooving melodies of house, broken beat and R&B - as well as the high-energy euphoria of club, pop, and ‘90s hip hop - her eclectic sonic palette makes for a stimulating assortment stylistically, and firms her as one of London’s most exciting newly emerged artists over the past handful of years.

As a branch off her Rinse residency, Keyrah also keeps crowds on their toes in the club with her newly launched platform, Misc;, a celebration of eclecticism and the free-flowing spirit of the dancefloor. Misc; serves as a party series and an ethos for her regular radio show, stemming from a playlist put together in the depths of lockdown.

We spoke to Keyrah about upward trends in edit DJs, being a perfectionist, and running her Misc; parties from Birmingham to London. Check it out below.

When did you learn to mix? Do you remember your first setup?

I bought a controller and I was aiming to teach myself, but it was harder than I thought it would be. There was a place in Birmingham called DJ Gym where this guy named Mark ran DJ courses, he’d cover the basics of how CDJs worked. I was cautious that even though I had a controller, I would have to play on CDJs in clubs, so I wanted to know how they worked. I did four lessons to learn the basics and then played my first-ever show - I threw myself in the deep end which was not the best idea, because like I hadn't run any of my tracks through Rekordbox. So I turned up to this show that I'd booked myself, and I couldn't even play!

How did it go down? Was it chaos?

I had to get another DJ to cover the set! I made a comeback later in the year, I did another show and was actually able to play. But at the time, I remember being backstage in tears. I was like, ‘oh my god, I can't believe I did this’.

You grew up in Birmingham and have since moved to London - what was that move like from a perspective of performing and party throwing?

I started going out in London before I moved here to suss out the vibe, what the DJs were playing, what the scene was like. The most difficult thing was trying to implement myself within that scene and say, ‘hey, book me’, because I was completely fresh and London can be quite tricky at the best of times. It was hard to infiltrate, and you’d only get bookings by doing shows for friends who were putting on parties, then maybe a friend of a friend. It was always a word-of-mouth thing. I came here intending to stay true to what I wanted to play, I was trying to assert myself and create some great opportunities.

Read this next: "Sleeping giant": How Birmingham is building the underground scene it deserves

Can you tell us about Misc;?

We just launched Misc; in March with a party in London and Birmingham. It's something that I've been working towards for probably close to four years now, which sounds ridiculous! It stemmed from a playlist that I made in lockdown which was basically based on a bunch of songs that I enjoy but can't explain exactly why, which is why it's totally miscellaneous. It's all completely different, but it encompasses what I would say is my soundscape - a mixture of tracks you might hear me play on the radio or in the club, and stuff that I like to listen to day to day.

I wanted to build it out with my residency on Rinse FM last year, but I wasn't at a point where I could bring it to life in club form. I want it to expand beyond just general nightlife, I want to get into some curated nights of live music and just explore all facets of what it can be because there are no real boundaries to it. It’s just a good space for people who love music and have open ears.

You’ve said before that Misc; nights are an immersive experience of sorts - can you expand on that?

The one we threw in London was essentially just me all night long. I invited a couple of friends down who I've gone back to back with in the past, or I know I have a good vibe with. My friends Kojay and AAA came and played, but there was no pause in the night to announce that another DJ was playing. We just kept the tracks running and flowed with each other, and I felt like the crowds were really tuned into that because sometimes when you go out and there are so many acts on the line-up, you've got to announce who’s performing. I think that can mess up the flow of the night. Now that I’ve thrown a couple of parties, I’ve realised the best thing is to just keep the music flowing and try to keep everything as organic as possible. That way, the crowd is tapped into what you're doing and you don't lose people to the smoking area and whatnot.

How do you go about booking the artists for those nights? Are you quite ears to the ground when it comes to new acts?

Birmingham was the first party, and I was conscious that I'm not underground there anymore because I live in London. It's not as easy for me to go back and forth and tap into nights that are happening there because most of the time I'm booked myself. So it was really important for me to put on emerging talent within Birmingham for that one, it was a combination of me bringing a good friend of mine, Andre Power, who I've been playing with across the world for the past year, along with up-and-coming DJs on the same line-up so they have a chance to build themselves up. It was a mixture of DJs that I'd heard play before, DJs that I'd heard are doing great things through friends, and then figuring out sonically how they all fit together.

Then in London, it was a little more fluid. There were no rigid set times and it wasn't set in stone as to what was going to happen so it was more of an experiment to see how far we could push it.

Your style is quite eclectic - you really have it down as a selector. What sounds are you resonating most with right now, and where do you see dance music styles moving this year?

At the moment, I feel like I'm going through a bit of a broken beat stage. Somewhere within that, I keep finding people on Bandcamp who don't know how to describe their sound themselves, it's like broken beat mixed with deep and soulful house. I feel like that's the kind of space that I'm in at the moment.

There’s been such a massive focus on edits for the past year or so off the back of TikTok, it's becoming a lot. I think it would be refreshing to go back to something that's not necessarily focused on nostalgia, which is funny for me to say because I do play a lot of edits. But I'm also not the biggest fan of mashups because I feel like it's a lazier form of production that we've already heard before. As music as I love nostalgia, if you're gonna draw from it, it should be combined with something new and fresh.

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Do you feel like you have to play more edits now with the trends going that way?

Not so much, I've been playing edits for a while and it just so happened that it became a massive trend. Soulection has been doing that for years already, everything works in trends and cycles. I’m not surprised that it’s come to that point when we’ve got DJs like Kaytranada who’s been making edits for years, but now it's come front and centre and everyone's an edit DJ. It's good to mix them in because there’s that sense of familiarity, especially if you're trying to educate a crowd and push them into new sounds that you wouldn’t necessarily hear in the club. It helps bridge that gap a little.

Can you tell me a bit about your Rinse residency? How's that been going?

It's been going well, they’ve supported me loads over the past year. I toyed with radio for a while because, as I've been doing more of it, I've had to become less anal about my mixes. Before it would take me half a day to record a mix because every transition had to be perfect. Up until the beginning of last year, I only had about four mixes out across my whole DJ career, and it's not because I don't enjoy recording them. It's just that I felt like they had to be perfect. So Rinse has really shaken that out of me and allowed me to be more experimental with what I record, and to not focus or stress that it has to be this perfect soundscape that I'm putting out online. It's just a nice place where I can experiment and build on songs that sit in the Misc; world, and most importantly, it's a place for me to play songs that I wouldn't necessarily put in my sets.

How did your first headline show at Phonox go? What was the vibe like?

It went really well! I was super happy with the curation on that one. It took me a while to figure out who I wanted as the special guest, and Lil Silva was amazing to fill that slot. Sonically, we had Sanasesh and Rishy Malik who are big on all forms of house music from Latin through to Afro. It was impossible not to dance to their set. Then we had Kojey who can go anywhere from garage to broken beat and deep house. It was like a journey, and a tester for Misc; and where I could take it. I got a vibe for what the crowds were into, and how I could build out the Misc; world. It was a fun night.

You’ve supported artists like Jorja Smith and Loyle Carner in the past, is there anyone you’d like to work alongside next?

Everyone that I’ve ended up working with has come about organically, and I’ve always been a fan of them prior. It’s just ended up happening, so I don't have any particular standouts or anyone I'm dying to work with, but I just hope that I can continue to create more organic relationships with musicians that I admire.

Read this next: How Preditah brought garage flavour to Jorja Smith's 'On My Mind'

What’s next for you? Where do you go from here?

This summer will be my first taste of a proper festival season, so I guess we'll see how that goes. I'm excited! I like to play to bigger crowds in different scenarios because it's a lot different to your standard club. Then I’m planning some more Misc; dates throughout the summer. As much as I think it's important to have some form of a plan, I never have a rigid idea. I think it's good to see what the universe throws at you and where you can take it.

Can you tell us about your Mix?

So this mix was recorded in LA (shoutout to Soulection for letting me use their office!). It’s inspired by a few tracks I’ve found along my travels - I always find journeys are the best time to dig for music. It’s also got a lot of tracks that I’ve been playing out recently, as well as some that I’ve had on repeat at home. It’s a journey as always, but it feels like the perfect intro to summer!

Keep up to date on Keyrah's forthcoming shows here

Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter


Rhythms of Xango (Live at Joshua Tree) - Yussef Dayes
Factory Settings - Parkland
Runnin - Pharcyde (Wilf Barker Remix)
My Life - Mary J Blige (Remi Oz Edit)
In Need of Love - CLOSE COUNTERS
Tyrone - Erykah Badu (Nala & Yanda & Tjune edit)
Abstract Sax - Biko King, Kelvin Momo
Do It For You - Moses Ideka, phill
Get Involved - Raphael Saadiq Ft Q Tip (RedSoul Edit)
Mas Que Nada - Sergio Mendes ft The Black Eyed Peas (Masters At Work Remix)
True Love - Wizkid (AJ Christou Remix)
Californication - Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Gifted Fire Edit)
Show Me How - Men I Trust (Kitsch Edit)
In Time (Maw Mix) - DJ Jazzy Jeff, V, Masters At Work, Jeffrey A. Townes
Falling (feat. Malehloka Hlalele) - (DJ Kent Club Mix)
The Cure & The Cause - (Idris Elba Extended Remix)
I'm Leaving (feat. Alahna) - Scratcha DVA (DJ MA1 Remix)
Show me (Jackinson DUBPLATE!) - Robbing $ X Jackinson
I See You - Crazy Cousinz ft. Kimono
Bruk My Soul - DONSURF
Sim City - BEN HAUKE
Money Trees - Kendrick Lamar (AYYBO Extended Edit)

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