This Saturday at the Green Room at Crosstown Arts, habibibeats will be presenting “bodywerk,” an exciting evening that aims to showcase the best of Memphis’ Black dance music scene. We sat down with Qemist, who will be performing that night, to learn more about “bodywerk” and the current state of electronic music in the M-Town.
First things first, what exactly is bodywerk?
bodywerk is a showcase of dance music and the brainchild of Ramzi Abdoch aka dj rmzi. After returning home to Memphis in early 2020 and joining WYXR, Ramzi met other DJs in town spinning the same vibes he’d experienced in his travels around the States, Africa and Europe.
bodywerk is an effort to harness that energy and expand the established tradition around dance and electronic music in Memphis. Since events like Electrocity back in 2009, we’ve seen a desire for spaces where we can expand the musical palate that Memphians are used to when they go out and still leave it all on the dance floor. We want to play music that everyone might not know immediately, but is imminently danceable.
For folks who aren’t familiar with your work, give us a rundown of Qemist the artist.
I am a multi-faceted electronic artist from Memphis, TN with a wide range of production and music creation techniques. Being classically trained on the piano at age 11 and growing up listening to house, techno, footwork, and club music, I found a soundscape in which I have been able to blend deep, lush melodies with crisp, forward electronic production. Having toured and performed at festivals like Deep Tropics and SXSW, my art and music have been met with outstanding reviews for my heady club mixes and melodic, refreshingly lounge style productions. As a sonic vessel for music, I continue to expand on my soundscape and break molds on how electronic music is perceived in the south.
You’ll be joined by several other great artists, including DJ Chandlerblingg, Moonchildsteph,and DJ Rmzi. Can you tell us a bit about your co-performers for the night?
Both DJ ChandlerBlingg and Rmzi are fellow radio hosts on the WYXR radio station in Memphis. I’ve performed with them several times and they are incredibly talented and a joy to spin with. ChandlerBlingg runs MAHOGANY Radio and is also 1/5th of the musical powerhouse group JCKSN AVENUE. Rmzi is the host of Habibi Beats Radio which operates in both Memphis and New York and has one of the best record collections I’ve ever seen. Moonchildsteph is a DJ and activist hailing from Nashville and does incredible program organization with the Worker’s Dignity Project. She is a newcomer to the Memphis DJ community and I’m so thankful she’ll be lending her talents to our showcase.
The night is being billed as a “showcase of Black dance music.” Tell us a bit about that history, and how Memphians are helping to continue the legacy.
The Black dance music tradition we’re referring to specifically is the history of modern dance music emerging from clubs in Chicago and Detroit during the 80s/90s. Originators like Paul Johnson and Larry Heard (aka Mr. Fingers, who lives in Memphis) created a community around the use of modern synthesizers and drum machines to birth what we call House music. We want to draw from this inspiration to create awareness of the Black roots of electronic dance music, while also drawing comparison to other forms of Black dance music. We mean to show that history throughout our sets, blending Funk and Soul records with Juke and Bounce music — educating our listeners through their own bodies rather than through words.
Memphis musicians heavily influenced these traditions and in turn have been heavily influenced by the craft and techniques of the House music community. We aim to add to that conversation by showcasing the breadth of Black dance music — that all generations can join in dance to the same sounds because it is inherently dance music.
Is bodywerk going to continue as an ongoing series, or is this a one-time event?
The immediate goal is to continue having bodywerk shows once each quarter, but depending on interest, we might have the show once a month.
Overall, we want to be consistent and dependable — folks should always know that on the last Saturday of each month, it’s time to dance at bodywerk.