Daphne 2018 severs the boys-club setlist


Courtesy SmartBar

Daphne 2018 seeks to educate as well as entertain and runs March. 1–31 at SmartBar Chicago, 3730 N. Clark St.

By Mayan Darbyshire

This year’s Daphne series—a month-long collection of shows and talks dedicated to underrepresented artists in the electronic music scene—is a reminder to EDM fans of the need for cultural diversity in the genre.

This will be the fourth year of SmartBar Chicago’s Daphne series, 3730 N. Clark St., which got its name in part from Daphne, a figure in greek mythology, and Daphne Oram, an innovator in electronic music.

The series started in 2015 as a movement to prove that women have been and will be important to dance and electronic music, according to Jason Garden, SmartBar’s current talent booker. The series changed hands from its creator Maria Stamper, known to audiences as The Black Madonna, to Garden in 2016. 

Garden said he wanted to merge Maria’s vision with his own view of Daphne, which expanded the series’ inclusion of underrepresented minority groups.

“Over the course of the years, it’s expanded in scope and definition,” Garden said. “I have brought multiple parties in to advise, and it has been more of a listening exercise for me and therefore it has expanded.”

Garden said he pushed to include those outside the traditional power structures of EDM music, which is dominated by white, cisgender, heterosexual males, and give them a platform to create their own shows and discussions.

“I let [the artists] largely program it and acted more as a switchboard than the motor behind things,” Garden said. “That has had a much better effect on the program as a whole. It’s more diverse; there are people I wouldn’t have known about who are awesome that we are having be involved, and people feel more ownership over it.”

The month offers an array of educational demonstrations, all free to the public 18 years old and older, as well as performances from prominent artists, including Honey Dijon and The Black Madonna. The festivities range from multidisciplinary symposiums that feature DJs,  journalists, promoters and record labels, to a hands-on DJ workshop for people who may not have any equipment but want to learn the skills.

Daphne also educates audiences on music history. Glenna Fitch, a DJ known to audiences as SOLD, is hosting a discussion March 2 with fellow artist HI-Vis, on the women of experimental electronic music, with examples dating back to the 1930s. 

Fitch said they wanted to keep the spirit of Chelsea Faith Dolan, known as Cherushii, alive after she died in an Oakland warehouse fire in 2016. Cherushii was a music historian, and Fitch wanted to continue the tradition of educating the public.

Fitch said they hope audiences can glean the importance of accessibility and representation in the music business. 

“If this was something I had when I was their age and seeing that, ‘Oh, this is normal. Other women or non-binary people also make music,’’’ Fitch said, “that would have made me feel a lot more comfortable about getting into it.”

Hiroko Yamamura, a long standing DJ/producer in the Chicago electronic scene, is scheduled to perform March 1 at SmartBar. Yamamura said while she has had good friends in the industry, other female DJs are not so lucky.

“There is a lot of doubt of sincerity and knowledge if you’re a woman, especially when it comes to music production,” Yamamura said “It’s always kind of a novelty that a woman would know how to work audio applications and know how to use drum machines and synthesis methodology.” 

Garden said events like Daphne strive to let artists build something, rather than displaying people through the dominant culture.