2% Rising: Meet artist and producer Jagara

Audio Media International is delighted to present the latest in an ongoing series of engineer and producer interviews as part of our partnership with 2% Rising. Here, we catch up with Berlin-based artist and producer Jagara…

Launched by artist and producer Rookes and mastering engineer and AMI columnist Katie Tavini, 2% Rising was founded in response to the widely reported statistic that female producers only make up two per cent of the industry. The hub, which is currently over 380 members strong (and still growing), is intended to serve as a safe space for women and gender minority producers to converse, share opportunities, ask questions and network. Sound designer Suze Cooper recently joined Rookes and Tavini as one of the group’s core staff members.

The partnership between AMI and 2% Rising sees us posting regular spotlights on some of the most exciting talent from the network, while providing regular updates on its latest developments and activities.

Here, Jagara talks production methods, the challenges facing audio professionals and plans for the future…

Can you tell us where you’re based and what you do in the pro music and audio industry?
I am an electronic artist/topliner/producer from London known as Jagara and I moved to Berlin at the beginning of July.

How did you come to work in music and audio production?
I learned instruments from a young age (piano and violin) and when I was 17, I had the opportunity to work in a recording studio with my sisters. This was an unexpected opportunity, but there wasn’t really a proper plan in place until much later and I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do at that time. Being a recording artist presented itself as a potential path in life but it was when we started to gig around London and outside of it that we really understood just what it takes to be in a band. I started composing songs on the piano at 15 and actually recorded my first vocal track for my sister, Ruth, while she was studying A Level Music Tech. The track was a cover of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. I have always loved exploring different styles of music and a few years back, I decided to teach myself how to produce in Ableton in order to feel more confident in my writing skills and to build up substantial knowledge and understanding.

What’s been the job you’ve most enjoyed in your career so far?
I think just being an artist/collaborator. I have been working as a topliner/lyricist this year for various projects and there is one track that is due to be released soon. It’s been a remote working arrangement with a DJ duo and a lot of back and forth to achieve the most suitable vocal. It’s a fun process and there is more to come in the future.

Of which achievement do you feel proudest?
Performing in Paradiso, Amsterdam with my sisters back in 2015, as it was a full house and a very responsive crowd. But also, releasing singles and being independent artists. We did a successful crowdfunding campaign, ran a merch shop from home and achieved artist funding to finance our projects, as well as financing a lot ourselves.

What’s been the most difficult or challenging aspect of your job?
I would say it was not quite finding the network that exists now (2% Rising) and not making any kind of profit. It’s mostly been a struggle as there are always people to pay and I really think we need to break this illusion of luxury that pervades the industry. It’s really not there and the reality of it all needs to be talked about more openly. Luckily, the parliamentary inquiry into music streaming has initiated that conversation. We lost momentum for a while, partly due to running out of money. It also wasn’t clear where we could fit within the London scene at that time. It’s been hard pushing through in the last couple of years and to find faith again in pursuing a career in music, but I actually think being in Berlin makes much more sense and I feel much more at home here.

What do you want to focus on in the future?
I want to keep on improving my music/production knowledge and most importantly stay connected to this growing support network – I’d be lost without it. But I also want to pursue more of my other passions: Dance and Martial Arts. Movement has given me a new lease of life as I had lost focus and confidence for a while and considered quitting music.

How do you feel the pro music and audio industry has changed (or not) since you started to now?
I would say there is starting to be less of a gap between artists and the rest of the audio world – 2% Rising is a great example of this. I identify as an electronic artist and home producer. 2% Rising is a doorway to friendly collaborations, online tutorials, conferences and workshops, recommendations of new audio plugins, troubleshooting tips and I’m sure much more in the future. It makes me feel reassured and less alone.

Have you ever been star-struck by anyone you’ve worked with?
Actually, yes. I loved working with Catherine Marks back when I was in a guitar band with my sisters. She works super hard and learned from some top dogs! She’s so into her craft and her path to being a producer is a memorable one. At that time, I was quite in my shell and intimidated by the music business but I remember her being so respectful and teaching us a lot. Unfortunately, we hadn’t quite found our sound yet, but we were really proud of those tracks. I would also say Charlie Hugall, an excellent producer that we worked with back in 2015. We co-wrote a track, which evolved from a spellbinding eight bar loop he had saved in his ideas bank. I remember we were so obsessed on hearing it and so motivated to write a song with it. He was also such a laugh to be around.

Which artists and producers are you listening to right now?
I am listening to quite a few, past and present. The latest artists I have added to my playlist are Yves Tumor, Ätna and Fatima Yamaha. I’ve also been listening to Sevdaliza’s latest album Shabrang and have followed her from the beginning. Her evolution has been very inspiring. Recently, I was introduced to a Belgian DJ/producer, Julian Muller and I love his sound. He released through the Lobster Theremin label recently and their output is very impressive.

What do you feel that being a member of 2% Rising has given you?
It’s opened up the doors to new friends/collaborators and we have had some really insightful and often hilarious conversations over Zoom during lockdown, as well as some very productive listening sessions and skillshares. It has given me hope and support after a huge amount of doubt due to life’s challenges and the precariousness of the future. We are all in this together.