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In conversation with Reprezent Radio’s Naina

Since emerging in 2009, south London’s Reprezent Radio has blossomed into one of the capital’s most vital stations. It’s become a prime outpost for championing young talent, and encompasses the wide scope of sounds that emanate from London, whether grime, rap, R&B, afrobeat or club hybrids.

Joining the platform in 2013, London based DJ and presenter Naina has proved to be one of the station’s main forces. Holding the Friday night slot with her show Motion, Naina shines light on a medley of contemporary club styles, playing the best the dance floor has to offer and regularly hosting talent from the most exciting scenes across the globe.

Recently picked up by Apple Music’s Beats 1, we catch Naina at an exciting point in her career, discussing where her journey began, the current climate of underground dance culture, and the importance of remaining focused on today.

Let’s start from the top, when did you first get behind the decks?

You know what… looking back at it, I have always been that girl hogging the ipod in the common room at sixth form, the person at house parties at Uni making playlists. I actually studied Music Journalism at University so I have just always been involved in music and especially electronic music. My friend at Uni actually said to me, ‘why don’t you start DJing too? – you also have a great voice for radio’.

I started mixing and recording a few bits completely as a hobby until people started booking me to play clubs and stuff! It was so flattering and I fell in love with it. I’ve always had a broad music taste, I loved hip hop, rock, R&B, but when it came to playing music in the dance – I just loved pushing forward underground club music because it was so much fun to play! I love playing a really obscure left field electronic track and getting that one person come up to me in the club going – ‘WHAT IS THIS?’

How did your path lead to Reprezent?

So, like a lot of presenters on the station, I came through another presenter – sort’ve! I did a guest mix for a show years ago, and that’s how I found out about Reprezent. Then about a year later they did a call out for new talent, and I just went for it! Did the pilot etc etc and they gave me an opportunity without any radio experience, based purely on passion and commitment – which I’m still so grateful for to this day. Did that for about 2/3 years until I got moved to the Friday night live slot which changed everything!

Was presenting music always a focus for you?

When I first started the show – I realised that was what I wanted to do all the time. Having studied journalism and the writing side of music, I can actually speak about it and play the music I want and introduce people to new sounds? Perfect. I got such a buzz of it.

Independent online radio has seen a massive growth in recent years, what’s different about Reprezent’s platform?

I wouldn’t be in radio if Reprezent hadn’t believed in me, and given me my first foot into the world of radio. Not a lot of stations take on talent without experience. Through the Reprezent platform it’s lead to so many amazing things and opportunities! The gang here are one of a kind, we’re a dysfunctional beautiful family who push each other to succeed. Also the music played on the station is like no other! There’s so much talent under the Reprezent roof, it’s mad. Everyone here is so diverse and we all bring a lot to the station.

I didn’t grow up in London, but when I moved here and joined Reprezent, I brought a different sound and different artists to the station, and was educated in other genres of music and young talent on the scene by the other presenters.

Would you say the London scene is in a healthy place right now?

London is the best. Moving here was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I also love Bristol and the scene there. Paris is doing bits too – especially with electronic music.

The XX’s Night + Day project came to Reprezent earlier this year, how important was that for the station?

Ahhh one of the best weeks! Every single person at Reprezent came together, worked really closely with the Young Turks / XL family to pull off one crazy week.

We curated a week of specialist programming with some great people coming through… Sampha, Gilles Peterson, Novelist, J Hus, it was mental. It was really important for Reprezent – it showed us stepping up our game and it was a wicked week of radio!

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Your Motion show has been going strong for a good few years now, how much planning goes into each session?

Thank you! It’s crazy how time flies. I collect music throughout the week – and spend a few hours a week sorting out guests etc. It doesn’t feel like work when you love it!

Any moments you’re particularly proud of?

Getting your favourite producers and DJs in the same studio as you, doing a mix for your show. Meeting them in person and then getting to stand back and enjoy a mix in a tiny studio! Meeting people like Scratcha DVA, Nina Las Vegas etc – big players in the radio game. In fact, every single guest I’ve had on the show has been a highlight for me, because at the end of the day, I’m just a huge fan.

Hosting the Friday night slot, do you feel pressure to focus on club music? Are there any other areas you’d like to explore more?

Yeah, the show definitely changed when I moved slots. Before I could play James Blake, Kelela, softer tones at midnight on a Wednesday. Now I slip that stuff in when I can, within features etc, but I like to focus on all elements of club music, if I can imagine it in the dance then I’d play it on the show. Even like, dubstep – there’s some wicked dark dub sounds around at the moment, and I’d still spin it on the show, from jersey to gqom, to trance! If you can pre-drink to it, dance to it, or just enjoy your Friday night in to It – I’m playing it. I try and mix it up every week.

What sounds are exciting you right now?

Recently I’ve been listening to gqom, and some wicked dubstep has re-emerged on the scene. And I love the ballroom/vogue/jersey/bass/footwork scene – you can always rely on new artists coming onto those scenes and your favourites continuously dropping new heat!

You’re now part of the Beats 1 community, massive congrats on that…

Thank you! It’s so exciting. Reprezent did a takeover joining the likes of Pigeons and Planes, FADER, Pitchfork etc. It was so much fun to do, and I ended up doing a mix and presenting one of the shows that focused on electronic music.

That began the relationship with Beats 1 and a few months later I got taken on as one of their playlist DJs at Beats 1 London (alongside Reprezent’s Joe Walker). I am so happy to be working with Beats 1. It’s going really well and I’m having the best time.

At such an exciting point in your career, are you conscious about the road ahead, and where you’ll end up?

A wise person once told me to focus on the journey and enjoy that rather than rushing to the end goal, and I’m definitely enjoying every bit of the journey right now!

Catch Naina at Hoxton’s Number 177 on November 17 playing alongside Shy One, Tash LC, and DJ SagePay as part of our 18th birthday event series. More info here.

Words: Callum Wright

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