Here’s What Gudiya Has to Say About the Bill She Curated at Hopscotch

On Saturday, the Raleigh DJ and curator will work the decks alongside with TRNSGNDR/VHS, Estoc, Jasmyn Milan, Khxos, and Zah

Gudiya, aka Kaanchee, first got involved with Hopscotch while she was a student DJ at NC State’s WKNC. She’s worked on the festival’s graphic design for years and has performed twice, first with Sand Pact, her experimental duo with fellow Raleigh DJ Debt Stalker, and later as Gudiya, her solo DJ project. A self-described “brown girl living in the South,” she found a home in electronic and experimental music after seeing other DJs and electronic producers of color on stage. Now, her performances as Gudiya are collages of hardstyle, ’90s and ’00s hip-hop, and Bollywood music, with random classic rock and pop songs mixed in. She also curates Becoming With/, a new queer rave party series. 

We caught up Gudiya the phone about bill she put together for Hopscotch—and why representation matters. Catch her at the Wicked Witch on Saturday, September 7, with Jasmyn Milan and Khxos, TRNSGNDR/VHS, Zah and Estoc. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. 

What’s your personal history with Hopscotch?

I’ve been involved at Hopscotch for a very long time, starting when I was a DJ at WKNC, NC State’s college radio station. We would [get] passes to the festival in exchange for festival coverage, and one thing I decided to do for my pass was to redesign the Hopscotch schedule [so] people who were unfamiliar with the artists could see what they might be interested in. I went through all of the artists and listened to them, figured out what genre they were, and categorized them as metal, hip-hop, electronic/experimental, punk, country, indie, etc. I made a color-coded schedule so that people could see what each artist sounded like. 

The next year, the person who did the design for Hopscotch reached out to me to ask if I could design the official schedule. I’m a graphic designer, and I did graphic design at NC State University. Eventually, the festival director, Nathan [Price], asked me to do the lineup poster and other promotional material.

In 2017, my other band, Sand Pact, performed. That set was really awesome. We played first, which was fun, because there’s a lot of people who come out at that time and not as much competition. Then, in 2018, I did a Gudiya set. This year is the tenth anniversary, and I was able to actually give the whole festival a redesign, so that’s why we’re pink now. It was super fun. I’ve been super invested in it. 

I know this is something I really want to do because the people who do the festival are all super cool and easy to work with and open to new ideas. It’s nice to feel that kind of responsibility at my age. So this year, Nathan asked me to do one of the artist-curated bills, which I felt really honored to do. 

What would you say is your favorite Hopscotch memory?

I think it was when I saw Nguzunguzu [the] first year I was there. This was right when I was making the transition from liking indie music to getting more into electronic, experimental music and DJs. It was me and [Sand Pact bandmate] Alex [Fresa], and I knew that they were really hyped for the set, but I didn’t really know much about Nguzunguzu, so I got excited too. It was a set that closed out CAM, and it went until 2 a.m. I just remember dancing the entire time. I had never danced that much before at a set. 

As a brown girl, I could never picture myself as a musician or performer, because the artists I looked up to were almost exclusively white. It wasn’t until I was introduced to more DJs and electronic producers of color (like when I saw Asmara from Nguzunguzu at Hopscotch!) that I started to consider it a possibility. So with my performances, I’m hoping to help other young people of color and marginalized genders see themselves onstage.

Tell me about the bill you put together for the festival this year. Why did you pick the artists that you picked? Were there any commonalities you were trying to highlight? 

I wanted my night to highlight talent that is unconventional [compared to] a lot of things people are used to seeing, but still accessible. I wanted to do mostly live performances and close out in a DJ set. 

Picking my bill was super hard, because I had so many people that I wanted to include, but I’m really happy with the people I chose. First of all, I have Khxos and Jasmyn Milan, who are two locals here. I’ve been collaborating and working with them and we have supported each other for the past two or three years. They hold down the scene, and it’s been amazing to watch them grow into the performers they are now. 

When I first met Khxos, they were mostly dancing. I met them at one of our Sand Pact shows when we opened for Mykki Blanco, and then I came to some of their dance performances with Zen So Fly. In 2017, they started rapping. I first saw them at Hopscotch during a day party last year, and I was so blown away, I was like, “Why is this not a headliner right now?” Jasmyn Milan DJs as Trailer Trash, and she recently started rapping again. I feel like she has a good ear for picking out the songs that she wants to rap on—really high energy, hardstyle tracks. I wanted to include both of them, and they have a bunch of songs that they feature each other on, so they perform together sometimes. 

I was listening to TRNSGNDR/VHS a lot when I first got into experimental music, and I would play her on WKNC a lot. I saw her once at Nightlight, and I always admired her production. Her sound is really different, and her live performance brings a whole other kind of energy to the room. 

Zah reached out to me a while ago about coming to North Carolina for one of their tour dates. It was  exciting, because it was the first time somebody had reached out to me directly after they learned about my music. I set them up with two shows, in Carrboro and Raleigh, and their live performance was amazing. I wanted more people to experience their performance, so I thought they would be a good fit for this year’s bill. 

I wanted to have a high energy DJ set close off the night, because I feel like that’s always my favorite set at Hopscotch. Last year, Killborn closed out at Neptunes, and that was such a fun night. Estoc is one of my favorite producers right now. Her remixes and productions are amazing. I’ve never seen her live before, so I thought she would be perfect to close out the night. 

What do you love the most about being an artist in North Carolina? 

I love that it’s so easy to connect with all the other artists here, because it’s smaller than somewhere like New York or LA. For example, with Khxos and Jasmyn, we instantly gravitated to each other and formed this tight bond, because of the music we were making. The community has been extremely supportive of my art ever since I first started to DJ. I’ve just been flooded with a bunch of love, which I think is something I might not have gotten in another place. 

How does living here influence the music and events you create?

Living here has made my sound really different from a lot of other artists, because I kinda just taught myself everything. I definitely had a lot of mentors here, but for the most part, I was making it up as I went along. 

For events and parties, there is a little more urgency. I feel like these spaces are needed here. We’re doing a lot better with having safer spaces for people of color and LGBTQ+ people here, but there’s always room for improvement. With our events, I’m trying to get people involved with planning safety aspects of shows and ensuring that people of color and LGBTQ+ folks have a fun, safe place they can go on weekends without fear of being harassed or having people ruin their night. There’s a little more gratitude, too, where people are really appreciative every time we throw any kind of party. I know I was super appreciative of Hopscotch for bringing people like Nguzunguzu, who I never really would have gotten a chance to see otherwise. 

Sarah Riazati