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Say hello to Coconut Beats founder HAAi

We talk to her about her record label and upcoming Ibiza gigs at Pacha and Pikes.

"Rising star" has pretty broad connotations, depending on the subject matter and how you interpret the term. It seems that there's an ever-growing list of new talent in contention for tag. But Teneil Throssell - AKA HAAi - appears to possess all the attributes needed to claim the title.

Winning BBC Radio 1's Essential Mix of the Year in late 2018, she was rewarded with her own residency on the station at the turn of 2019. Her unique percussive and experimental style has won over the ears of some of the industry's leading tastemakers.

The Australian-born DJ now bases herself in London, the birthplace of her own record label Coconut Beats. The name, she freely admits to me, came to her on a hazy morning following a night of excess.

Derived somewhat tediously for the North African and Southeast Asian sound she is known for pushing, the name has seemingly stuck. True to form, those distinct oriental and tribal influences are present throughout her selections, as well as her own productions.

For that, she has her mega haul of world music to thank. Over the years, she says there have been other influential factors that have contributed to her sound. Namely, her environment.

“When I first started producing electronic music, I was deep into collecting psy records and Turkish stuff. That heavily influenced the music I was making, as anything would.”

The ethno elements are conspicuous, especially on her track DaDaDa. HAAi is happy to point to the South Indian art of konnakol as a reference point. The practice sees performers make the percussive sounds with their vocal chords.

Aside from the above, the label produced three further releases. Be Good, FEELS and debut EP Motorik Voodoo Bush Doof Musik all received critical acclaim. Support stretched around every corner of the industry, from radio to print, playlists to mixes.

Partying at Pacha

Key Ibiza dates this summer have included the Boiler Room presents IMS opening party at Pacha, as well as a mid-season soiree at DC-10's Circoloco in August. After a hectic summer of other European gigs and festivals, HAAi tells me she's currently enjoying a couple of weeks of well-earned rest and relaxation.

But there's no rest for the wicked in this game. She's back to the grind with a string of upcoming dates, spanning several continents. Two of which are back here on the island.

On Friday 20 September, HAAi will go back to back with Dixon at his Transmoderna party at Pacha. It's a venue she has plenty of experience of playing, having held down residency at Hot Since 82's Labyrinth in 2018.

“I feel so comfortable playing there. I'm really excited I'm playing with Dixon there. In terms of a club, it has everything you need sonically and production-wise. I feel like they really knocked it out of the park. I love playing there so much.”

partying at Pikes

October's arrival brings the suggestion that the island is beginning to wind down. But not on Pikes' watch. Its party calendar remains in full swing, all the way through to Halloween. Part of that programme includes HAAi's own headline gig on 6 October. The night comprises part of Tales of the Unexpected, a party curated by The Brothers Grim.

No stranger to Pikes, HAAi is quick to highlight the hotel's notorious hedonistic reputation. Something that Pikes lovers all revel in.

“Every time I've been there, there's just something kind of magic about the place. It's really hard to explain. You just have to experience it for yourself.

When you're in there, you're really locked-in and everyone is looking for the same thing. It's wicked.”

One of HAAi's most treasured memories from Pikes, is the first time she played there. Understandably, it was a career highlight for the rising DJ.

“I did a six hour b2b with Midland, which was epic. That was the first time that we'd met and it turned into a really special night. It wasn't long after he'd won his Essential Mix of the Year and his career was really soaring. I enjoyed that so much.”

Fate has a funny way of being poetic, so it was perhaps the cosmos talking when HAAi would go on to win the title herself, several years later.

Her own cherished memories aside, Pikes holds an extra special place in her heart thanks to her Mum's obsession with Freddie Mercury – can we blame her?

“My mum is a massive Freddie Mercury fan - she had a Freddie Mercury impersonator singing at her 50th birthday. For that reason, playing at Freddies is always really special.

Next year, if they ask me to play again, I'm going to bring my mum out. I always send her a video or a picture whenever I'm there. She's never been to Ibiza, but I think she'd love it.”

A matter of style

Comparing the two upcoming occasions, it's clear they each command a different approach. On one hand, we have the shiny super-club of Pacha. On the other, the quaint and intimate finca of Pikes. Two very different experiences, HAAi agrees.

Pacha lends itself to a much bigger sound, whereas I'm likely to be a little bit more fun and experimental at Pikes, which I love doing in that kind of environment as well.

I can dig deep into some post-punk, and electro and my version of disco - and some Coconut Beats vibes, as well. I think would be quite cool.”

Well acquainted with open-to-close all-night sets thanks to her Phonox London residency, HAAi is chomping at the bit. Clearly thrilled at the chance to play an extended format, the freedom it affords lends itself well to her non-conformist tendencies.

For such an experimental DJ, this is the golden goose.

“Whenever I play for, like, two hours or an hour and a half, as soon as you pick up the pace, or feel like you've found your feet, they're like ‘five more minutes'. So I'm really excited that I get to play for, like, five or six hours.”

That's our girl.

Looking to the future

Keen to know how the rest of 2019 is shaping up for her, it sounds as if she has no intention of slowing down any time soon. There's plenty more touring and producing in the pipeline, as well as showcasing new artists on her label for the first time.

“I'm going to be releasing another artist on Coconut Beats, which is getting finalised now. It's a young Dutch guy who makes really beautiful kind of ambient broken beat, but with real drums. It's really beautiful.

I've got my next EP coming out too, but that's actually coming out on another label - quite a big label that I'm really excited about. It's like my teenage dream basically!

The EP is called Systems up Windows Down and it's a six tracker. I just got the final press and the artwork all finished. We're just kind of finalising a couple of little logistical bits then going to announce that. I can't wait, I'm so proud of it.”

Listening to HAAi's award-winning Essential Mix for probably the half-dozenth time, I can't help but wonder what more this talented lady has to offer? Her rare take on music swims against the current. HAAi is busy doing her own thing - and she kills it every time.

Perhaps not "one to watch" anymore, but instead an artist realising her potential and living her dream.

For a dose of escapism, get yourself down to Pacha on Friday 20 September and again to Pikes on Sunday 6 October to experience the full depth and breadth of HAAi's DJing abilities.

Grab your Pacha tickets down below and make sure you sign up for guestlist via the Pikes website.

IMAGES | by Alec Donnel | DED Agency

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