If the latest Bay Dreams line up is anything to go by, there is still a lack of representation from New Zealand’s African and third culture population in music, fashion and pop culture. Perhaps due to a lack of jobs and opportunity, especially for those working the events administration and behind the scenes realms.
So in comes Yordanos Berhane or Yordi for short, freshly finished with her bachelors in hospitality and feeling a renewed energy post lockdown – she’s hosting her first sold out show this Saturday with her new events management brand, LOOPED AKL.
Yordi says she wants to give people a taste of the vibrance she sees in Auckland and the potential she feels it has, as a hotspot for nightlife.
“No one will put us on until we put ourselves on. We’re no longer going to wait around hoping for other people to invite us into their spaces, it’s time to start creating our own spaces and catering to our people,” she said in the interview below.
Although tickets to LOOPED AKL sold out over night, there will still be limited door sales at The Chamberlain this Saturday July 11. DJ’s include Ill Baz, Halfqueen, Bbyfacekilla, Pharaoh Swami and Elknows. It is a Black Lives Matter fundraiser for which DJ’S have donated their time for free and all proceeds from tickets will be donated to the LGBTQ Freedom Fund in the US and Auckland Pride, Where It Matters in NZ.
“Afrodaze on the Friday and Looped on the Saturday will highlight the importance of Blackitty Black joy and I’m hoping Auckland City will come out to witness and support that,” she says.
Yordanos was also part of the team that brought out Aucklanders in the thousands for the Black Lives Matter march June 1, ending up on Al Jazeera, NPR and many other news platforms around the world. Their efforts have started a wave that’s washing through rigid, old systems that have previously blocked black people in New Zealand from telling their own stories. But, Yordi is here with LOOPED AKL and a legion of support at the forefront of that, hosting an events management company that presents a solution for how to make representation matter in New Zealand beyond a trending timeline.
SERUM: Where are you from/grown up?
Yordanas: I am of Ethiopian descent and grew up in Mt Albert, Auckland.
S: What do you do?
Y: I work in hospitality and I’ve just launched my events company, LOOPD AKL.
S: What is Looped by Yordi?
Y: LOOPED AKL is a business venture of mine that I have wanted to start for a long time. It is essentially an events management company which will be involved in a variety of events from community initiatives, youth programmes, and of course, parties.
B: In the first show description it says ‘A space for us by us’, who is us and why is it important to create a space for ‘us’?
Y: Us means Black people, but this will also be a space for indigenous and other minority groups. The reason why we said by us for us is because no one will put us on until we put ourselves on. We’re no longer going to wait around hoping for other people to invite us into their spaces, it’s time to start creating our own spaces and catering to our people. It’s important to have this space for us because there are very few like it out there, if any. We need to create a sense of belonging and foster an environment in which we all feel safe and seen.
S: In your words what does LOOPED AKL mean for the music culture in Auckland ?
Y: Looped AKL will be a conducive space for growth and to support local and up and coming artists. Looped will be a platform on which BIPOC artists can gain exposure and money. Looped is not the first of its kind and I don’t mean to take away from any other work that has previously been done. I think Looped has the potential to usher in a lot of change and bring in new possibilities, breaking the boundaries and limitations of before. It’s a start of a new area for Black communal support. We are realising we don’t need anyone else, we have ourselves and that’s enough. And this all goes beyond music.
S: Describe what it feels like to be a young, black, entrepreneur who is female in 2020?
S: It feels overwhelming. In a good way. The support from day one has been amazing. I am so lucky. I think people are starting to realise the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses and ventures and especially that of Black women. I feel like with the global Black Lives Matter movement, I can definitely say I have benefited off that momentum as people are now ready more than ever to get behind Black businesses.
S: Do you feel supported in the industry atm?
Y: Big time. I have some of the biggest names in the Auckland scene supporting me. I felt the support before I ever even started this venture and that’s what encouraged me to start Looped. I had been wanting to do this for years and if it wasn’t for friends in the music industry and friends in the community whose support was reassuring, I probably would have never pushed myself this hard.
S: How was your covid-19/lockdown?
Y: It was amazing. I clearly needed it. After lockdown, my life has been so hectic with work, finishing up uni and kick-starting Looped. Lockdown was the calm before the storm and it was a much needed time of rest that I am very grateful for.
S: How would you describe the party scene in AKL post lockdown?
Y: Everyone has been wanting haps but there are very limited options in terms of where to go. There have been certain events that have been amazing but in terms of something on a weekly basis, I can only speak for myself and my friends when I say nowhere comes to mind. Shoutout to the organisers of FILTH, Mosaic, Afrodaze and Soul Sessions who have kicked off the post lockdown turn up. I’m hoping Looped will contribute to this in a meaningful way. A back to back weekend with Afrodaze on the Friday and Looped on the Saturday will highlight the importance of Blackitty Black joy and I’m hoping Auckland City will come out to witness and support that.
S: What can people look forward to from Looped events going into the future?
Y: A safe space for BIPOC communities. A good fucking time and dope ass music. I don’t want to make it seem deep because all we’re doing is trying to create a vibe that will resonate with a lot of people and introduce people to the diversity of people and music, and the potential Auckland City has as a hotspot for the nightlife.
S: Who are the DJs you picked for the first show and why did you pick them?
Y: We have Halfqueen, Illbaz, Pharaohswami, Bbyfacekilla and Elknows. These are all people that I not only fuck with but also look up to within music and outside of music. They are very vocal people within their respective communities and have made a positive impact. They reflect the values that I hold dear and that I want to emulate with LOOPED AKL. Hard work. Passion. Drive. Unapologetically authentic. And most importantly, socially conscious.
S: What do you love about your creative community?
Y: I love the tight knit network of support and everybody’s willingness to pitch in and help. We take this for granted, but we have some of the most talented creatives among us here in Auckland so I love our potential as a collective and what we have to offer on a national and international level.
S: What was it like being part of the organising team that made the Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Auckland happen June 1?
Y: It was really inspiring to witness my friends make a social impact of that caliber within less than 24 hours. I’m really grateful for my sister Lulu, big bro Mez and the rest of the team – Hugh, Shalane, Elyssia and Shelley for allowing me to be a part of making that change in New Zealand history.
S: How did you guys pull that off so quickly?
Y: The entire thing was planned in less than 24 hours but huge shoutout to Auckland City for turning up the way they did. This was not a one man show! We honestly just blinked and everything happened. It showed us that if something is meant to happen, it will happen. We managed to spark up some very necessary conversations in New Zealand and we can only hope those conversations (AND MEANINGFUL CHANGE) keeps happening.
S: How do you think the Black Lives Matter movement has affected or changed the Auckland you see and live in now?
Y: I think that as a community who has been largely invisible for so long, Black people are finally starting to feel seen, heard and cared for. We are walking with our heads so much higher, not because white people are starting to recognise us, but because we’re starting to mobilise and recognise our power. I’ve started to see acknowledgment from Black people realising we need to lean on each other now more than ever. This has also been very evident with Looped. There has been a ton of support from Black people I had never even crossed paths with and it all just feels like divine timing.
S: You also run the Instagram Blackgatsby, can you tell us a bit about that?
Y: I started that page during lockdown and it was never meant to be a permanent thing. It was more of my personal outlet to share art and pictures that resonated with me. Before I even knew it, this struck a cord with so many others who enjoyed seeing Black content and people on their timeline. I realised I could use this platform to say “I see you, I hear you. I love us. Look at how beautiful our people are.” They are all images I want to see on my timeline and I thought if I felt like that, maybe other people did too. Blackgatsby was so easy because I love art and so I just enjoyed sharing it. The fact that people resonated with it was the icing on the cake.