Member Spotlight #26: Jenny Nedosekina
For the November instalment of our Member Spotlight series, we’re featuring Jenny Nedosekina, an artist and editor who seeks to create space for women in the Russian independent music scene. Jenny — who grew up in Russia and recently relocated from Moscow to Berlin — is a songwriter and producer in her own right, releasing music under the name Jekka. She’s also the founder of Parallel, a Russian music publication focused on spotlighting women in the Russian music industry. Jenny spoke to SheSaid.So about her obsession with Russian folk music, how she deals with rejection, and why Ableton changed her life.
Tell us a little more about yourself, and your music career journey to date.
As a person I’ve always been interested in a lot of different things: from being swept by folk history to interactive technology, anime, gaming. But one thing has always stayed constant — and that is music.
I’ve been singing and writing songs from a young age, however my parents preferred I got a ‘real’ profession and so I was made to go study architecture. This path brought me to continue a postgraduate degree at Moscow’s then very innovative and new school called Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design which explored urban space and culture. Instead of continuing my architectural career this school opened a completely new field for me — cultural management and exciting multidisciplinary projects with people from all over the world. This approach actually translated to my own music career which was happening in parallel despite my parents’ wishes.
I started playing in a cover band, but soon stumbled upon Ableton live which changed my life. Back then, this was 2010, you thought that you needed a big producer and a label to make music and perform, and Ableton showed that I didn’t need to wait for someone to discover me, but I could finally make the music that was trapped inside my head and share it with the world through the internet. Having no music training whatsoever, the software was quite intuitive, although there were very few decent tutorials on the net, and since I was a very shy person I didn’t get into any kind of music community and had no music friends to help me out, Ableton really helped me to pursue my passion. It was an interesting moment and I started submitting my music to various competitions, as well as playing live with Ableton and a couple of synths. It was a fascinating world! I was practically the only female singer-songwriter producer in Russia who had a bit of spotlight in the media, although in reality people didn’t believe I made music myself and it was always annoying to have to say that “no, it’s not my boyfriend/male producer/someone else” who’s making music, but actually it’s me. Since then I have self-released 7 albums, made 6 music videos, played showcases in Europe (BIME, Musikmesse) and festivals across Russia (Red Bull Music Festival Moscow).
I always like to challenge myself and my experience working in the cultural area inspired me to create my own multidisciplinary collaborative projects, since I am a solo producer. This and my curiosity about different things and subjects, my research obsession made me create #ГОД (YEAR) for example — a music and visual project exploring Russian folk music and culture and interpreting it in a new way. It resulted in texts, 4 EPs, videos, motion album covers, performances, design.
Meanwhile being in both the cultural field and the music scene made me notice that women for some reason weren’t as respected nor spotlighted as the men. Having my own negative experience and talking with female colleagues I decided that I had had enough and I needed to do something. That’s how Parallel came to be. If the existing media didn’t write about all the wonderful and super talented women out there, then I would create one that would. I guess my architectural education has nevertheless influenced me — I am building environments but not of stone, rather of people and communication.
Parallel started in 2016 as a series of interviews with close friends and expanded towards stories across Russia and into studio and live videos, mixes. In 2019 Parallel entered the offline and I started organising club nights, music workshops, music meet ups — all to support women in music as well as dismantle the biases and create a more welcoming environment, inspire young women to pursue a music career not only as a performer, but in tech as well. The highlights were two week-long music residencies that I managed to organise in collaboration with Levi’s and the British council together with Saffron Music and Brighter Sound, where we had the opportunity to bring participants from other Russian cities to Moscow for co-creation. Although it wasn’t obligatory, the participants (women aged 20–35) were very driven and made amazing tracks which were released on streaming platforms (Parallel Residence 1, Parallel Residence 2). Together with Levi’s we planned on expanding the music residencies to cities across Russia in 2020 — alas, the pandemic hit, but we made a series of podcasts about music which were very interesting.
As you mentioned, you are the founder of Parallel, a Russian music publication focusing on women in the music industry. What lasting impact do you hope Parallel has on the Russian music community, and the industry at large?
In my very subjective opinion, the Russian indie music scene is very divided. I think there should be more collaboration and partnerships and mutual support. These are the kind of values I try to invoke in everyone who attends Parallel events or reads the website. To try and create a welcoming and supporting environment free of bias. To collaborate in order to innovate. To come together when there’s a problem that needs to be solved and create a stronger sense of community. Especially in times like these, when there’s a pandemic and no government support. I hope to see more diversity within the Russian music scene, on stage and off, fewer gatekeepers who support only their own artists and more risk-taking among festival programmers and curators. My wish is that the music scene becomes a safe space, because music heals and unites people, it’s not supposed to make you feel bad about yourself or devalue your achievements.
What do you consider some of your greatest career achievements? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
I would say that bringing Parallel into the offline world and creating a real community, providing spaces for music creation such as music residencies is a great achievement. I feel very proud of these events and I am even more happy when I see the participants creating bands or music projects together and continuing to help each other out. In terms of my own music I would say the #ГОД project was a very difficult, exciting and big project involving a lot of people and I am very happy with what we made.
The main challenges I faced, now that I think about it, was for me to accept myself and not do anything for the sake of being acknowledged by someone else. To value my work as it is, to follow my own path and to trust myself.
I’ve applied to the infamous Red Bull Music Academy 8 or 9 times, for example, and always felt heartbroken after the rejection letter and envious of those who got in. It seemed I bet everything on that one chance to get in. But after so many rejections, I learned to keep on moving and seeing what is really important to me — and that is making music. It made me less afraid of submitting to other residencies\fellowships\competitions.
Share one piece of advice that has stayed with you in your career.
“The courage to be no one, and to be yourself,” a quote from a feature film about Russian writer Dovlatov, and Maya Angelou’s “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all” echo strongly in what I do, because in a way I have always been an outsider playing by my own rules and refusing to submit to the rules of someone else’s game. I dare to challenge. Although my professional and creative career has been full of ups and downs, self-doubt, I finally learned to accept myself as I am and understand my values, goals and purpose. I think it’s important to always question yourself about why you’re doing something and for whom or for what cause. Expect to change your opinions.
Tell us about the one concert you’ll never forget.
I would have to choose between two: one is more recent and it’s Fever Ray’s set on Primavera Festival — such raw and wild energy! It was mesmerising to watch, especially since you don’t see a lot of bands made up of only womxn. The other would be Thundercat — the way his bass and him just become one is fascinating.
But I could actually add another special one, which is very relative to what’s happening now. I was having a go away party in Moscow before I moved to Berlin just a couple of months ago and the bar where it all happened broadcasts live recorded concerts on Sundays which are curated by friends of the bar. So the concert that was shown that Sunday was Kylie Minogue’s 2002 live in Manchester — and it was one of the most fun and enjoyable things to have it on the big screen with proper speakers and all your close friends around who suddenly turned out to be huge Kylie fans. It was crazy! We were dancing and applauding, cheering as if at a real concert. It was amazing. Kylie is amazing.