The House Hundred

Portraits of a scene's past, present and future greats

We’re teaming up with Bulldog to select 100 essential people, places and projects in Belgian house music. From producers and DJs to record labels and festivals, these are the forces driving the homegrown house scene forward, one BPM at a time.

Menica

Menica

Domenica De Smet, DJ and founder at Ojoo Music

Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.

I started DJing together with my ex-boyfriend as a DJ-duo called Dirty Twosome. We used to play eclectic mixes of jazz, RnB, funk, soul, oriental and pop rock from the roaring 20s till the 80s. When we broke up, I continued to play as Menica. I am an 80s grunge kid who used to listen to Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Pixies and it’s only later, when I started going out, that I discovered electronic beats. I got hooked right away and with al lot of practice and determination, I learned how to mix. After a couple of years I became a resident à Tuupe and joined the Klankstad team (the outdoor area of the new Kompass Klub). Last year I launched my own underground music parties called Ojoo Music where I aim to restore the relationship between artists and dancers. Besides that, I am also part of the crew management team of Waking Life festival in Portugal. No matter which project I work on, I always try to keep playing different genres, simply because this defines me.

How has where you come from shaped who you are?

Music has always been essential in my family. My father used to play in a band; my mother had a small vinyl collection (she actually gave me my first record:  Falco – Rock me Amadeus) and my father’s uncle and aunt used to run a popular music café in Aalst. I got my hands on records by artists such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones but also Sade and Aretha Franklin. Ever since I was born, there was always music playing at home, in the car and at family gatherings, so as cliché as it might sound, my family did a good job at shaping who I am today.

Can you talk to us about Ghent’s nightlife scene, what makes it special and who are its main players?

Ghent is known for its techno scene, think I Love Techno and Kozmozz for instance. However, I never went to these parties. In fact I started going out in Ghent rather late because I used to go out in Brussels before that. Ghent has an astonishing clubbing culture and an open-minded crowd; it will always be the place to be when it comes to house and disco. Think Decadance where we had the chance to see Deejames and Igor Vicente play with their Wildfamily or Thriller with Tom Dazing and Gols to name a few. Our scene became even more interesting for me when the No Way Back parties started. They were a bit more underground as the line-ups weren’t accessible for everyone, but the audience was really educated and I’m sure that’s exactly what they wanted to achieve. They booked incredible artists in the likes of Daniele Baldelli, Cosmo Vitelli and Hugo Capablanca. The organiser Garreth McMullan was a huge inspiration for me because he had such an eclectic selection. If we look at today’s scene, I would say Kompass Klub is definitely Ghent’s main player for techno lovers, but also house music heads. Then you also have promoters like Moodfamily, Nachtvogel, Curfew and ABSTRKT who do a really good job at keeping our nightlife lively.

“Gentrification is killing the city’s dance music scene: people want to live in the city but they don’t want to experience its vibrant lifestyle.”

To you, which place in Belgium best symbolises the country’s way of partying?

Brussels, because it has such a diver scene and because it’s the home base of legendary Fuse where I spent so many hours dancing and meeting like-minded people. Brussels will always be my home away from home. It is creative, ahead of its time and open-minded. I kind of miss this constant inspirational flow in Ghent at the moment but I have really good reasons to believe it will be back soon.

What, in your opinion, is missing in Belgium nightlife-wise?

We need more venues where young promoters get the opportunity to start something new, because most established venues are too big and/or too expensive. Gentrification is killing the city’s dance music scene: people want to live in the city but they don’t want to experience its vibrant lifestyle. One phone call from a complaining neighbour and the party is over. I have one thing to say to say to them: please move to the countryside. Secondly, we need more support from the authorities because nightlife is actually a part of our culture and it seems to be the last thing on their agenda. And last but not least, promoters have to dare presenting new things instead of playing safe. I understand this dilemma with my own project: “Do I want to make sure people will actually attend the event, or do I do something unpredictable, but then I might lose money?” But that’s part of the game.

What can politicians do to better support the homegrown scene? For instance, what do you make of Amsterdam having a nightlife mayor?

Belgium should definitely look at cities like Amsterdam, London and Berlin but unfortunately, our authorities don’t see the cultural value of dance music and nightlife. We need clubs, promoters and the music community to work together with the government to stamp out stereotypes. In Berlin for instance, they have a Clubcommission that lobbies for pro-nightlife legislations and serves as a voice for the community. We need something like this to happen in Belgium.

In your opinion, what are the key ingredients for a good night?

A good sound system is key; a coherent line-up with variations and highs and lows; an organised venue with a friendly staff; and a dancing crowd made of music lovers without their cell phone.

If you had to pick three essential Belgian releases, what would they be and why?

Placebo – Balek

This release from 1973 by Marc Moulain’s funky band always gets me in a monkey business mood.

Luc Van Acker ‎– Zanna

I love the mysterious sexiness of this essential, timeless release from 1984.

Joey Beltram – Energy Flash

This one never leaves my record bag.

 

If you could put together the line-up of your dreams, which top five Belgian acts would you book and why?

It’s difficult to select five as we have so much talent in Belgium and you also have to take the context and the season into account when creating a line-up. But here’s what I would do with Ojoo Music:

  • Gols, because both his selection and technique never disappoint. The way he handles his records and mixer reflects his personality: gentle and respectful.
  • Session 4000, because he takes risks and challenges the crowd with a lot of energy. Plus, he always comes up with a new selection of old records which I’m quite jealous of.
  • Nathan Oye for his ability to take the crowd on an intense journey. He creates highs and lows with patience, long mixes and subtle movements. A true storyteller.
  • Gurl, because behind her cute appearance, she will blow you away with powerful techno and mesmerise you with her spacey tracks. Moreover, she’s a passionate vinyl lover.
  • Topha will close the night with his wide selection ranging from raw electro to funky house.

Talk to us about a memorable night out, good or bad?

Technoon is my favourite party in Belgium. I thought I wasn’t really into techno, until I went there with a few friends and I haven’t missed a single one since then. A good location, an enthusiastic crowd, a quality sound system and a great line-up; they really have the whole package.

What’s in the pipeline for you in the coming months?

It will be all about the Ojoo Music label.