Interview Sarah Farina & Yo van Lenz

Sarah Farina
© Lisanne Schulze

Your pseudonyms are Sarah Farina and Yo van Lenz. Where do the names come from? And what are their meanings?

Yo: At first, it just was a nickname. I don’t know how it happened.
Sarah: Isn’t Lenz the shortcut of Faulenzn (German: Lazing around)?
Yo: Yes, exactly. Lenz comes from Faulenzen. When I was a teenager I lazed around a lot. Probably, that leads to the name “van Lenz”. Yo is just the shortcut of my prename Johannes. At that time I had those older skater friends and they called me Yo with a Y because it was like this at that time. That is where my pseudonym comes from.
Sarah: Sarah Farina is my real name.

You are on the way for almost one week. How do you like the tour life so far?

Sarah: It is so exciting and a completely different world! Our first stop was in Uganda, Kampala and now we are here. It is an immense difference already and probably there will be a huge difference between the countries that we are going to visit and the countries we already visited, as well.
We are looking forwarad to it because it is great to make a trip connecting to our passion. It is cool that we are not only playing music what I usually do, but have the opportunity to meet locals and give workshops. We like to collaborate with people and that is always worthy and cannot be bad.
Furthermore, it is very special for us being in Africa because the music that we are playing and listening to originate from here. That is why being here is good and important for us.
For me as a privileged DJ or music producer, it is necessary to travel to the places where your inspirations come from to understand them better. Moreover, the people are so far friendly, as well.

You spent the last days in Kampala. In your impression, what is the difference between Kigali and Kampala?

Yo: Kampala is more hectic or a lot more hectic. There is a different energy here. We noticed immediately that Kigali is more relaxed.
Sarah: It is smaller, as well.
Yo: It is smaller, more relaxed, greener, much greener and a bit more structured. It reminded me of Europe.
Sarah: I agree, but do not forget that Uganda is one of the youngest countries in Africa. It is noticeable that Uganda did not achieve independence a long time ago and not everything is working.
I think that maybe the life there can be much harder than living here in Kigali. By walking through the streets, you could see poorness at first sight. I did not see many luxurious buildings and neighborhoods either.
Yo: However, there are more creative vibes in Kampala than in Kigali. It is a result of Rwanda’s strict organization and because creativity or unconventional thinkers are not wanted in particular relating to the genocide. The creative scene and people who create art were more visible and we saw a lot of street art and similarities in Kampala.
Sarah: Many artists and I played our music at the Nyge Nyge Festival in Uganda, as well. I heard that there are only one or two festivals in Kigali and they do not exist for a long time yet. That is a huge difference between the two destinations.
However, it is really cool for us being here.

How did it happen that you travel to Africa within the framework of the Goethe-Tour?

Sarah: You requested us. We just had to think about if we are free in this period. We cannot anticipate easily because we both are self-employed. Sometimes we get a lot of bookings and sometimes we do not. That is why we had to discuss it at first, but then we decided quickly that we want to accept the offer. It is a unique opportunity because Europe and Africa are not exchanging a lot. It is not the first time I have worked with the Goethe-Institut. We have always met on an equal footing and that is very important for me. It is not my priority to travel somewhere and pretend like the “cool DJ”. More significant is the connection with real people, to build relationships to other artists and create a fair exchange of equals.
Yo: We are very thankful to the Goethe-Institut, for it introduces us to the right people and connect us with music schools such as the one next to Kigali. We find ourselves safe with the nice people from the Goethe-Institut here.

You met and exchanged ideas with Rwandan music students within your workshop. How was meeting them for you?

Sarah: It was very intensive because there were a lot more students as we thought. Our goal was to make the workshop worthy for everyone. At first, we spoke with them a little bit and then we just connected the DJ controller and started the DJ workshop. They could try it out immediately because we did not want to bore them. Moreover, we did not want them to lose their regard especially because it was a big group. It was very cool because they were really interested. Only to involve the girls was tough because there were not many. In comparison to the confident boys, the girls were very shy.
Afterwards, we produced a song together in the framework of our music production workshop. Yo is going to complete the song and then send it to the students.
We are also going to get all the contacts of the students, send them a synopsis of the workshop and hope that we can stay in contact with them. The time flew so fast that we could not listen to their own music. It would be very nice if we had the opportunity to share in their artist development and to be there for them if they have questions.
It is our tour vision to meet people and stay in contact with them to create an exchange. We, as Europeans, have some privileges for example fast internet. We can easily buy and download any music software. Here, we failed frequently because the internet was often not fast enough or too expensive to download quite a few gigabytes. We want to find opportunities to make them available for the kids and for the musical trainees. In addition, we want to build kind of a fair musical ecosystem. We are planning to come back to create music innovations together.
Yo: After our experiences in Kampala and Kigali, we want to improve on the brought along software. In the future, we are going to bring along old versions of the software, as well.
Previously, we were in contact with Ableton and Native Instruments in Berlin who supported us with software and hardware. We wanted to build quite a few workstations. In the end, we could only work with Sarah’s computer because the software malfunctioned. For the next time, we want to talk to Ableton if they can give us the ten latest versions of the last ten years. Then we can guarantee that the people here can work with it.

Sarah, you describe your music as Rainbow Bass. How did you come up with that name? In addition, what is the meaning behind it?

Sarah: DJs or artists often have to describe what they are doing or to categorize their work for example to specify genres when playing records. This classification was always hard and a bit weird for me. I could not understand why I have to categorize it and then I occurred to the term Rainbow Bass.
I asked myself: What do I feel when I play music? How do I perceive the music visually? Can I find a word for it?
I play different music styles with different tempos and different vibes. In my opinion, the music styles are colorful. In my view, it looks like a rainbow because the different styles of music are connected to each other, as well. If you consider their historical development, it was always a fusion of different elements. The sound from the UK influenced my own sound a lot. The strong Caribbean elements make it super divers. Unfortunately, it is combined to the dark chapter, the colonization, as well.  However, there is a great Sound system culture in the UK that is influenced by the Jamaican music: out of Dub and Reggae arose for example Drum’n’Bass and Jungle, Two Step and Grime.  In my opinion, everything is connected and it is audible. The genres are connected to each other such as the colors of the rainbow. The most essential thing is the bass or the sub bass because it has a powerful effect and is palpable. That is why I called it Rainbow Bass. It is also possible to consider it from a different perspective. Not only are the genres connected to each other the human beings, as well. If you have a look at the world map you can see that all the continents were one single continent in the past. That is the message of Rainbow Bass, as well. There is an interconnection. Moreover, music is a universal language combining people who do not know each other and who do not speak the same language.  It is possible to create a feeling of oneness through music. When I play my music as a DJ, I feel the exchange with the people. I notice that they let themselves go, live the moment and just enjoy the time. At the best gigs, it feels like world peace for a few hours because everybody releases and is in a protected space.
Yo: And Sarah combines the genres in her DJ set such as the colors in a rainbow.

Do you have a “Must Have” that you carry on every trip?

Sarah and Yo: Headphones.