Laila Sakini is a London-based producer and DJ originally from Melbourne. Her work dabbles in trip-hop and ambient, reminiscent of other Melbourne artists such as HTRK and CS + Kreme. While having DJ’d and written music for years, 2020 proved to be notable for Sakini, as she released multiple records, including Vivienne, Into the Traffic, and Under the Moonlight, and Strada. Prior to this, she released the collaborative album Figures with poet Lucy Van in 2017. Joshua Minsoo Kim and Laila Sakini conversed via Zoom on May 27th, 2021 via Zoom, discussing her upbringing, her relationship with the piano, and her various works.
A few days ago, when we were initially going to have the interview, you mentioned that you had a physio appointment. What’s going on there?
I often get back pain so I go in every now and again just to get new exercises, and they do a semi-massage thing. It’s not that exciting, really, but it is expensive and hard to get out of—I can’t really reschedule. I think it’s a lot of time spent in front of the laptop. Whenever I go to physio they say that they have all types of people coming in now because everyone works from home and isn’t monitoring their posture or exercising enough. But for me it’s something I’ve done for years; I did it even before the pandemic.
Last year my hands and fingers were in a lot of pain just because I was always at home typing. I was like, I guess I gotta do finger stretches now.
That’s part of the gig, I guess.
You were born in Melbourne. What was it like, growing up there?
My upbringing wasn’t typical because my dad was from overseas. My older brother was born overseas and my mom was a second-generation Italian [immigrant]. I was born maybe the year they first got to Melbourne. And we grew up about an hour out of the city where it was very Dutch and a mostly white, middle-class vibe of people in a New Age-y area. When I was young, because my parents would speak Italian, one of my first thoughts was, “Why aren’t we in Europe? Why are we here? We’re so far out of everything that you’re doing and everything you represent, we have to eat pasta for dinner every night,” or, my dad’s from Morocco and we’d eat tajine.
Did you feel out of place in Melbourne?
No, I mean, our next door neighbors for a time were French. And then most of the interactions when you’re young are with your cousins and they’re all Italian. And so at first I was like, I guess everyone’s like this. And then, going through the motions of going to kindergarten and realizing, wait a second.
Even though everybody looks different and sort of had a different backstory, as a kid I was pretty enthusiastic and trusting in the community of people or just people in general. My parents are very nice and never taught me about too many of the bad things in the world. So I just was like, “Hey, why wouldn’t we get along?” Sometimes people would say something about what I look like and the fact that I was a bit different, but I never embraced it too much. I did get confused by it, but I didn’t sort of go out there feeling different; I expected that it should be fine. I felt estranged at points, but probably not so different from the kid with red hair at school.