Saku Sahara, the rising star of break music is back on STUDIO.

Known for her versatile and eclectic performances, the Lyonnaise artist mixes a wide range of bass music, with jungle as the constant in her sets. Skillfully merging the old with the new by mixing this classic subgenre with more modern influences like UK Bass, tapping into both past and present of bass music, you can always expect to hear a wide range of sounds when witnessing a Saku Sahara set.

But that’s not the only thing you can expect from this versatile DJ. Her visual aesthetic is very on point, too, drawing a lot of inspiration from the land of the rising sun, Japan. From her podcast series ‘Conversation in a Bento’ in 2020 to her very own manga character drawn by Supanoon.

Today, we catch up with her and discover how she manages to bring Japan, Lyon, tradition, and modernity together as one.

Saku Sahara by Lucas Baez
Saku Sahara by Lucas Baez

How are you doing?

Hey, I’m great. Very happy to be doing this interview!

Very happy too! It seems there is a recent explosion in artists, events, and music in general that merges bass music and techno. The techno scene seems to be listening, accepting, and playing more and more bass music recently. What do you think?

It’s true that there’s a UK wave coming through France and even Europe more widely. I think the fact that everything is speeding up also influences what’s happening in terms of music and beats. I also think that there’s an evolution in music, that there are more and more hybrid offerings, and that also helps the public to appreciate new styles, new rhythms, or at least rhythms that they weren’t used to hearing before. I think it’s great that the techno scene is opening up a bit to bass music, especially if the aim is to put the spotlight on our scene and show everyone that bass is as incredible a genre as any other. But let’s face it, the underground side of bass music is also part of its charm.

Saku Sahara & Sherelle by Julette Valero
Saku Sahara & Sherelle at Nuits Sonores by Juliette Valero

How do you take advantage of people being more open to other genres? 

I think that social networks allow the introduction of other musical genres to a larger audience. As everything speeds up, so does musical research. I see more and more videos that explain the different genres of music, and I find it really interesting. This helps educate new generations. The different genres and subgenres that I mix all more or less come from the same family. Being quite central in my sets, jungle music allows me to express myself and associate it with other sub-genres. It has done this in its own musical history since jungle gave birth to drum & bass, dubstep, etc., which creates a beautiful musical ensemble. It’s really this whole thing that I love exploring.

We noticed that you’re close to the legend Teki Latex, with a few B2Bs already together. How did you two meet? 

Teki and I met during Covid in 2020. At the time, I was working on my ‘Conversation in a Bento’ podcast project, which would showcase Japanese music and video games. I shared my project with Teki, and he liked it. Our passion for music, Japan, and video games was similar, which is why we clicked. The first time we met was for his radio show at Rinse France, and playing with him for the first time was a revelation. We’ve been together ever since, and he holds a very special place in my heart.

Our plans already include continuing to share great restaurants because that’s another passion we have in common, haha! I am also continuing to do a few B2Bs together, and why not go even further in our graphic universe and the continuity of the magnificent drawings of us both that the talented Supanoon has done?

Teki Latex & Saku Sahara closing Nuits Sonores by Juliette Valero
Teki Latex & Saku Sahara closing Nuits Sonores by Juliette Valero

It seems that the Japanese culture is a big part of your inspiration. How do you manage to mix this with your kind of music?

Japanese culture is clearly a part of my daily life and plays a part in my music. At first glance, you might think there’s no connection. But Japan has always been a country between tradition and modernity, and I think my music is, too, in a way. You can also find this modern and fast vibe in video game music, and I find it a huge source of inspiration. I also try to incorporate it through visuals to represent that.

What story do you want to tell with the drawings?

As an artist, the visual has a very important place for me. We must succeed in communicating effectively while retaining our identity and our inspirations. Being big anime fans, Teki and I thought it would be cool to have our own animated version for this occasion. I think it’s a bit like the hidden dream of anime fans: having your own character drawn like a manga. Supanoon knew how to achieve this idea to perfection. One day, I would like to push this dream even further in a video animation version. I have always had an important relationship with drawing because it was my first passion before music after graduating from Fine Arts. I think it’s important that I show my audience this side of my personality because it’s part of my life. It also allows us to meet several communities of enthusiasts, such as drawing, Japanese, and bass music.

Saku Sahara & Teki Latex by Supanoon
Saku Sahara & Teki Latex by Supanoon (Anaïs Chevillard)

Last year, you played at Mandidextrous’ stage at Boomtown. How do you look back on it? 

Performing on Mandidextrous’s stage at the Boomtown Festival was one of the most incredible experiences of my career. I already respected Mandi’s work enormously; for me, Boomtown was one of the dreams I wanted to achieve, like playing at the Outlook Festival one day.

The 360 scene they created was magnificent, the dancers were so strong, the welcome incredible, and I am so grateful!

Are there other artists you are looking up to and want to work with in the future?

I love collaborating with artists whose work I appreciate, and it’s beautiful when certain inspirations come together. For example, I just played at Kiosk Radio, where I was invited by Le Motel and his Maloca Label. He finds inspiration through travel and brings back sounds. I also noticed that we had the same shared passion for music and the visual arts.

I would also love to collaborate with Sherelle, of whom I am a big fan. Her career is very inspiring to me, and I dream of working with her. I really like the artistic choices of her label Hooversound, which she founded with Naina. I also really respect the work of Tim Reaper and his label, Future Retro London.

You played Nuits Sonores as well. How did it feel to play there?

It was the third year I’d played at Nuits Sonores, and as always, as a Lyonnaise, I found it to have rather sentimental value. In 2022, I was lucky enough to be on a 100% Vibes UK stage with Le Motel, Darwin, Yung Singh, and Sherelle. It was the perfect lineup and corresponded 100% to me, musically speaking. Last year, I was able to do a B2B with Teki, and it was also important to be able to play with him in my hometown. For me, Nuits Sonores is one of the best festivals on the French electronic scene.

CLOSING DAY1 Juliette Valero NS2023jpg
Teki Latex & Saku Sahara closing Nuits Sonores by Juliette Valero

Your city, Lyon, has always been a stronghold for electronic artists with strong identities – Gesaffelstien, Labat, and Flore, to name a few. An inspiring city, to say the least!

Lyon has always played an important role in electronic music. I remember that, about ten years ago, the city was sometimes referred to as France’s capital of electronic music. Even though we still have a very strong imprint, I think the effect has faded a bit. In my opinion, the alternative scenes are not yet very present in this city, which is still quite techno. Fortunately, some new collectives are getting motivated, and a few small underground venues offer some really interesting things, like Grrrnd Zero.

You also have your own collective “Unit Soeurs” in Lyon. What’s the story behind it? How and when did you start it, who is a part of it?

I created Unit Soeurs in 2021 with the artists Jade and Magda after realizing that female artists and DJs were seriously under-represented on the Lyon scene. We thought we had to build something to counter this, and Unit Soeurs was born. Unit Soeurs aims to put the spotlight on female DJs on the Lyon scene and to raise awareness among cultural professionals and the general public. And it worked because Lyon’s line-ups have changed a lot since then. The project is rooted in the local environment, with various formats, including radio residencies (Radio Beguin), events open to the public, and meetings between female artists to encourage mutual support and sisterhood.

Our first event was a 10-hour mix marathon where nearly 30 local DJs took turns behind the decks. This event made it possible to concretely materialize the female presence of Lyon on stage to raise awareness. We also participated in several talks on the evolution of the scene and their respective actions, contributing to more diversity and representativeness.

Soeur Units in front of Le Sucre
Unit Soeurs in front of Le Sucre

You’re playing at WORMS in two months. How are you preparing for this?

I’m extremely happy to be able to play at this event. The line-up is incredible! I know that STUDIO’s editorial line and the line-up are drum and bass, whereas my vibe is a mix of UK rave, jungle, and DNB. But what I love is this mix of genres and being able to create hybrid sets. Every time, it’s a challenge for me to get the public to appreciate these styles.

What you can expect from me is a thrill ride at 160 to 170 bpm. What pleases me the most is when people come up to me at the end to tell me that they couldn’t even go to the toilet or order a beer for two hours because I maintained the tension and energy throughout my set. It requires a lot of endurance since I feel like I’ve done a workout, haha! I really want people to have great memories of my set.

I attract an audience of connoisseurs who love bass music and who are happy to hear jungle or drum. Then secondly, I managed to attract a less knowledgeable audience by creating hybrids between club music and bass music without moving away from what I love. The goal is to make people dance to styles that they are not always used to hearing.

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WORMS #1 at Le Chinois

Any other plans you can tell us about?

The biggest project I’m currently working on that I can tell you about is our very first EP with my friend Shute. We released the track ‘Pinky Promise’ back in September 2023 on Attraction Corp, which was really well received. It inspired us to continue working together, and we hope to release the follow-up soon.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who follows and supports me!

Interview conducted in March 2024 by Annelies Rom.

Thanks to Sarah for the great chat. You can catch her playing in Paris at the next WORMS. Tickets are still available here.

Don’t forget to follow Saku Sahara on socials to find out more about her upcoming work.

Saku Sahara