Sedef Adasi: An Artist That Moves People

Berghain’s resident talks club culture

Words By Alice Connolly O’Brien
Photos By Mario Heller

Most artists are fulfilled with being a master of one trade, but Sedef Adasi isn’t like most artists. With the title of Berghain’s resident etched into her resume, a promising career as a party creator under her belt, and an acidic EP out in the ether, Adasi is anything but basic. Bolstered by defiance against being defined, Sedef is a strategic, principled, and singular woman on a mission.

From Glastonbury to Boiler Room, her sets have already soundtracked some of the most famed stages in the business and are each firmly rooted in an earnest desire to prove her prowess. If you’re not familiar with her yet brace yourself, Adasi is ready and determined to seduce your hips into a sultry rhythm faster than you can whisper Panorama.

We caught up with Sedef to talk Berghain, the value of queer-centric clubs, and the importance of being an artist that moves people.

Despite being a loud and proud resident of Southern Germany, we spoke with Bavarian-based DJ Sedef Adasi from a hotel room in Rome instead of her local Ausburg. With crisp light flooding through her windows, Adasi appeared entirely serene on camera. Her fresh face, gentle smile, and brunette bob making her appear entirely approachable, despite her undeniable succession as the new hot ticket on the Berlin – London axis.

Techno has always been a part of the music that I love. I just don’t want to restrict myself to only one genre. I want to explore. I want to dance. I want to have fun in my way.

Sedef Adasi is one of  Berghain’s latest resident DJs. This comes a year after the release of her own EP Fantasy Zone and at the eclipse of a Summer filled with top-tier appearances. With showcases such as Glastonbury, Boiler Room, and more in her arsenal, Sedef is without a doubt enjoying the kind of success that DJs dream of, however, when speaking to the new heiress of Panorama, you would never guess this. 

Completely cool and endearingly polite, Sedef begins our conversation by inquiring about the Berlin weather. As she does so, she casually whips a dollop of moisturizer from a tub to her face and listens politely, agreeing that the German capital can be temperamental. When questioned about her appearance in Rome later that evening, she says that though earned, her recent success still feels dumbfounding. “Sometimes I wake up and I have no idea where I am. Last week I was in Brussels. I asked a man for a lighter to smoke my cigarette and he recognized me. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, someone in Brussels knowing me like that? Just crazy.”

Though earnest, Sedef’s veil of nonchalance and humility is just that, superficial, and rightly so. The truth is that hers is a career with roots weaving back to her early teens. The now recognizable DJ dipped her toes into her craft by creating mixtapes for her family’s road trips and honed her skillset behind the makeshift decks of local malls, children’s shoe stores, and weddings. So, what could the dancefloor patrons expect from a Sedef set back then? “Hmm… Well, I have three older sisters and at the time they were listening to the likes of Lauren Hill, Madonna, and Sisco so there was probably a lot of RnB, but I never really stuck to one genre. I’ve always played everything.”

This egalitarianism is something that Sedef has carried with her to this day and in some respects, is what sets her apart from other residents at her new home in Berghain. Equal parts entrancing and flammable, a typical Sedef set can feature anything from disco and techno bangers to tracks from her own EP. She prides herself on never having preplanned a singular mix and when asked politely enough, will regale stories of times she laid tracks on USBs outside clubs so she could play them inside. Like mother like daughter, her sets refuse to be categorized with the same vigor and defiance as she does herself. “I’m not just a techno DJ. Don’t get me wrong, I like techno. I remember sneaking into the living room as a kid and watching Daisy Dee and Club Rotation and being obsessed. Everyone was dancing and sexy and there I was, so on edge, because I didn’t want my Mom to come inside and see me watching all these naked people. Techno has always been a part of the music that I love. I just don’t want to restrict myself to only one genre. I want to explore. I want to dance. I want to have fun in my way.”

Nowhere is Adasi’s insistence on forging her own path more notable than in her decision to sit tight with her Ausburg postcode. As her star becomes more prominent, the pleas for her to relocate to brighter lights have grown symbiotically, however, her nonchalance in batting them away hasn’t wavered. “I don’t feel pressure to move (to Berlin). It’s my decision. I’m happy in my hometown. It took me so long to build my career into what it is now and my friends and family in my hometown understand that. They’re really proud of me.” 

And proud of her they should be. In an almost Robin Hood kind of pursuit, Sedef has taken from the richness of her appearances, absorbed their big city ways, and repurposed them into an original party of her own based exclusively in her hometown. HAMAM Nights is both a lovechild of Sedef and a love letter to her Turkish roots. A diligent host, Sedef has been known to gift guest DJs such as FJAAK and DJ Stingray a fresh rose and hand out Koloyna, a citrus-scented perfume, to guests when things get too heated. Inspired by her adoration of “good, sexy, sweaty, crazy” Berlin parties such as Cocktail D’Amore, HAMAM Nights was born from Sedef’s desire to exercise total creative control. “I wanted to create something special. I wanted to develop a space where my community and I felt safe. As a DJ, I am all too aware that this inclusivity isn’t present at every party and so it’s something that I concentrated on safeguarding when creating my own.”

The toxicity Sedef is referring to where those in power benefit from the attendance, creativity, and culture cultivated by queer individuals is sadly a tale as old as time. We see it in the appropriation of black and brown communities. We hear it when samples are not credited in mainstream music. We spot it when an independent designer’s original idea pops up with a major brand at fashion week. It’s a trope that’s as damaging as it is popular and one that Sedef was hellbent on steering clear of with HAMAM nights. “When I first started I used to play a lot of opening slots in male dominated-spaces for no money. I noticed that I would bring my community to support me in these male-dominated spaces, and afterward, the promoters would benefit from them being there to support me. They profited from their energy and in return, my community got nothing. These people weren’t hosting parties intending to bring people together. They were hosting parties to simply host a party and earn money. That isn’t what I wanted to do.”

I was never going to just stand behind a DJ booth and call that me hosting a party. I wanted HAMAM Nights to move people emotionally, socially, energetically. Everything. All of it. I want to be an artist that moves people.” 

When Sedef speaks about HAMAM nights or any of her projects, her passion is tangible. She somehow strikes a balance between being unabashedly genuine and entirely magnetic, contributing each opinion in a veil of earnestness so that you feel completely shaken, stirred, and ready to sign your soul to whatever she’s selling. “I think all artists have a responsibility to move people. I don’t just mean move people with music or whatever, I mean we should cause a shift with messaging and in communities. I was never going to just stand behind a DJ booth and call that me hosting a party. I wanted HAMAM Nights to move people emotionally, socially, energetically. Everything. All of it. I want to be an artist that moves people.” 

Today Sedef moves with an air of confidence that is palpable, however, nurturing a backbone of such durability was not always easy. Like many femme artists in the space, Sedef experienced stifling belittlement and vexatious sexism when she first stepped behind the decks, the majority of which stemmed from her male counterparts. “People would laugh at me. I remember men peering over my desks to look at my hands to check how I was playing and if I was playing. It made me so uncomfortable. If a male DJ enters the room nobody gives a fuck but if it’s anyone else, a female, non-binary, trans, or marginalized DJ there is 3000 times more pressure. Everyone is on alert. Everyone is listening. Everyone expects you to prove to them that you can do your job. After a while, I decided to take this negative energy and let it fuel me. It inspired me to show everyone that I can’t just do what a man DJ can do, I can do exactly what they can do and I wanted to do it better.” 

The tale of a woman carefully constructing a tough skin as a result of male-inflicted prejudice is one that female professionals everywhere know like the back of their hands. You enter a space with boundless enthusiasm. Your male counterparts look at you, chew up your skillset, and spit it out to be less than. You’re left to prove yourself to be more than just a cute girl who tries her best. What’s worse than this daily underestimation is that when a woman evolves out of those toxic spaces, the resilience that she has built is often attributed to the existence of these cycles and not her own determination. Sadly, this toxicity can also render an individual so bound to prove themselves that they feel too on edge to let down their guard, be vulnerable, and enjoy their success. This battle is one that Sedef knows all too well. “In the beginning, I was afraid to have fun when I was performing. I was scared that people wouldn’t take me seriously. I would dress in masculine clothing so that people wouldn’t comment on my body. I would never dance. I just wanted people to have permission to talk about my talent, nothing else. However, after a while, I realized that this reluctance prevented me from expressing myself and following my intuition so I let go. I started wearing makeup, dancing, and dressing in my own way. When I did I felt more at ease like I wasn’t putting up a front with the crowd, instead, I was right there with them. It was liberating.”

Berghain is such a special place and I take the responsibility of soundtracking that space seriously.

Of course, Sedef’s reign succeeds a monarch of fantastic femme DJs and arrives alongside even more. With non-binary and femme voices like Hyperaktivist, Honey Dijon, and Gabrielle Kwarteng having warmed up the booth, a new era of renegade DJs such as Sedef, Yazzus, Bashakka, and fka.m4a have begun to walk the plank and redefine what it means to create sound. Though overdue, this renaissance is starkly evident in events, line-ups, and residencies across the city, a harbinger of which is Adasi’s recent residency at Berghain.

When asked to spill the tea on her first time inside the big house, Sedef blushes. The first time I went to Berghain was actually the first time I played in Panorama.” This sentence is quite literally something maybe a handful of people can say. It’s also something that if said by anyone else would trigger a visceral eye-roll from anyone within a ten-meter radius, however, when delivered by Sedef it doesn’t summon the same stir. Instead, the admission whisks you into Sedef’s fantasy zone where you nod in response and feel like you get it. You’re aboard her elite bandwagon where you relate to and feel slightly embarrassed by never queuing for Berghain and where being one of the youngest invitees to one of the biggest clubs in the world is some sort of inner circle quirk and not the result of years of backend graft. “When I got this request I literally died. I didn’t sleep for two weeks. I was so nervous. I remember going in there and not even knowing where the toilets were.” 

Though often overhyped, being invited to be a resident at Berghain is a very big deal and it was an accolade that Sedef did not accept lightly. “The night I was asked to be a resident was magic. I remember being in Panorama and feeling like the world was disappearing. I couldn’t believe it. Berghain is such a special place and I take the responsibility of soundtracking that space seriously. Each time I perform there I am always speechless.” This feeling is one many attach to the former power-plant-turned-night club. It is a space proclaimed by many to be the best club in the world and defined by more as one of the most tricky dance halls to gain entry to. Its walls are home to some of the most trendy, sexy, and devilish characters in the scene but in recent years, have gone from homing an underground punk turned kinky Mecca to gatekeeping a badge that is en vogue. Though surely beneficial, this popularisation has irked many who look to it as a space where they are free to safely express themselves without unwelcome stares or fetishization. 

When Berghain relocated to its current space in 2003, its walls were purposefully tampered with so there were no dead ends. Those in power wanted the layout to mirror the open-minded, boundless nature cultivated in the club. This limitless quality is to many what makes the club special and in part what makes genre, field, and stereotype-defying Sedef its perfect match. “Organizers at venues like Berghain have control over who enters their space and how they choose to exercise that power is important. It’s essential that the right people – individuals who need Berghain and its freedoms – have access to its dance floors. We as organizers and artists have to protect that freedom because those people are the people who inspire our art, feed our energy, and keep us creating.”

Speaking to Sedef at this very moment in time feels critical. It holds similar energy to the moment right after you light a firework but before said firework takes off. The air is filled with a dense silent tension but also a giddy excitement. She is at a pivotal moment in her career and everyone can feel it. 

A keen astrology fan, we wrap up our conversation with a discussion about her Saturn Return, a cosmic transit that occurs as people leave their twenties. For most, this return is a real coming-of-age moment, one where you take stock of where you’ve been, where you are, and where you want to go. It is often a pivotal crossroads and seems to represent current Adasi’s positioning. With this in mind, I ask her the if she is happy with where she’s been and where she currently is, “I really am,” she replies, “I am proud of where I am from and I feel strongly that I got where I am now through working hard, being honest, and hard work.” When posed with the question of where she wants to go, Sedef immediately interjects, “I mean, I want to keep growing. I want to keep playing around the world and recording and building HAMAM Nights into something even bigger and unique,” but then she stops herself, sits back, and takes a moment’s pause. “I suppose, I also want to inspire people,” she says, “I’d like to be a role model for curious people who were like me, people with big ambitions who want to break a mould but don’t know how. I’d like it if I could show them that they can do it because I can do it because I’m doing it, you know? I’d really like that. That would be cool.”

You can keep up to date with all Sedef’s business via her Instagram.