DJs and friends pay tribute to Kemistry, 20 years on
03 May, 2019 — By The Xtra Diary
Friends gathered this week to remember Kemistry
THEY say with the 1960s, if you were there, you don’t remember it – and Diary imagines many people would feel the same about the late 1980s and early 1990s dance music explosion that shook the West End.
Yet some things are seminal moments in a movement – and for drum ’n’ bass fans, the word Metalheadz brings back all sorts of nostalgia.
We were reminded of just how good the early 1990s London drum ’n’ bass scene was as this week, when ravers paid their respects to one of the clubland DJs who was a key player in making the music boom, 20 years after she was killed in a freak accident that saw a motorway “cat’s eye” light strike the car she was travelling in.
DJs and dancers paid tribute to Kemistry, the DJ who was a key member of the Metalheadz crew, on Thursday, which marked the two-decade anniversary of her death.
Metalheadz set West End club dance floors alight in the early 1990s as performers such as Kemistry, her fellow DJ Storm, and collaborator Goldie, brought drum ’n’ bass to the capital. It was at the night called Rage – at the Heaven nightclub under the arches in Charing Cross – where the Metalheadz concept was born.
DJ Storm recalls Kemistry bringing Goldie to Rage, and how that helped push the idea of a musical collective.
“The night Goldie really ‘got it’, we came back to our flat and he said ‘right, I want to make this music, you’ll be the DJs, we’ll have a label and a club, we’ll make some T-shirts’,” she recalled.
“That was our dream and that dream became the Metalheadz label.
The performer, whose real name was Kemi Olusanya, died aged 35, in the freak accident on the M3 near Winchester. A cat’s eye light was dislodged by a lorry in front and flew threw the windscreen. It is the only such incident involving a cat’s eye recorded on Britain’s roads.
On Sunday some of the genre’s biggest names from the 1990s gathered for a special gig at the Village Underground in Shoreditch.
DJ Storm, who had been Kemistry’s DJ partner, said: “It was so special I was overwhelmed. The vibe was incredible.”
Metalheadz became the go-to club night and switched venues across the city as its popularity grew. At the time of Kemistry’s death, they were sharing a flat in Finsbury Park. Kemi was also known in Camden Town, where she worked for Wayne Hemingway’s clothing outlet Red Or Dead clothes shop and was one of the founders of the Metalheadz club night at Dingwalls in Camden Lock.
DJ Rap, another artist who helped transfer the mushrooming popularity of drum ’n’ bass to a mainstream market in the 1990s, said: “The fact that 20 years has passed and this legend and beautiful soul is still in our hearts is the measure of her beauty, talent and grace.”
And DJ Doc Scott said: “20 years ago we lost our sister. A part of the foundation of Metalheadz, a trailblazer for female DJs, but more importantly a beautiful human being.”
He added: “I feel blessed to have known her for as long as I did and that I could consider her a friend.”