#BehindTheNoise: We shine a spotlight on Kay Faith, DJ, producer, educator, and sound engineer outchea doing the most

In my experience, there are far fewer women in sound engineering than men. The same can be said for DJs, across all genres.

Karien ‘Kay Faith’ Barnard slays both roles, making her the obvious choice to profile for Part 3 of #BehindTheNoise, our campaign for #WomensMonth.

Karien was born and raised in Knysna, a small town in the Western Cape province. She moved to an even smaller town, Oudtshoorn – the ostrich capital of the world – to complete her schooling. After matriculating, the plan was to move to Cape Town, but music had nothing to do with this move.

After being accepted to study Art History at Michaellis she turned it down and instead applied to Cape Audio College, encouraged by her step-mother who saw her love, nay, obsession with music.Fast-forward a few years and today her working life is divided into two: Karien Barnard works at Cape Audio College as a guest lecturer, hosting workshops, offering training and running their hip hop society, and Kay Faith is the producer, sound engineer and artist.

She explains how, as an engineer, you sometimes forget to enjoy the music, “You get caught up in the technical side of things too much. But when you walk onto stage and you’re playing music for people and they’re enjoying themselves and applaud you after your set, you remember that you’re also doing this really fun thing. That’s why I do the DJ thing at all.”

This thing that she’s been doing “for fun” has really taken off. Her set at Rocking the Daisies (2018) was her biggest performance to date, “I think my crowd was just over 10 000 people, ‘cause I got placed in a slot when no one else was performing for like 20 minutes. My crowd went from a decent vibe to this giant body of humans,” she laughs in disbelief.

She’s done house, EDM and dubstep, but hip hop’s the sound she’s made the biggest strides in. “I released my first EP, In Good Faith, and it did really, really well, like beyond what I expected. I got a lotta love from a lotta people. Apple Music made me their spotlight artist in January 2018 – I was the first SA female producer to ever get that title. It was the first time I thought, yeah, this could actually be my life.”

We talk about the beauty of collabing with other musicians. “I’ve been working with this local band, I don’t know if you know Diamond Thug? [LOL! Do I know Diamond Thug?] I did three remixes of tracks from their Apastron album. We’re releasing it as remix project at some point,” she explains and I hate the fact that I can’t quite get a date out of her.

While she’s worked with a few big names, some of her favourite collabs involve the unknowns on the scene, “I’ve also been working with a lot of Cape Town artists, kids who don’t have a name or a following just yet, but they’re super talented. And then it’s nice to be like ‘Yip, these are my homies’.”

I wonder about her experience as a white girl producing hip hop, “I’ve kind of used it as my secret weapon ‘cause like firstly, someone who looks like me, you don’t really associate that with the genre of hip hop. And then it’s an opportunity for me to impress them and change their minds.”

Internationally, Missy Elliott is one of her biggest inspirations, “The first time I heard one of her songs I was like ‘What? Girls can rap, too?’. And just the way that she’s unapologetically herself has encouraged me to just do what I do and not care when people don’t get me. Locally, her list of inspirational industry women include some real grafters.

“My booking agent, Angela Weickl, is someone I’ve been looking up to for the longest time just because she’s been such a badass lady in the music industry. Tourmaline Berg is equally badass. The way she does her shit and gets it done… how do I say this? She just handles her business so well and she doesn’t play games.” “I also look up to Taryn Morris [who runs Nomandla music] because she’s the person I’d call if I feel stressed out about anything music-related and we’ll just chat forever. A big part of my success so far is my support structure, and these are my music industry ladies. I feel like, being a woman in the music industry, there’s this ‘I got your back’ feeling between us.”

We’re just over halfway through our campaign and I’m seeing a pattern: all of the ladies we’ve included know (or know about) each other. They work together, they support each other, and they respect each other. And it’s a beautiful, powerful thing. 

Check out Part 1 of #BehindTheNoise with Zethu Gqola.

Check out Part 2 of #BehindTheNoise with Christelle Duvenage.