The logo for one of Durham’s most diverse dance parties is simple yet subversive: The word “illegal” in a white Courier New font on a black background, with a white censor bar through the word. Laura Friedrich, aka DJ Queen Plz, chose the name and image as a politically charged rebuttal to national and state laws that Friedrich and the patrons at these monthly events at The Pinhook oppose.
“I’m a really political person,” Friedrich says, “so I just started thinking about all of the things that are illegal but, in my opinion, should not be.” In January, the Atlanta native teamed up with Durty Durham Art Collective
and began presenting her Illegal Dance Parties to raise both awareness and funds for causes such as the NC Dream Team, which fights for immigrant rights in North Carolina.
This Saturday at 10 p.m. at The Pinhook, Friedrich’s latest “illegal” event aims to help a young woman capitalize on her dreams as a successful rap artist. The $7 cover charge, along with proceeds from a crowdfunding website
, will help to purchase recording equipment for Senegalese rapper Toussa Senerap, who will be visiting the Triangle next month as part of a cultural exchange program.
Last November, INDY Week reported
that Senegalese immigration officials had denied Toussa a visa for a two-week visit to the U.S., where area hip-hop scholar and ethnomusicologist Ali Colleen Neff had booked Toussa for two weeks of programming and performances with Triangle musicians and universities. Despite the setback, Toussa remained optimistic and continued to head her all-female hip-hop collective, GOTAL Connexion, at home in the Senegalese capital of Dakar.
Frieidrich became interested in Toussa’s situation after hearing field recordings Neff had captured during a visit to Senegal. The two eventually became friends through online correspondence. Limited resources, corruption and gender politics have made it hard for GOTAL to get consistent access to Senegal’s recording studios, and Friedrich wanted to help.
“We talked about getting money together to get equipment [for Toussa],” says Friedrich. “But because Senegal is kind of a rogue state, it’s hard to mail things over there, from my understanding. If you try to mail a computer over there, it’s going to get ‘lost.’ Now we’ll have the capability to put recording equipment directly into her hands.”
Toussa was recently granted a visa, and on Sept. 28 she will make her Durham debut at Motorco as part of a touring music fellowship called OneBeat
. The organization, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, gathers musicians from around the world for a four-week fellowship in which they collaborate on original music, engage in cultural exchanges and perform for audiences across the nation.
Friedrich’s crew plans to buy Toussa a package of recording equipment that will include a Macbook Pro, MIDI controller, Reason production software, USB mic and cords. They’ll present it to her when she arrives in the Triangle. Friedrich says she believes the donation can help change the lives of Toussa and other Senegalese women by giving them a chance to create their own music without having to make compromises.