The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Clarisa Kimskii shook up her whole life; now she goes with the flow

The DJ-producer is playing the first anniversary party for Noxeema Jackson, an event series that celebrates queer and trans people of color

DJ-producer Clarisa Kimskii. (Ayo Dawkins)

After living in Berlin for three years, D.C.-born DJ-producer Clarisa Kimskii received a letter from the German government that her visa was up and it was time to leave the country. Instead of relocating elsewhere in Europe and fighting the decision, she decided to come back to the Washington area, where she still had family. But what would she be returning to, after not having lived in the DMV since high school?

For one thing, Kimskii received the letter on the night of Donald Trump’s election in 2016. At first, she was excited: Perhaps Trump’s elevation would supercharge art and music with the spirit of protest and honest expression — a common silver-lining view at the time.

Returning to the D.C. nightlife scene, the energy was different, at first. “It wasn’t just partying [to] escape our problems or whatever. It became almost like a protest,” she recalls. “It definitely felt that us getting together and gathering with music was a form of resistance.”

While fatigue and frustration with the Trump administration would eventually set in, Kimskii found D.C.’s tightknit dance community to be nurturing and supportive. And after years of being dominated by house music and drum and bass, the city’s underground was finally embracing techno, her preferred flavor of electronic dance music.

As with everything, nightlife was sidelined and then permanently altered by the pandemic, with spaces lost and bad actors exposed. For Kimskii, the early pandemic period proved even more disruptive: Kimskii realized she was trans less than a week after her mother died.

Among the many adjustments to her life, the realization also changed her artistry. Previously, she would self-edit: Don’t play these tracks, don’t play the same artists. Behind the decks, she would be too far in her own head.

“Now, all that’s gone,” Kimskii says. “I go with my instincts, and I found that I get way into the flow. I don’t take things as seriously. If the sound is not working or this goes wrong, I feel like I smile and breathe through it way easier now.”

Coming out as trans has also given Kimskii an appreciation for queer spaces in a way that’s different from when she identified as a bisexual man. Playing the first anniversary party for Noxeema Jackson — a D.C. event series centered on people who identify as queer, trans, Black, Indigenous and people of color (QTBIPOC) — allows Kimskii, who is half Korean, to celebrate her entire identity.

“I read something recently from Derrick Carter, who said that he’s always thought of himself as more evolutionary than revolutionary,” Kimskii said of the Chicago house music legend. “That really struck a chord with me, because I’ve operated the same way.”

Aug. 13 at 10:30 p.m. at DC9, 1940 Ninth St. NW. dc9.club. $12-$15.

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