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The making of a ’Monsta: The musical roots of headliner Tokimonsta

for Brooklyn Paper
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She’s going to play the classics!

The headlining artist of the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival’s opening night is known for her electronica and instrumental hip-hop tunes, but her roots are in classical music. Producer, dee-jay, and recording artist Tokimonsta, who will play the House of Yes in Bushwick on Oct. 12, says that she learned from a lot from the classics, though she found its limits constricting.

“When I was playing classical piano, the restrictions and rules didn’t interest me very much,” said Tokimonsta, also known as Jennifer Lee. “What I did love about the classical pieces themselves is how they really told a story.”

Classical music generally avoids repetition, said Lee, and she has embraced that aesthetic in her music — which is unusual among the thumpa-thumpa tunes common in the world of dance and electronic pop.

“I really like when my music is able to take someone on a journey and tell a story, and has peaks and valleys of emotion,” said Lee. “I wouldn’t be making the music I do today if I didn’t have that classical background.”

In her own music — showcased on more than a dozen singles and five full-length albums, including her latest “Lune Rouge” — Lee tries to create balance.

“When I create a song, I don’t start off with just one piece,” Lee says. “Whenever I have too many ideas going on at once, there’s a refining process afterward: ‘Okay. Song sounds a little frantic. I’m gonna need to go and take some aspects away or let that thing breathe and create room.’ ”

Lee says that working within the constantly-innovating electronic genre means that learning never stops.

“When you make electronic music, or when you’re a producer, so much of it is [about] how well you know your tools,” she said. “And even if you know your tools, new ones come out. And then it’s about how well you know those.”

For her opening set at the festival, Lee plans to take listeners on a journey.

“You’ll be able to go to deep places as well as move your feet around,” she said.

Tokimonsta at House of Yes (2 Wyckoff Ave. at Jefferson Street in Bushwick, (646) 838–4937, www.houseofyes.org]. Oct. 12 at 10 pm. $25.

Posted 12:00 am, October 6, 2017
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