DJ and producer Charisse C and interdisciplinary artist and vocalist Koek Sista. Based in London but hailing from South Africa and Zimbabwe respectively, they produce music fusing Amapiano, Gqom and African dance music.
What five words define your sound?
BASS, GRAVITATIONAL, ETHEREAL, GENRE-BENDING, INDULGENT
Tell me something unique about your creative process.
The entirety of our coming together and in turn our creative process has been quite serendipitous; a series of divine and spontaneous events channeled into an intentional purpose.
Which song of yours would you like people to hear first?
Maybe it’s not about what song first but rather what song we want heard the most. For us, that song is ‘The Portal’. There’s a real magic in that song.
What inspired you to make that song?
One of the stand-out moments during the making of this EP was how the song ‘The Portal’ was made. We had been at the recording process for a couple of days at that point and when we asked Omagoqa what other beats they had, they played this really wild instrumental that had us all taken aback. Koek Sista had just finished the last bits of our single ‘I Said What I Said’ and had quite a few drinks at that point, but she picked up her mic and vocal effects unit and started playing around with this really epic melody chopped with the most unusual helicopter effect. Charisse C immediately decided that was gonna be the entirety of the song. No lyrics, no structure, just letting the cacophony of it all breathe. ZVRI and the Omagoqa boys then sat with the music and added some additional production elements that really brought the song together. In some ways, the fatigue mixed with a lot of tiny organic inputs was the inspiration. It’s one of those songs that you really had to be there to understand it. Pure alchemy!
What’s the most vulnerable you’ve allowed yourself to be when writing/making music?
Charisse C: For me it was allowing my voice to be heard out loud in front of others in the studio and then actually recording it. My first childhood dream was to be a singer; that dream has evolved many times and at some point I really shied away from my voice. Rediscovering it has been a vulnerable process.
Koek Sista: This is surprisingly tough to answer for me, most of my process relies on my ability to be super vulnerable because I’m a song-writer and the material is almost always what I call “heartbreak on the dance floor.” I will say though that for me, studio recording is always tough as a live performer. I also tend to create in isolation so the process of making the music for this EP was very new and challenging to accommodate a collective process and allow other voices and criticisms to breathe. I mean, [laughs] I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my shit!
What’s the best/worst experience you’ve had on stage?
BEST: The Boiler Room set in 2021 was the best because it was the genesis of it all. There was something so special about the timing of it as well, having just come out of lockdown restrictions, opening up into a summer when African music is at the forefront of nightlife! Also we didn’t know it at the time, but the energy was stellar because of the people that were in that room from friends and family to peers and idols and an unexpectedly heavy presence of London’s finest Black creatives. Shoutout to Elheist for hosting one hell of a night!
WORST: Technical difficulties are always the worst for us; technology can really let you down and for us both, every performance counts.
What is your favourite song to perform?
This really depends on the set we’re playing. When we first started performing, we were essentially making live remixes and renditions of songs that were already out. Some our favourite “bootlegs” include our renditions of DBN GOGO and Unlimited Soul’s ‘Breakthrough’ , Mansur Brown’s ‘Mashita’ and Bekzin Terris’ ‘The Calling’. Now that we’re making original music, ‘Khulula’ is an instant favourite. Koek Sista also loves to start some of our more artful sets with her song ‘Pulsate Higher’, produced by Rendition.
Which artist/song/album made you want to make music?
An artist who has inspired us both very heavily is Kelela.
What’s the meaning behind your name?
The Ascension as a name means exactly what it implies – going higher. Before we even knew what to call our performance-style, we performed one of our pivotal sets at the SouthBank Centre. During the set Koek Sista yelled “Welcome to the ascension” during the moment of the performance that felt like we were moving in unison with our audience in a steady upwards motion. The name calls upon the power of music and bass to transform and move collective energy. That’s what The Ascension is about: taking collective energy and pushing it forward, outward and higher with music.
If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing instead?
Koek Sista: Well I have been doing quite a lot alongside the music – I’ve always been a shapeshifter. I’d most likely be a superstar baker or a hot academic/professor.
Charisse C: One of the many creative mediums I’ve explored and continue to over the years. Writing, Creative Direction, curating events, making and designing clothes, graphic design, photography, fine art. Whatever calls my spirit really.
What’s success to you?
Success to The Ascension is seeing this vision come to life and connect with like minded people in the diaspora and beyond… Financial stability; being able to create from a place of comfort as opposed to pushing from a place of struggle. Seeing the ethos of The Ascension manifest in our own lives.
What moment in your life/career forced you to change direction?
For The Ascension as a partnership, that moment hasn’t come yet, we’ve been consistently at this mission of releasing our music and creative vision into the world over the last three years. However, one thing we’ve both been clear on from the beginning, is that The Ascension is an ever-evolving project between two people who have their own personal goals as artists and so naturally, directions will change over time.
Where can people keep in touch with you?
Find our music across all DSPs under the “The Ascension”
Follow us on our socials!