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Tokimonsta has been through hell and back. The musician/DJ fell on hard times when she experienced and fought Moyamoya in 2015, a rare disease that restricts blood vessels that supply blood to the brain and places the patient at a risk for stroke. The artist and musician had her musical abilities put to the test. “Music sounded like noise or a harsh metallic sound” she told Pitchfork in a 2017 interview. Her last project Lune Rouge was an output of her struggles with the disease among other things that happened in 2015.

Alas, she recovered, and not only did she rebound quickly, she was able to play SXSW in March of 2016 and Coachella in April in front of 15,000 people following brain surgery in January.

I talked to Jennifer Lee, aka Tokimonsta, about her evolution as an artist, her resilience that captivates her audience, and her future project, which she was mum about.

You keep on evolving as an artist and your latest, “Love That Never” exemplifies that. How does each project you do add to that evolution?

I always incorporate new skills and techniques in all my projects, but above all, these new projects help me grow as an artist. Since I’m constantly challenging myself, I get to push the boundaries of my creativity to reach new heights.

You bounced back with resilience after fighting Moyamoya, which is inspiring to say the least. Was it an everyday recovery for you? How did you know that you still wanted to create music?

It was a gradual recovery, but eventually, I made a full recovery without having to relearn anything or do extensive therapy. Eventually, my injuries healed and my mental facilities returned. There was never a moment where I wanted to stop creating music, there was just a moment where I wasn’t sure if my injuries would allow me to do so. 

Why do you think it’s so difficult for female DJs to be taken seriously in such a male dominated market?

I think sexism exists in all genres of music. The issue with being a “DJ” is that it doesn’t imply you also “produce” music. People think they see a pretty face just pressing play. That’s why I always refer to myself a producer, composer, or musician before mentioning the word “DJ.”

 Lune Rouge was nominated for a Grammy. How important are awards to you?

Not that important to be honest—It’s just a cherry on top. Regardless, it is a great feeling to know your peers respect and appreciate your work.

 Your music is experimental and necessarily does not fall into EDM. Agree/disagree?

It’s too experimental for some people and then too conventional/ pop for other people.  I just make the music I make and do my best to stay out of categories.

 You are based in Los Angeles right now. Are there any plans on visiting/touring NYC in the near future and can you give us a glimpse into the new project? It’s ready to be released next year?

I love NYC. I can’t say exactly when I’ll be there next, but soon and probably a few times.  I don’t want to say too much about what’s in store, but I’ve never been more excited to share a project.



story / Robert Frezza

photos / Bethany Vargas

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