IT can be easy to get overwhelmed by the level of debate that takes place daily around the subject of identity. Whether it’s the questioning of a person’s beliefs and their humanity or the denial of their existence altogether, these conversations serve to divide and alienate. For some, however, the surrounding discourse and noise can prove to be immaterial to their own exploration of identity.

“I’ve always made work on identity and I think I will always make work on identity,” TAAHLIAH says, as we catch up in Glasgow’s Stereo to speak about her music and what has been a whirlwind ­couple of years.

In the past year alone, her introspective and ­hyper club-ready brand of dance music has cemented her as a forward-thinking and innovative voice in the ­electronic music landscape. Last year, her debut EP Angelica won Best Independent EP/Mixtape at the AIM Awards, making her the first Black trans ­artist to win the award, while elsewhere she was ­announced as the BBC Introducing Dance Artist of the Year.

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Having emerged rapidly from the underground club scenes of cities like Glasgow and Berlin, the Scottish DJ and producer has proven that she ­operates on another sphere, her successes and achievements ­continually bypassing and shattering the ­assumptions of those that dare to doubt her.

“I don’t necessarily feel a pressure to talk about these things, as much as I feel a pressure to just do ­better than before,” she explains. “Visual ­representation for trans identity within the ­media is very few and far between, and I think at the ­beginning, I ­really struggled with the idea of, ‘what the fuck am I ­doing?’ purely because I’d seen no one like me doing ­something like this before.”

TAAHLIAH admits that her self-belief wavered in the beginning, with thoughts that she just wasn’t good enough or that she didn’t belong, taking up prime position. But as the accolades began to pile up and the rave reviews came more frequently, it ­solidified in her head that she had something of worth. ­Nevertheless, as she notes, it’s not about her personally winning these awards.

“What really is the most amazing thing is that ­someone like me has won the award, that ­someone like me could log on to Instagram, or open up a ­newspaper and see themselves in someone else’s achievement. And knowing that it exists makes you more comfortable to try and pursue it yourself. I’m not actually that exciting, but what I’m more ­excited about is perhaps what my career could offer someone else.”

As a teenager in Kilmarnock, there weren’t many opportunities to explore elements of identity and there weren’t many like minded people to look up to in her immediate community. Instead, she found ­solace in her own creativity and in virtual ­communities found on places like Tumblr.

“I had a really, really lovely upbringing,” ­TAAHLIAH begins, “but I think outwith the home and within most social settings, I struggled quite a lot. Through that struggle, I leaned on art a lot and on creating art as a way of coping with things and through Tumblr, I very much found a lot of my ­identity. I think that I was surrounded by people with reductive ideas on life and they were not ­ideas that I held within my soul. And so being online ­allowed me to explore them more because I felt like I wasn’t able to talk to anyone about things, especially to do with gender and sexuality.”

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It wasn’t until she left school and left Kilmarnock that she truly started to find her own voice, but TAAHLIAH credits the medium of painting for helping her to gain some clarity while at school.

“I was looking back recently and my paintings adopted a very feminine ­quality, and I think that was my way of dealing with the battle that was going on within my brain.”

She eventually moved to Glasgow to study at the Glasgow School of Art, which she believed was the best place for her at that time. It was close enough to family, but also small enough for there to be a real integrated community that she could be a part of. It was here that TAAHLIAH started DJing and then making her own music, quickly becoming a well- respected and notable name on the club circuit.

“I think I just wanted to try something new to be quite honest,” TAAHLIAH says when asked about the jump from DJing to production. “Having made real concrete art that I called art since I was 12, I just couldn’t see myself ­continuing this DJ ­career and not really have ­anything that I’d made myself. DJing is a way of ­expelling a kind of energy that is within me.

“But I was really just wanting to ­create something for myself. And ­because I’d used painting to deal with my transness to some degree as soon as I started ­transitioning I felt I didn’t know what to paint anymore. But I was ­interested in sound and the people that I’d been ­listening to and what I was also ­experiencing in the clubs.”

As a DJ, TAAHLIAH is an expert in conducting the energy in a room, her high-impact selections and mixes ­whipping crowds into a frenzy. But her own ­compositions are as ferocious as they are full of heart – cathartic in their intensity but also fun, exhilarating and radiant.

“I think DJing provides this very kind of accelerated, lustful experience of ­making a room move and that feels like a very ego-driven idea. Whereas with ­making music, it’s more about feeding my soul. And then to perform that music is just so much more interesting to me than it is playing someone else’s music in a club.

“There is something so magical about writing a song and hearing people sing it back to you. It’s a very otherworldly ­experience.”

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TAAHLIAH was signed to London ­label untitled (recs) with Brave, the first song she had ever made, which resulted in the creation and eventual release of Angelica in 2021. The song, and the ­wider EP, are celebratory and anthemic, but there are elements of darkness and ­feelings of claustrophobia scattered throughout too, as in Never Lose or the gritty FMH.

“The record itself was really an ­experimentation of pushing my boundaries as someone who had just begun producing music and had no formal or technical background in making music,” she explains. “And I think also, personally, I was going through a lot.

“I guess that record is a reflection of that purely because of how all over the place it is. It’s cohesive to a degree, but every single song is a different genre of ­music, which was very deliberate, ­because I wanted to showcase what I was capable of doing.”

TAAHLIAH describes Angelica as her “transitional record”, even though it’s the first piece of music she’s released.

“I think it really signifies a change,” she adds, “not only in my career, but also ­personally as well. I feel like it’s a really ­solid first showcase of everything.”

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Aside from winning awards and ­being in demand at venues and festivals all around the world, TAAHLIAH has also added a number of significant collaborations to her portfolio since the release of Angelica. Last year, she unveiled Taste My Body with rapper James Indigo; ­Bodies with Berlin-based Luca Eck; Fall Into Place with frequent collaborator Tsatsamis; and Fuck It! with Loraine James. But another mammoth project, which finally took shape in February this year, was the production of her first live show, The Ultimate Angels.

“Ultimate Angels was an idea that I had back when I was in art school,” ­TAAHLIAH says, reminiscing about the origins of what would come to be known as a momentous event. She was in ­Brighton visiting family when she came across a shop in the Lanes that had a book called The Ultimate ­Angels by ­photographer ­Byron Newman, which was a visual ­recording of ­Parisian ­nightlife and the trans people that inhabited it. Inspired by the motif of angels, she was drawn towards her own interpretation of the book’s themes and how this ­coalesced with her art.

“During lockdown, I was having a real kind of epiphany on not only myself, but also my friends and how trans people ­really do just offer something so new to the world. So originally, The Ultimate ­Angels was meant to be a performance at art school that I was going to do if Covid hadn’t happened. It would have followed the same format – there would have been a white plinth in the gallery space, and I would have been making sounds and the audience would be sitting and watching.”

Unavoidably, Covid did prevent the ­performance from taking place but TAAHLIAH acknowledges that she wanted to do the show when she had the resources to make it the best it could ­possibly be. And it ultimately was, as anyone that was present on that night at SWG3 will attest to.

“It took me a few days to actually ­decompress and understand what had just happened. But from what people said, it felt like a culturally significant event in Glasgow.”

Aside from The Ultimate Angels, TAAHLIAH had another major event in February – her performance at the Southbank Centre with the London Contemporary Orchestra.

Of how that unexpected ­collaboration came to be, she notes, “It was an idea that I had sat on for a while and I spoke to my manager about it. I’d already been ­investigating synthesised orchestras and I’d made several orchestral pieces with Ableton, just using software synths. So there was already a real kind of ­intrigue to the orchestral sound.”

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From the Southbank Centre to SWG3, and all the various collaborations before and after, TAAHLIAH has masterfully emphasised her versatility and strong sense of vision, while also positioning herself as a wholly singular artist. But does she now feel welcome in the wider electronic music scene?

“I think so,” she replies, taking a ­moment to ponder her answer. “But I know that my music would be a lot more popular if I wasn’t Black and trans. I know that for sure. So yes, there’s an ­element of welcoming in because ­ultimately they couldn’t not welcome me in. I’m making music and it’s popular so they don’t necessarily have a choice. But I think perhaps navigating electronic music circles is what I’ve found difficulty with. I think that there are a lot of people that just don’t take me seriously at all.”

It's hard to imagine people underestimating TAAHLIAH, considering how much she has achieved in a few short years. But she remains booked and busy, and agrees that it’s not worth her energy thinking about those that overlook her.

In fact, right now, her energy is firmly focussed on two things: her next album and her upcoming tour of Australia.

“I’m writing my album at the moment,” she says of the follow-up to Angelica. “But trying to find the time is difficult. I was thinking about this today; I feel like the way that my seasonal affective disorder affects my music is interesting, because during winter, I just make a lot of sad music. And then as things become sunnier and brighter, I start to make more exciting dance music.

“So with the sun coming out, with spring coming up, I’ve been making a lot more punchy stuff.”

In addition to her music, she also has her pop culture podcast The Dolls ­Discuss on the side, which she hosts with friend Lourdes.

“Basically, the initial idea came about because me and Lourdes love to party. Whenever we would be out and then go to the after party, we would just start ­gabbing to each other about anything and everything and it would make people laugh.”

It’s a lighthearted podcast that makes you feel like you’re hanging out with pals, gossiping and chatting away about the ­goings on within the cultural zeitgeist. But it’s also another example of the many areas that TAAHLIAH is able to turn her hand to, if given the chance.

She mentions that she’d love to write a book one day, adding: “For the past year and a half, I’ve been writing down my thoughts and what I’ve been experiencing. I think it would be really nice to get it all in something and publish it.”

TAAHLIAH speaks with a quiet ­confidence but is also extremely humble when discussing her achievements and plans. She understands acutely what her success could mean and has meant for others in the trans community but she doesn’t claim to speak for anyone; rather she hopes that others might feel inspired to similarly carve out a space for themselves.

“I can count on one hand the number of internationally successful or renowned Black trans DJs or artists that I’m aware of,” she says as we come to the topic of ambitions and future goals.

“I think that’s what’s really special about it; it’s not about me as a person, it’s about what the image of me could potentially provide to someone in the audience.

“Half of [Angelica] is about coming to terms with being trans, and coming to terms with being a person in general,” she continues. “Whereas my next record is about the experiences of that person rather than becoming the person. In the end, I just make work about what

I’m ­going through at that moment in time, and if people can resonate with it, that’s fantastic.”