Introducing: Anfisa Letyago
Introducing: Anfisa LetyagoMarch 22, 2021
“My home is like a museum,” Anfisa Letyago says, surrounded by an assortment of gorgeous antiquities. Flanked by two ornate vases shaped like heads, she briefly tells me about the ceramic tradition of Caltagirone, a city in Sicily that has been producing these “Moor Head” vases for hundreds of years.
For DJ/producer Anfisa Letyago, Italy and all the enchantments the country has to offer have been integral in nurturing her musical identity and explosive career. A passionate ambassador for Naples, her home city, the young electronic music phenomenon is eager to tell of all that her city has to offer.
In just three years, Anfisa Letyago has gone from a cherished local DJ in Southern Italy to one of techno’s most talked-about names. A quick glance at her Instagram reveals a staggering following with avid support from dance music titans all over the globe. An intrepid selector with a positive attitude regarding all things art and dance floor related, Anfisa Letyago is poised to take over clubland with her undeniable skills and smile.
While her character is so closely tied to Naples, or “one of the most beautiful places in the world,” as she refers to it, Anfisa originally hails from Siberia. She moved from Russia to Italy when she was 17 to live with her mother and became immediately drawn in by all the food, wine, history, and culture that could be found in her new seaside home.
“It’s a city of art with an infinite and immense musical culture that has produced so many artists who’ve had such impact on the underground scene worldwide,” Anfisa says. “Moving to this city, I was able to find and experience acts like Marco Carola and Gaetano Parisio, along with other visiting DJs from the US like Louie Vega, Frankie Knuckles, Jeff Mills, and beyond. That was my path here in Napoli.”
In 2010, by the time she was 18, Anfisa had saved up enough money from her seasonal jobs to purchase a pair of Pioneer CDJ 100s. Feeling a bit rusty with her English, she laughs and struggles for a second to find the word “practice,” but practice she did. Quickly mastering the mechanics of mixing, her innate desire to confront and collect music from all over the globe naturally led her to vinyl.
“I have a serious passion for vinyl. I can’t describe how much I love touching and working with a physical record,” Anfisa explains. This tangible excitement for vinyl showed true in her tone and expression, stoked on the fact that she had just received the test pressings for her forthcoming EP earlier that day.
Describing herself as “young and fascinated by all things music,” she worked herself up to the point where she started landing gigs at small clubs throughout Italy. With her growing reputation, Anfisa’s initial plunge into the world of music production came in 2015. Her first single came in the form of a bubbly house collaboration with Dutch artist Leroy Styles titled “Stop Talking” — released via SPINNIN’ Records in 2016.
“Making that track was a beautiful experience, but it made me think a lot,” Anfisa says. “And I realized that I was taking a different path from what I truly wanted. From there, I started to refine my skills and began to trust my overall feeling as a producer when I began to create tracks with a heavier electronic and techno feeling.”
With more time on the road landing supporting slots for major acts like Martin Garrix, Don Diablo, David Guetta, and Axwell & Ingrosso, among others, she also began to lock into a more sophisticated sound in the studio. By 2018, everything changed for Anfisa after fatefully meeting one of the most renowned electronic acts of all time, Carl Cox.
“Carl was really the first person who supported me,” Anfisa says. “It’s like a dream, you know? I met him in Sicily and gave him my USB with some of the music I produced. That same night, he played my tracks throughout the party. And after this, I tuned in to his streams from some of the world’s biggest festivals, and he always supported my tracks. Just two months after meeting him, he wrote a message and asked me to produce some music for his Intec Digital imprint. He’s helped my work progress so much. He gave me hope. It all started with Carl.”
With dance music royalty now backing her, Anfisa’s life “changed a lot” over the following year. She kicked off 2019 with the release of her Bright Lights EP on the legendary NYC imprint Nervous Records, followed by her So Good EP on Carl Cox’s Intec label. “The focus I chose for both those EPs was inspired by the world of house, which has always been so important and super powerful to me,” Anfisa says. “I decided to back them up with heavy, techno-oriented bass sounds to create a unique energy and sound that really reflected my feelings at that time.”
Now finding herself jet-setting to gigs and major festivals throughout Europe, North America, and Asia, she began to find additional support amongst heavy hitters like Adam Beyer, Pig & Dan, Charlotte De Witte, Radio Slave, Pan-Pot, and DJ Pierre, who asked her to contribute to his Acid Trax Remixes series. It was towards the latter part of 2019 and the early months of 2020, with the release of records like the aptly named Electrifying EP Hotflush Recordings, her Hypnotic return to Intec Digital, and the I’d Rather B EP on Rekids — featuring remixes from Mark Broom and Marco Faraone — that the techno world began realizing Anfisa’s potential and prowess fully.
“I cannot give myself a precise genre identity because I’ve always worked as a selector first and foremost,” Anfisa says. “I always try to satisfy the dance floor’s needs while putting my personality and musical feeling into all of my sets. However, my preference has always been old-school techno — full of groove, full of drums, and a lot of attitude!” Catch a glimpse of the way she moves behind the decks after dropping a peak-time weapon, her preference for hair-raising techno is written all over her face, and it never fails to command a crowd.
Entering into a pandemic for a hotly-tipped touring act like Anfisa is a tragedy, but as 2020 revealed for so many up-and-coming artists, far from a death sentence for her career.
“I just came back from Greece and was getting ready to leave for Ultra Abu Dhabi in March of last year before everything stopped,” Anfisa says. I had big plans for 2020. I had lots of confirmed festivals in the books like Ultra Miami, Tomorrowland, Loveland, too many festivals really.”
Retreating back to Naples, Anfisa, with her ever-positive outlook, viewed the shutdown as “a chance to upgrade my studio and to study and produce what I wanted.” Live-streaming from her home and setting up in gorgeous locations throughout her city where she could “show the real side of Naples that not everyone knows,” Anfisa’s fandom continued to skyrocket throughout 2020.
With plenty of time to experiment in the studio, Anfisa decided the best course of action was to put her heavy techno-focused productions on hold for a while and come up with something a bit more personal and off-center. A labor of love that took up most of her attention throughout the year, she constructed the coming of age Listen EP, which dropped right at the start of 2021. The four-track release is pensive, impactful, full of voice sequences, and driven by a rhythm that draws new horizons and a musical perspective outside of the club.
“It’s different,” Anfisa says about the record. “Listen has an important value because it was born out of a desire to tell my story, to express myself totally without thinking about anything else. I experimented not only with my voice but with the sound especially. I feel like I’m in a great phase of my artistic evolution, and it was thanks to this forced stop, I managed to acquire this awareness. I loved expressing my feelings through the language of electronic music. It has a lot of shades, and you never know where your experimentations will take you.”
The Listen EP also marked the start of Anfisa’s own label, N:S:DA or Nisida — named after a small volcanic island that lies just north of Naples. “Nisida is a very beautiful place that nobody really knows about, but it’s also totally inaccessible,” Anfisa says. “It’s a private island with a prison on it that has such a rich history to tell.”
“I want N:S:DA to be a home for artists who have stories to tell through their music,” Anfisa continues. “I want it to be electronic, but the genre is not important. The most important thing is the tales they have to tell. I want to put all my focus on their stories. It’s a brand new label, but after announcing it, I received tons of demos from some very young and talented producers. I’ve been spending lots of time on it, so we’ll see how it goes!”
After a brief discussion about some of her favorite wines and how the Amalfi Coast is her go-to spot when she needs to “recharge her batteries,” it’s clear that Anfisa feels fully replenished and is ready for nightlife to resume in full. “Like a lot of DJs, I miss my old life,” she says. On the horizon, with the light at the end of the COVID tunnel starting to reveal itself, Anfisa already has intended gigs booked in NYC, Amsterdam, Malta, and more towards the end of this year.
In the meantime, she’s eagerly awaiting the drop of her second EP on N:S:DA, titled after the label’s island namesake, Nisida, which is slated to drop on April 9th, along with forthcoming releases on a few well-known German labels and a curious music project she’s been working on for a Michelin restaurant called “Sound of Jane.”
In an interview with Forbes back in 2019, king Carl Cox made a point of shouting out Anfisa’s “amazing music,” naming her a leader of the “now generation.” With dance floors finally set to reopen — albeit slowly and unevenly — across the globe, hopefully the uninitiated will finally get a hardy dose of Anfisa’s amazing talents very soon.