Tue 6 Jun 2023 Freddie Hill

Defected Croatia Artist Spotlight Series: Part 1 - Trailblazers

We begin with musicians who are legends in their own right. Over the span of their lengthy careers they have seen scenes come and go, carving out a name for themselves with genre-defining electronic music and releases.

With the festival on the horizon, get to know six essential trailblazers on the line-up…

Jeff Mills

A true icon of the electronic music scene, Jeff Mills was a pioneering figure of Detroit techno and is (alongside Robert Hood and Mike Banks) a founding member of Underground Resistance. The collective are well-known for their staunch political activism at a time of great economic recession following the Reagan era, and the genre has been forever infused with a sense of advocacy for political change.

As a solo act, Mills is known for his mastery behind the decks - earning him the title of ‘The Wizard’. From blending industrial music with techno as part of the legendary Final Cut, to performing with the Montpelier Philharmonic Orchestra, there seems to be no end to this man’s artistry. As a leader, Mills also helped to spotlight future artists of the scene Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson – still huge names in electronic music today.

In recent years, Mills has had major studio releases on his Axis Records imprint (lockdown’s ‘The Clairvoyant’ and 2022’s ‘Mind Power Mind Control’), launched a quarterly online magazine ‘The Escape Velocity’, and continued to perform around the world on some of the biggest stages.


South Africa’s global music sensation Shimza is a young talent who has already had a massive impact on the industry. As a technically ambitious Afro tech producer and DJ, his Shimuzic release garnered critical acclaim, leading to the creation of his own label of the same name. This was followed by the launch of launched KUNYE Records in 2019 – a passion project birthed to connect African talent to the world, giving a platform to artists like Desiree and Darque.

Not just a formidable musician, the ambassador and business executive launched Shimza’s One Man Show in 2009, sponsoring school uniform and stationery for school kids from his hometown of Tembisa. Today, as the artist approaches one million Instagram followers, Shimza has been instrumental in bringing the sound of Africa to the forefront of global conversation; this trailblazer’s set on the Adriatic coast is not one to be missed.

Grant Nelson

UK Garage legend Grant Nelson was a pivotal figure in the development of the genre throughout the 90s, establishing his legacy through Nice ‘n Ripe (co-founded with Kiss FM founder George Power) and Swing City Records. The imprints saw releases from Nelson and a league of rising stars of the scene that would go on to define UKG at the turn of the millennium.

As one half of the garage duo N’n’G, the producer retained his underground status whilst also finding commercial chart success with hits such as ‘Right Before My Eyes’ in both the UK and US. Throughout his three-decade career, the international DJ, producer and remixer stayed booked globally, cementing himself as one of the premier live garage acts and becoming a firm festival favourite.

Approaching Defected Croatia, the prolific producer has continued to release a slew of originals and remixes to critical and commercial acclaim, with his upcoming Swing City release 'In Motion' set to make waves later in June 2023.

Honey Dijon

The GRAMMY-award winning songwriter, fashion mogul and electronic artist Honey Dijon is the definition of a trailblazer, not only for her services to music but also as a champion for visibility and freedom. Born and raised in Chicago, Honey grew up surrounded by house music, and the creative souls who started a global movement – her knowledge of the art form led to legendary residencies at Hiro and Ladyfag’s Battle Hymn party, playing twelve hour sets throughout Pride seasons in an age of structural racism and media-fuelled transphobia.

Her critically acclaimed sophomore album 'Black Girl Magic', released on Classic in October 2022, resulted in an avalanche of recognition from major outlets including The New York Times, The Guardian, Pitchfork among others, cementing Honey as a globally relevant superstar.

Arriving in 2023, Honey has put the work into her music and fashion, from the legendary Sugar Mountain DJ set for Boiler Room with 9.5M views on YouTube, her fashion line Honey Fucking Dijon in stores worldwide, her 327K followers on Instagram and now a collaboration with the Youtube Black Voices Fund - creating a series of music videos with Cor.Ece that directly supports Black creators, artists and songwriters/producers; Honey Dijon is returning to Defected Croatia with no holds barred.

Erol Alkan

From early reworkings of Larry Levan, Arthur Baker and François Kevorkian to his pioneering turn with ‘Bugged Out’, Erol Alkan is an enigma of the industry in the best possible way.

Between 1997 and 2007, Mondays in London were a highlight for the indie and underground music hedonists thanks to the Phantasy label-owner's infamous residencies. The seminal club experience 'Trash' allowed the unorthodox artist to experiment with psychedelic and indie rock within the realms of orthodox dance music; it was there that the mogul honed his skills as a DJ and tastemaker and defined the rock'n'rave era.

Eclectic mash-ups gained the producer commercial success in the noughties, followed by a string of critical accolades (including a DJ Mag 'Best Compilation' nom and 'Mix Of The Year' win) in later years. His club sets today explore off-kilter house, disco and techno with an underground edge. Acidic squelches and jackin’ beats pervade his festival sets as fans of the OG club experience mingle with new fans on dancefloors around the world.

Jayda G

Rounding off this list of exceptional talent is Canada’s favourite environmental toxicologist, Boiler Room breakout star and GRAMMY-nominated house expert. Jayda G may have released her debut studio album ‘Significant Changes’ on Ninja Tune just four years ago, but the burgeoning talent went on to decorate her extensive portfolio with collaborations with Fred again... ('Both Of Us'), Aluna ('Mine O' Mine') and remixes for internationally acclaimed artists. Not to mention star-making performances on the world’s biggest festival stages such as Glastonbury and Coachella to name-drop a couple.

2022 saw the release of 'Blue Carbon' - Jayda’s environmental documentary uncovering the stories of local/indigenous communities working to protect fragile ecosystems. The proceeds from her tender follow-up album ‘Guy’ were donated to these communities to offset the vinyl production costs; as a champion of the music industry and its approach to the impending climate crisis, Jayda G is sure to make an even bigger splash in the coming years.

With so much impeccable talent heading to the Adriatic coast this Summer, stay tuned for the next part of this series as we spotlight artists that bend the rules of house with genre-defying productions. 

Defected Croatia will run from Thursday 3rd – Tuesday 8th August 2023. Tickets are available here.

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