Danish-American SPOT collaboration blossomed despite COVID-19

sep 4, 2020

Three tracks from Danish Justo and American Tanajah in the duo project Supervene are practically ready for release. And the two of them say, “we are just getting started!”

By Mathias Nesdam-Madsen

COVID-19 may have caused the cancellation of the entire festival season – including SPOT and countless other events and concerts, but still creativity has been allowed to blossom. A great example of this is the SPOT collaboration between American rapper TANAJAH and Justo from Athletic Progression.

Flown in from the US despite the COVID-19 crisis
Tanajah came to Denmark three days before the country went into lockdown because of the global pandemic. The timing and conditions were far from perfect, but I was so humble and glad to be brought over”, she recalls on a skype call from her home state North Carolina. The original plan was for her stay to culminate with a gig at SPOT, but just like pretty much everything else, COVID-19 put an end to this. Still, the long journey across the Atlantic was not in vain. Quite the contrary, actually:

She has since returned to the US after several months in Aarhus, where she first and foremost evolved as an artist but also made a lot of new artistic connections:


Tanajah – during a recording session with the act Ahead – in an Aarhus parking basement. (Photo: Raffioli Bendernudel)

– The biggest thing was to network, and Denmark happened to me at the right time, and I’ve been able to meet a lot of talented artists and meet a culture that have taught me so much.

It could have turned out completely differently: In fact, Tanajah had very little time to take all the necessary precautions and the authorities’ advice into account: Should she stay in Denmark or would it better to just cancel the trip. In the end, the music won, in large part because the artistic process had practically begun before she had even reclaimed her suitcase in the airport:

– The process was so dope! Justo (from Athletic Progression) was very passionate about his music, and the very first thing that he did, was to ask me, if I wanted to go to the studio, and I was just like – hell yeah!”, she exclaims with a huge smile.

US meets Denmark
Justo Gambula has been the Danish part of the project. He is mainly known as the bass player from Jazz trio Athletic Progression, which moves in a spectrum of r’n’b / hip hop-inspired beats, soul harmonies and groovy jazz compositions.

To begin with, the two of them got in touch on Instagram, and the acquaintance remained virtual for some time. Then Justo went on a musical study trip to the US, and they got to meet through some mutual friends, and the collaboration was allowed to blossom. Right from the start, Justo was hooked on the idea of a partnership with the young American rapper because his first impression of her was close to perfect:

Tanajah working with Victor Danos (left) og Raffioli Bendernudel (in the middle).

“She was the only one who could attract so many people at a venue like that. People just crowded in front of the stage, and she was just freestyling. Alone!” he says enthusiastically.

So everything was in place when SPOT got in touch with the newly established duo, who now went under the name SUPERVENE, and offered them the opportunity to perform live for the first time at this year’s festival. However, the global pandemic put a sudden stop to that plan. Yet, despite the cancelled live premiere, the collaboration and the talents were allowed to grow: : “Denmark enhanced my love to me as an artist, and the music I create”, explains a visibly moved Tanajah and goes on to stress that the two months here in Denmark almost served as therapy for her – both at a personal and an artistic level.

Time in the studio and the future
In spite of the lockdown, the time in Denmark was highly productive for the duo, and they have each been able to contribute with their kind of quality:

“We have both been really involved in the recording process, but she really excels when she is freestyling. It doesn’t matter whether it is lyrics, flow or tempo. She is simply out of this world!”

Three tracks almost ready – more tracks in the bank
According to Justo, their intense collaboration resulted in the production of six to eight tracks, three of which are so good that they just need the final mastering before release. They were recorded with Justo as well as the other members of Athletic Progression and other musicians from the Aarhus scene. Because Tanajah really explored the opportunities in Justo’s backyard.

They are both optimistic about the future of the project and highly motivated to see how far it may take them. Tanajah puts it this way, “: “If that sets the tone for the Tanajah-Athletic Progression work, it’s gonna be fire”.

For Justo the most important thing in the two months Tanajah was in Denmark was the chemistry and building that close relationship.

“It was just so important for me to make it a good experience for her, and because I was so hooked on Tanajah’s sound, there was never any doubt in my mind that we would just click. Which we did, right away! That was just the most amazing thing about it. He adds that they still keep in touch – on a daily basis! And that now he is just waiting to be allowed to go to the US to finish the music they created in Denmark during Tanajah’s stay.

Justo would like to thank Johanne Baun, Tiny Planet FM, Victor Danos, Nicoline Quarrie, Hans Solo, Elijah Okello and Darnell Linneberg for giving lots of good and positive vibes to Tanajah during her stay.