Aline Kaze is a freelance audio engineer and DJ affiliated with multidisciplinary arts platform AMFM. Kaze, who performs as DJ Bonita Appleblunt, has spun records around the city with the likes of EvieTheCool, DJ Skoli, Ron Trent, Duane Powell, and Ryan, the Person. Earlier this year Ace Hotel Chicago booked Kaze for a monthly residency; their next set at the Ace is Thursday, December 23. Kaze turns 26 on December 10.

As told to Leor Galil

I started out as a kid playing piano, and then choirs. Then I moved here—went to school here for audio production, and now I’ve been a DJ for the past five, six years.

[I’m from] Toledo, Ohio. Ohio is not that great. Toledo is all right—go Mud Hens! I moved here in 2014.

I used to get roasted a lot for the type of music I listen to. Toledo, it’s diverse, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of cultural intermingling, or people being aware of music from different places.

DJ Bonita Appleblunt
Thu 12/23, 10 PM, Little Wild, Ace Hotel Chicago, 311 N. Morgan,

seventh floor, free, 21+

My family, they’re East African—I’m a first-gen. I grew up listening to lots of different types of African music from different countries. I don’t know what it is about African immigrants specifically, but they listen to a lot of country—it’s a specific thing that I’ve been finding out. There’s a lot of country, rock ’n’ roll, a lot of different things that my mom would listen to; I would just go through her tapes and CDs. Then once I started being on the computer a lot more, I would listen to a lot of stuff on Soundcloud. I would spend a lot of time at the library.

When I finally started to explore for myself, that’s when I started to find my music. Some stuff I still have—sometimes still play out—that I found as a shorty. Once I started to build my own music library, I could find more of my sounds.

Bonita Appleblunt recorded this mix during a live Instagram session.

I moved here literally one month after I graduated high school. I don’t know if that was smart, but I was like, “What is the soonest I can start?” They said, “How is July 8th?” I said, “Yes, I will be there.” I went to Illinois Institute of Art—I don’t think the Chicago location exists anymore. 

NYE ’22: Let’s Get It Started (in Here)
Hosted by Alex Collyard and Justice Hill, with live music by Orisun and Justice Hill & Nightime Love; comedy from Skyler Higley, Maggie Winters, Parker Callahan, and Jake Prizant; drag by Derry Queen; and DJ sets all night from Bonita Appleblunt. Fri 12/31, 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, $25, 21+

I dropped out. It just wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be, and ever since then I’ve just been doing more freelance audio work. Like, AMFM used to be out of this spot in Pilsen—before AMFM had their own space, they started somewhere else, and then I started doing live sound there, and then eventually DJing also. 

One of my other friends, he used to canvass—like street canvass and stuff. And Ciera [McKissick, AMFM founder] walked up—I guess they knew each other already—she walked up, and that’s how we got acquainted. I was like, “Oh hey, what’s up?” She’s like, “Hey, I’m Ciera, I’m from Milwaukee.” And she invited me to the [AMFM] jazz series, and then ever since then it’s been history.

There’s a lot of organic meetings like that, to be honest with you. Meeting friends of other friends, just being out—just basically vibing with someone, like, “This song is fire.” Just appreciating whatever art is there and becoming friends from that. I’ve met a lot of good friends from gigs. The first gig I ever had was with DJ Skoli, and that’s my best bro, for sure. 

Bonita Appleblunt imagined this mix as something that might play during a dance-floor fashion show at an arcade bar.

I don’t ever want to be one of those Chicago transplants that are like terrible people—so I’m maybe a little bit too aware of, like, my presence within the community. I’m trying to make sure I’m not overstepping and just not overstaying my welcome. But I think just recently I was like, “Oh damn, I’m really—I’m in it. I’m actually a part of this community.” ’Cause I think before then I was like, “I’m not from here; I wish I was.” But yeah, I’m just trying to provide good things for this community that I spend so much time in and the city that I’ve come to love.

For me, why I DJ, or what I try to evoke while I’m playing whatever event I’m part of, is that feeling like when you’re at a house party. Growing up, my parents would go see their friends and there was a bunch of food, and drinks were everywhere, and they’d have sparkling cider, and everyone—adults, kids—were all in the same room, dancing and having a good time. So I’m just always trying to invoke that energy whenever I DJ. So just trying to make that happen, if that makes sense.

[This city] is really rich in artistic talent and culture and spirit. People are very strong. I just would want people to know this is really a great city, and it’s way more than what certain media outlets would like folks to think. Shout out Chicago, all day.