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Coke Studio and GAY TIMES  are collaborating for the second year running to celebrate upcoming queer talent as part of our new music Breakthrough campaign; an ongoing collaboration that gives unsigned LGBTQIA+ musicians and allies, within the UK and Ireland, the opportunity to break into the industry. We all know it’s not easy to get into a new career without some help. So, we’ve teamed up with Coke Studio to connect hand-selected talented queer acts and allies as part of our Breakthrough series, bringing much-needed new unsigned artists to wider audiences.

Last year, we documented the musical journey of Celaviedmai, Callum Crighton, Lleo, and Keanan as our first-time Breakthough acts. Now, we’re ready to introduce you to our class of 2024. Next up we’ve got Donnie Sunshine (he/him), a high-energy DJ who’s lit up stages everywhere from Somerset House and Pxssy Palace to Mighty Hoopla. Born and raised in East London, Donnie is all about reinventing what club music can be. As a Black, queer male artist, he’s ready to bring forward the representation he didn’t see enough of. Inspired by artists like Frank Ocean, Donnie wants to make people smile with his music, bringing positive, uplifting vibes to his listeners. 

So, if you’re looking for a shake-up to your artist faves, keep reading to hear about why Donnie Sunshine deserves to brighten up your music catalogue. We catch up with the London-based artist to hear how Janet Jackson inspired him and why storytelling is integral to his art. You can catch Donnie performing live this year at a handful of Coke Studio events this summer including Brighton & Hove Pride, Boardmasters and Electric Picnic. 

Who inspired you to become an artist?

I would say the first artist I remember loving and being inspired by was Janet Jackson. I would watch her music videos daily as a child. I was just in awe of her creativity. I also love that she used her talents to shine a light on social injustices, showing me that there are many ways to make a difference in the world. 

Who is your favourite LGBTQIA+ artist and why?

One of my favourite artists of all time and my favourite LGBTQIA+ artists is Frank Ocean. 

Firstly, he was the first queer artist that I saw myself in, being a black gay cis male that was also slightly alternative, he made me feel seen and validated.

Secondly, I really love his artistry, the way he tells stories in his music in an unorthodox but engaging way allowing me to learn something new with every listen.

He also helped me build a social bridge between my queerness and blackness, learning to embrace each intersection equally and confidently.

What do you hope to show the LGBTQIA+ community as a musician?

I hope to show the LGBTQIA+ community that we are more alike than different [and] that intersections and safe spaces are important, but they shouldn’t segregate us as a community.  That’s why I try to utilise my eclectic music taste to bridge as many gaps as I can whenever I play a set. My overall aim as a DJ is to make as many people as possible feel involved, inspired and seen all the while keeping the energy high and the vibes euphoric. I would also like to show that individuality isn’t just beautiful but can be a vital tool to becoming successful. Using myself as an example/visual representation of what opportunities and experiences can come your way if you shine your light as bright as possible.

 I try to utilise my eclectic music taste to bridge as many gaps as I can whenever I play a set. My overall aim as a DJ is to make as many people as possible feel involved, inspired and seen

Who was the first queer artist you saw live and can you tell us about it?

I believe the first queer artist I saw live was also Frank Ocean, it was at Brixton Academy in the summer of 2013 which also happens to be the same year I came out. At this point I believe I had only come out to a few friends, so I remember attending this concert was really special to me however I did feel quite anxious as I felt being there might shine a light on my queerness. Funnily enough, it did the opposite, as I saw so many of my straight friends and people I knew singing every word to his songs and openly celebrating this queer black man, it gave me hope that they would feel the same about me when I eventually came out to them.


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What excites you most about the Coke Studio and GAY TIMES Breakthrough campaign?

The GAY TIMES x Coke Studio’s Breakthrough campaign excites me so much not just for the opportunities that I’m about to receive, which are incredible, but more so for the visibility that I’ll be able to offer. Queerness in the UK on large platforms very rarely looks like me. As a Black gay, British-Caribbean, alternative cis male, I feel like I’ll be able to offer representation in ways that I’ve personally never seen before, which I hope will inspire others to keep pursuing their dreams. Also, I can’t wait to attend and play at different Pride events and festivals across the UK. I know it’s not only going to be so much fun but also an amazing learning experience which will help me grow as an artist.