DJ TOKiMONSTA overcomes brain surgery to continue making music

US producer and DJ TOKiMONSTA was on her way to stardom, when brain surgery left her unable to communicate or understand music.

After months of anxiety, her senses slowly returned to normal and she's back performing.

Before taking to the stage at the Laneway Festival in Auckland this week, she told Newshub how the horror experience has influenced her music.

"I was having these stroke symptoms, though I wasn't having a stroke," she said.

TOKiMONSTA, whose real name is Jennifer Lee, was diagnosed with Moyamoya in 2015.

It's a rare and potentially fatal brain disease, which causes blocked arteries and restricted blood flow.

At the time, she was touring with rapper Anderson Paak and had released two albums.

Then, suddenly, everything changed.

"I was thinking about what I can do to make sure I don't die in the next six months," she said.

Surgeries to treat the condition caused serious problems and music sounded awful.

"I had thoughts and things I wanted to communicate, but didn't have the skills to do so," she said.

"Every song was a song I didn't understand and every song was a song I didn't like, and noise was also just very harsh. It wasn't that I couldn't understand, it was just really horrible to me."

But slowly sounds started to become clearer and make sense, although her first attempt at producing after surgery didn't go well.

"I tried to make music and when I opened my laptop, I was like 'okay, all the songs sound good again' and I tried to make music, but it was so bad."

She eventually got there.

"I was able to open the computer and make a song that actually meant a lot to me, and it's on my album."

Just three months after surgery, she made a triumphant return to the stage at Coachella.

"I still make music my palette and how I decide to make musically creative choices stayed the same, but the thing that changed the most was my renewed passion for the music and this purity that came back."

Ms Lee has released two albums since her surgery.

On Monday, she played at the Laneway Festival in Auckland and says she's keen to return to New Zealand.


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