underground system: an afropunk dj mix
July 19, 2019
Among the groups waving the Afrobeat and Afro-disco flag today, Brooklyn’s Underground System doesn’t just play live, its members also create DJ experiences that incorporate live instruments and singing. And Underground System is bringing that experience to AFROPUNK Brooklyn on August 25th. Ahead of it, we asked the group to put together a DJ mix so the community can get a taste of that, including original Afrobeat master drummer Tony Allen, classic South African funk from William Mthethewa & The Young Five, young Aussie Dom Bird paying homage to Fela and a re-rub of Underground System’s own recent single “Just a Place.”
We also asked the Underground System folks to tell us a little something about the mix, about DJing and about their engagement with the AFROPUNK community.
Can you identify some of the music on the mix? What does the music mean/represent for you?
This mix is a small snapshot of a few recent club favorites and some brand new original tunes from our extended family that’ve been released this year. Underground System is an eclectic crew in terms of our tastes. DJ-wise we’ve been floating around the intersection of where classic afrobeat, disco, and house sounds meet touches of a more modernized production sensibility. ‘Roma Norte’ is a tune produced by Peter from a solo record of his, with Domenica on vox. That was a personally fulfilling record to make and also received some great response from the Afrohouse community. On the more classic sounding end, Peter remixed our bud Adeline’s new single ‘When I’m Alone’, which is a nod to the type of early 80s disco and r&b we party to all the time. The tune ‘Just a Place’ is a band favorite. Gerd Janson’s Remix is pretty crazy, heavy club vibes. He’s a legend on the DJ circuit in Europe so it was interesting because of that exchange. NYC to Germany via all our unique influences….
How did you first get into DJ’ing, and who are some of your DJing influences?
A long road of falling pretty naturally into DJing thanks to NYC. We’re all musicians first, so it went from playing instruments, to producing, to owning some software you could DJ with and being asked to do some house parties. Started doing some residencies at bars around BK and other spots on the road around 2012. By about 2015 we were really deep into the underground scene, had transitioned into spinning and collecting as much vinyl as possible and DJing at least a few nights a week. This was right around when we started writing the Underground System LP ‘What Are You’ . Genre wise our DJ influences are super broad: Afro/Latin, disco, house, some techno, and other heavier electronic styles. NYC style. We have a ton of favorite DJs, quite a few on the fest this year… Have to shoutout Rich Medina for being a supporter and OG of the scene as one of the first Afrobeat dancefloor rockers this side of the Atlantic!
What kind of music do you want to or expect to play at AFROPUNK?
In the sense of being committed to the art of DJing, we doubt our sets will be 100% planned going in, and we’ll take the temperature of the space a little bit before we hit play on the first track. Musically, we’ll aim at the intersection of all our favorite genres (mentioned above) with lots of current favorites. Exactly how we get there will be the fun part. We’re also excited to add a live element or two on top of the set to showcase some of the band’s instrumental vibe, and heighten the energy for the crowd.
What are you most looking forward to at AFROPUNK Brooklyn?
We think the community happening side of AFROPUNK has been one of the most unique and beautiful things about the fest since it’s inception. We’ve come many years as attendees and it’ll be an honor to be backstage as artists at this one. It’s going to be awesome to see the days unfold and cross paths with other crews. Hopefully, there will be some new bonds to form and surprises from old friends that make it out.
What does the phrase “We see You” mean to you?
This could have a layered meaning, but for us first and foremost for us, it relates to the same aspect of community that’s been grown out of the AFROPUNK scene over the years. The idea of carefully curating a space, taking the temperature and representing so many beautiful subcultures so much that a feeling of acceptance emerges. “We see you” is literally manifested, in this case, through creating this festival for the diverse range of AFROPUNK artists and attendees to express themselves and having everyone show up and co-exist for a weekend. The broader meaning can reach as far as people let it.
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