Label focus: Club Djembe

At the tail end of 2019, Bristol collective Club Djembe embarked on a new adventure. Already renowned for their party starting abilities, they released their first V/A, Club Djembe Vol. 1 , as a way of immortalising and encapsulating the raucous atmospheres they so often conjure up with their nights.

Sister label to Super Kitchen, Club Djembe pursues a similar sound; earthy percussion with a UK flavour that does serious damage on the dancefloor. Their sound comes primed for murky basements, and exotic beaches alike, a contradiction of sorts, but these foreign grooves are both punchy and lush at the same time.

Now fresh off their second release – a heavyweight four-track solo EP from South London duo CXLI, we catch up with Club Djembe’s founders, residents and newest members to get an insight into the crew.

Jake (Co-founder): Me, Stolen, & Josie have always wanted to ensure Club Djembe was about family and ultimately, making sure our parties are just that, parties. That’s something which is a key focus for the label too, music which connects with people and makes them want to move – even though we are serious in our ambition and where we want to develop as a platform, we don’t want the parties or the events to be boring, so that’s also a driving motivation into the releases. Last year we released Club Djembe Vol.1 – which was a compilation made up from producers who played our parties over the years, Vol.2 is currently in the works so keep your eyes peeled.

Our second release dropped a couple of weeks ago from CXLI and these boys have knocked it out the park, Caleño is one of those peak time bangers which fills the dance floor, Zenú is a little more melodic and laid back and Químbaya – YO.

CXLI: Originally, the Mestizo EP comprised of Caleńo and Zenú. Caleńo was the first promotional song of ours we decided to send DJ Stolen, off the back of an eye-opening trip to Lisbon. We intended it to sound Latin and ethnic, with the use of flutes, vocal shots, shakers and bongos. Zenú we wanted to have a melodic, airy and spacey vibe, with the selection of melodies and sounds to reflect this. The Quimbaya instrumental we knew needed vocals initially, and to offer a variation we sent over our first vocal demo, thinking we had nothing to lose. Months later and some emails exchanged, we decided on the track list and here we are a whole Mestizo EP later.

DJ Stolen: I’ve been a big big big fan of the CXLI boys for a while now and have been playing their tracks on my radio shows. I was keen to get Quimbaya vocalled, and and when they came back with a self vocalled track I lost the plot. Banging.

KG: Connected with Club Djembe on the tail end of my return back into music in 2018. During that time, my KG EP release on UK label Goon Club Allstars was in circulation heavy. Since then, Club Djembe have always been invested in my work, literally one of the most supportive collectives ever. We are kindred spirits when it comes to our musical tastes, that is why I love them so much. Real purists, pushing that UK Funky, Afro Diaspora/Electronic sound and not just taking up space but actively including amazing artists that truly represent that. They have been instrumental in bridging the gap between Bristol and London which I think is a major achievement within itself, consistently finding ways to evolve the scene. I’ve played many Club Djembe events and plan to play some more! I also featured on their debut Club Djembe Vol.1 Compilation in 2019. That’s family right there. Wishing the guys more success.

Jake: KG has been smashing it, she’s a producer who the whole camp admire loads and when we got the chance to curate a lineup for Motion in Bristol, there was no second thoughts that we had to get KG on the billing – but when she came through on the compilation in 2019 with ‘Obsession’, mate that track is phenomenal.

Say3: “I played a Club Djembe party in Autumn 2018, then they dropped my track “Get Up and Move” on their compilation project and the rest is history. There are some exciting things in works. I can’t wait to get back to Bristol and another Club Djembe party.

DJ Stolen: Say3’s track on the Club Djembe Vol.1 compilation is crazy, anyone whose listened to his afro-edits know he’s insanely talented. We’ve got a project due this year and let me tell you this much, it is going to be game changing.

DJ Polo: I was first asked to play club djembe back in late 2018. I became a resident shortly after that and can happily say I’ve played most of their events. I went on to make a collaborative track with Lobby that featured on the first club djembe release. Fast forward 2 years and I’m very proud to be working with the label side of club djembe – I’ve always rated the percussive music they have been pushing, and the time they put into artists they’re interested in. It’s headed in a very interesting direction this year and I’m looking forward to the releases and events planned in 2020!

Jake: Polo’s been my boy since I moved to Bristol so I don’t want to gas him up too much – but he’s definitely one of the best producers about at the moment and the projects he’s got coming up are 10/10.

Vanessa Maria: “Club Djembe was the first booking I ever got as a DJ so it holds a special place in my heart. Having the label believe in me made a massive difference in my self-confidence which I am truly grateful for! The club night has pushed me to expand and explore my music knowledge and I am a better DJ for it. Global club music and Baile Funk are now major parts of my sound and that is wholeheartedly a direct result of Club Djembe!”

Jake: Trust me, if you haven’t heard of Vanessa, by the end of the year you’re going to know.

Special mentions to Ngaio, Bamz, Dean Lyon, Noire, Wilfy D, James Lawrence, Oli Scotton & Lobby who have either contributed or work behind the scenes on the label.

CXLI’s Mestizo EP is out now. 

Buy it here. 

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