DJs Simon Ham and Will T are the masterful minds behind Discolypso, a club night that can guarantee a soundtrack like no other in town! With their love of Latin American and West African music, they’ve the requisite knowledge to throw the funkiest of feel-good parties and since July of this year, have been doing so with fervour at Band on the Wall. As we look ahead to this weekend’s party, we caught up with Simon to discuss the night’s fantastic flyer artwork, its exclusive cocktails and most importantly, the wonderful music at its heart.
Discolypso hit the ground running back in July and this month’s night looks set to be the biggest so far. What have been your favourite moments since starting out in the Summer and what has been most gratifying for you as a DJ and party organiser?
Discolypso as an idea has been bubbling under the surface for years, until this summer when the perfect opportunity came up to put on a party at Band on the Wall. It seemed perfect timing and a perfect partnership. We wanted to do something a bit different and to celebrate a broader spectrum of African-tinged music and bring it straight to the dancefloor. Fusing Afrobeat & Latin with Brazilian Batucada & Mambo with Caribean Disco Boogie to give the complete Tropical Disco experience, jumping between continents in a fresh and exciting way. After our first party in July we were blown away with the response. In all the years of DJ’ing and promoting I have never seen such a mixed crowd of people, so into the music and on the dancefloor for so many hours. We put it down to the the simple fact that the music oozes happiness, positivity and togetherness.
Labels like Analog Africa, Awesome Tapes and PMG continue to discover and re-release rare and amazing records from the African continent; have you any favourite finds that you’ve picked up recently and can you recommend any labels/radio shows to follow for the African or Caribbean music connoisseur?
So first off, there’s a great Latin album I always play at Discolypso. I randomly found and picked it up about 10 years ago for pennies. It’s called ‘Et Pi Yo – De Sommet En Sommet’ by Rico on Disques Debs International label. It has a really bad cover, but it’s full of French-tinged Latin folk. One particular song sticks out called ‘Pas Coler La’. The album doesn’t come up on Discogs often so if you stumble across it it is a must have!
Next up is an upbeat dance floor Latin-Jazz beauty by Norman Connors feat. Freddie Hubbard called ‘Samba For Maria’; it is always well received when it’s played. On the Afrobeat front, I need to hold up an album by a current band on Wah Wah 45’s called ‘You No Fit Touch Am’ by Dele Sosimi, it’s absolutely packed full of fresh dancefloor-friendly African beats. Finally, two labels that win hands down on the re-issue front is Mr Bongo’s & Mukatsuku Records both specialise in rare African, Latin, Brazilian music.
Joni Haastrup’s Wake Up Your Mind features on the wicked flyer artwork for November’s night. What are the key things people need to know about Joni Haastrup and the Nigerian music scene to which he’s affiliated?
It’s funny you picked up on the record sleeve! Apart from ‘Wake Up Your Mind’ being one one my favourite African Disco tracks, Joni Haastrup actually grew up in a Nigeria Royal household so you could say he is a prince. Anyway he turned to a career in music, promoting hope and positivity through his music. He made a real name for himself after playing keys in Ginger Baker’s Airforce, during their UK concerts in ‘71. Another fact is most of ‘Wake Up Your Mind’ was actually recorded in London, which puts a strange twist on the whole authenticity of an African album. For me the song sums up the Discolypso vibe to a tee.
The live percussion element incorporated into the night is a fantastic touch, is it something you witnessed before in clubs around the world and how did you approach getting percussionist Gavin involved?
I’ve known Gavin for years and I can seriously say he is one of the most talented percussionist in the country. His passion for Latin is second to none. He even spent time in Havana, Cuba perfecting his conga playing; now that’s dedication! I never witnessed live percussion at a club night before but knew that that sort of thing goes on along with mediocre sax PA whaling over dance tracks too, but Gav is the real deal and locks into to our records taking the whole sound to another level and visual so exciting to watch.
As well the fantastic music, Discolypso has its own exclusive mango & rum cocktails! Do you have a favourite tipple when you’re behind the decks or do you keep it teetotal when you’re selecting and mixing tunes?
These days it’s all about the music. You need to keep your wits about you so you can select the right songs back to back. Having said that a couple of Rum & Mango cocktails always puts the old fire in the belly and kick starts the night.
If price was no object, what would the grandest and most extravagant Discolypso party involve, where would it be hosted and who would be on the stage and behind the decks?
Our focus is on creating a night where people can come together and enjoy a Caribbean party! Band on the Wall is Discolypso’s home and the best venue in town (which happens to have the best sound system too which is massively important). We have so much musical talent on our doorstep and have future plans to collabarate with the likes of Regal Disco, Tropical Disco Hustle, Me Gusta just to name a few. Also, we are looking at some great opportunities to party with some touring live acts too!