Photo: Sven Marquardt (Tama Sumo)
You originally did not plan to DJ professionally, this year however you celebrate your 25th anniversary. What do you think about when you look back on the past quarter of a century, and how did you experience the changes within the scene, especially in Berlin, during that time?
(laughs) That’s true! To become a professional DJ was not really an option that I thought about – many thanks to Holger aka DJ Pheerce to convince me otherwise. If I think about the last 25 years, I think about a lot of beautiful people that I met. One of the highlights being my wife Lerato alias Lakuti that I met via music and it’s amazing that we share the same passion. And of course, when walking on memory lane, a lot of wonderful music comes to my mind that I was able to discover and that became the soundtrack of my life. About the scene in Berlin and how it developed within the last 25 years, in the beginning of the 90s the techno and house scene was much more improvised than today, not only because the music was pretty new still at that time but also because after the wall came down Berlin offered a lot of new locations and possibilities to do something. There was this feeling of “something is happening” that really captured and inspired me then. At the same time – looking back – the scene was more homogeneous than it is now. More people from different countries moved to Berlin, we have more tourists visiting Berlin and the dancefloor reflects this as well, especially because many tourists come because of Berlin’s nightlife. I do enjoy this a lot. Today, we have more opportunities for exchange with people from very different backgrounds ad to learn from each other – not only in nightlife but also beyond that, which is a gift. And this is also something that broadened the musical landscape in Berlin. These changes mean that you sometimes have to get out of your comfort zone – also musically – and it is so rewarding, exciting and inspiring.
In Berlin, house generally speaking does not receive as much attention as techno, which continues to reign the city. You are first and foremost known as a house DJ, but play the occasional techno set as well. How do you prepare for these sets?
I actually don’t see myself as a pure house DJ even if it is still the main basis of my sets. Nowadays we are in the great position to have access to so much different music and it is the perfect time to expand our musical palette beyond just Western styles. I hope that due to this fact, genres will in the future play a less significant role. There is various music that fascinates me and triggers something in me and I try to give some room for this in my sets. In general, when I prepare for sets I do some research on the event that invited me and check who I am playing with to get a tiny little impression what the night could be about. Then I try to find out what I can put on the table within my musical frame, to work out the intersections between the party, the line-up and myself. That’s the preparation pre-work. It can be a few special tracks that I just discovered and then I take it from there and kind of prepare the set around them. It does sound more analytical that it actually is – part of the process is subconscious and i still try to mainly follow my heart and feelings.
Over the years you have occasionally released your own music as a producer or remixer, most of the time in tandem with former Panorama Bar resident Prosumer. Besides a collaborative remix for The Knife, it has been a while since your last release. Doesn’t the work in the studio excite you anymore?
It’s not so much about not being interested in studio work, the main factor why I am not in the studio is the lack of time. I travel a lot, I prepare a lot for sets plus Lakuti and I have been working on setting up our project Bring Down The Walls, so I did not have time and energy to go into the studio.
For the inaugural edition of Bring Down The Walls, you’ve invited Larry Heard to play at Panorama Bar. Cna you tell us more about the project?
The main driving force behind the project besides our deep passion for music is the fact that we both have the feeling that a lot can be done within the music community and business to be more inclusive and reflective of our diverse world at large, in particular within electronic music a lot can be done still. We believe that music can unite us and can heal and be a great leveller where we see each other and appreciate each other on a human level and that we can create spaces that make it possible to achieve that human level. Not only will Bring Down The Walls present music from artists we admire and whose body of work has touched us profoundly, the project will also try and contextualise the music beyond just the dancing and also pay homage to those cultures that paved the way for all of us to be able to get to this point.
For your and Lakuti’s Finest Friday nights at Panorama Bar you will welcome the label Awesome Tapes From Africa next. What are the criteria according to which you curate the series?
We are inviting artists that move us, inspire us and touch us emotionally. With our curation, we want to pay tribute to artists that led the way for us to where we are now and also shine light on new talents as well as musicians and DJs that are – unfortunately – a bit under the radar. Our focus within the programming is on artists of colour and those that are not often represented. The music of the artists that we invite often is strongly rooted within Jazz, Soul, Funk, Disco or African music in its very different shades.
Your contribution to our Groove podcast starts of funky and moves towards the house floor with the occasional jazz element thrown in for good measure. What was your idea behind it?
I usually don’t do strongly conceptual mixes. I have some tracks in mind that are my personal favourites at the moment and built the mix around them. The other idea behind it was certainly also to create a mix that gives a little impression what a DJ set of myself could be about. I love variety in DJ sets, the changes of atmosphere and this is what I try to transport also into my mixes.
Last but not least: Where can we see you behind the decks in the near future, and what are your plans as an event organiser?
I will be playing at our curated Finest Friday night on 28th September at Panorama Bar alongside Awesome Tapes From Africa, Cordell Johnson and Lakuti. After a very busy year so far I will be taking some time off in October to recharge my batteries. On 29th September I will play at Number 90 in London and, after a busy summer, go on vacation for the first two weeks of October. In terms of events: Lakuti and myself are working on a new edition of Bring Down The Walls for the beginning of December which will revolve around a discussion round as well as screenings e.t.c. and there is more to come next year. Watch out! Berghain also offered us to program again three Finest Friday nights in 2019.
Stream: Tama Sumo – Groove Podcast 178
01. Heem The Music Monsters – Wake Up People (Blood Leaf)
02. KKÉ – Money (MM Records)
03. Sookie – Rhythm On Rhythm (African Roadtrip)
04. DJ Romain & Nedelka – I Didn’t Know (DJ Spen Remix) (Quantize Recordings)
05. MC Edits – MC Control (M.I.L.C. Music)
06. Glenn Underground – Memory Chant (Phase II) (Strictly Jaz Unit Muzic)
07. Jasper Street Co. – Smile (Deepah Dub) (Basement Boys Records)
08. Parkway Rhythm feat. Boyd Jarvis – Broad Street Pressure (Deep Pressure) (Parkway Records)
09. Larry Heard – Spinal Tap (Distance)
10. M G² – Electric House (Hot Mix 5 Records)
11. Gifted & Blessed – Algorithms With Emotions
12. A Band Called Flash – Song For Spike (J4J Records)
13. Rhemi feat. Tess Leah – What I Want (Main Mix) (Rhemi Music)
14. Mike Dunn – We R Tuesday Nights 5 / B
15. Roy Davis Jr. – Be Hungry (Original Mix) (Griffintown Records)
16. DJ Qu – Picazo
17. Guri Guri Boys feat. Josh Milan – Be Yourself (King Street Sounds)
Tama Sumo on tour
19th October 2018 Claire, Amsterdam
21st October 2018 Panorama Bar, Berlin
26th October 2018 Soup Kitchen for Banana Hill, Manchester
27th October 2018 Rebel Rebel at Goa, Rome
2nd November 2018 Motion, Bristol
3rd November 2018 The Loft, Barcelona
9th November 2018 Your Love, London
10th November 2018 C12, Brussels
16th November 2018 Wire, Leeds
18th November 2018 Roxy, Cologne
24th or 25th November 2018 Panorama Bar, Berlin