‘Carnival tabanca’ is an expression used to describe the sense of longing and loss that occurs in revellers once the fete’s come to an end; once the music’s stopped, the rum’s run dry and you’re confronted with the reality of everyday life for another year. Short of relocating to a tropical island or learning how to play the steelpan, any self-respecting bacchanalist knows that the best way to cope between fetes is to arm yourself with an arsenal of club nights, mixes and radio shows that’ll provide an appropriate soundtrack while you wait it out for next year…. That’s where Hipsters Don’t Dance come in.
For over five years the duo have been playing vibrant sets that, thanks in part to Kazabon and Hootie Who’s roots (Trinidadian and Nigerian, respectively), seamlessly mix buoyant soca and West African pop music with Jamaican dancehall, US rap and r&b, and the jagged UK club sounds that have emerged in the wake of grime and funky. Essentially, their sets sound like a day spent walking around Ladbroke Grove on the August bank holiday weekend.
Closely acquainted with Murlo, Mixpak, and Manchester’s Swing Ting crew, they bring their World Carnival stylings all year round over on their website and every second Wednesday (6-8pm) on Radar Radio. We caught up with them ahead of the 25th, where they’ll be joined in the Vic by local newcomer Shugg and PVC resident Deep Brandy Album Cuts.
Youse have been an item for six years and djing together as HDD for five. Did either of you used to DJ solo, or was it something you only embarked upon once you’d met each other? How did the two of you establish your professional, musical relationship?
Kazabon: We had both been djing separately before we met but neither of us had played a huge amount of gigs. Music was one of the things that connected us so it just made sense for us to start djing together.
Hootie Who: I used to DJ my high school dances in California but stopped for a bit after that. I would stare enviously at Kazabon’s decks in her room and eventually asked her to teach me how to play Serato. We met at a friend’s club night (AIB) and went out to raves all the time so we decided to start our own night.
Most DJs will try their hand at a b2b but djing with another person full time is a different kettle of fish. What are your experiences of this dynamic? Is it a case of winging it or is there a degree of advance prep + communication?
Kazabon: We have been djing b2b for over six years now so at this stage it just seems natural. As far as preparation goes we usually have a chat about the vibe we want to create before the party or radio show, then we both prepare separate crates. Once it comes to playing the set we react to each other’s selections on the fly. It’s more natural that way and it means we can react to the crowd and how we are feeling in the moment.
Hootie Who: When we started it was very separate, fifteen minutes each then a switch. We then narrowed it down to two songs on two off, which I’m proud to say other DJs have copied. At CAMP (RIP) we had opportunities to play three very different sets (an early doors set; a party starter set before the headliner; a club set into an end-of-the-night wind down) which really helped us to hone our b2b style.
Have either of you ever called dibs on a track that you liked so much you had to be the one to drop it?
Kazabon: Party Done is very much my tune. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty upset when Hootie Who dropped it during our set at last year’s World Carnival party.
Hootie Who: I am massive fan of slack gyal tunes and female empowerment anthems. Between dancehall and soca there is so much creativity in revisiting the same themes but making them original. The bigger problem was calling dibs against Murlo when he was a HDD resident.
What convinced you guys to finally throw yourself into the ring of London promoters? Was there a dissatisfaction with the nights already on offer or, conversely, an eagerness to join in the fun? What do the HDD parties contribute that you felt was missing or lacking at the time?
Kazabon: It was a mixture of things really – we both wanted to DJ and weren’t sure how to go about getting bookings. We had a huge amount of tunes from different genres that we wanted to play, so we decided the best way was to start a night. We started at a really small bar called Three Blind Mice that holds about 30 people, 40 at a push. We had no idea how popular it would be or if it would even work but we wanted to give it a go. There are a lot of bashment, soca and afrobeats parties existing in their own circles in London, but I feel there are not a lot of parties where you hear a big mix of Carnival sounds. That’s where HDD parties come in; it’s mixing all the sounds we love and creating a space to enjoy them.
Hootie Who: Ah Three Blind Mice… which is a former Russian spy hideout apparently, I don’t miss those days. We started those raves at 8pm: do you know how weird it is going to set up a rave at 6pm? But it was a good learning experience. London had so many raves but we always felt that we could add something. We ended up going to the same raves (Wifey, Heatwave and Yo Mama) which was great for fostering a community. Even though we have nothing to do with their success, it’s wicked to see how well HDD residents Illanja, The Large, Why Delila and Murlo are doing in their respective fields.
Your Sunday night World Carnival parties with Swing Ting are one of the highlights of the Notting Hill weekend. When did you both first attend and what memories from Carnival have stuck with you most over the years?
Kazabon: I think my first experience of Carnival was when I spent a summer in London and made it my mission to go to Notting Hill Carnival while I was there. I only had a couple of hours there on the Sunday but since then I’ve been hooked. We’ve had so many great times at Notting Hill Carnival over the years: djing at Mau Mau bar with Style and Swagger was a definite highlight, as was following the trucks and dancing at Nigerian Corner in the pissing rain with Terry Juarez and Bacchanal Ronin at the wet fete that was 2014’s Carnival. Seeing Machel Montano perform with Dre Skull at the Red Bull party and seeing Bunji Garlin at Toddla’s soundsystem were big highlights too, even if my memory of Bunji’s set is a little fuzzy due to Serocee’s rum punch…
Hootie Who: I am blessed that my birthday usually falls on Carnival weekend, so adult xmas is even better. Kazabon dragged a hungover me to Carnival the year that MJ died and I forced her to stay at a sound that was only playing MJ. I was enjoying myself but couldn’t stop staring at the 500 people going nuts to drum and bass about 200 yards away. Of course watching Kazabon and her Style and Swagger fam DJ there was amazing; getting to see soca don Machel Montano perform is up there as well. Actually even though there are legitimate gripes with it, so was the Red Bull stage the year that Poirier djed. Palance had just dropped and I’d say maybe only a ⅕ of the crowd knew the dance and we all just went nuts. There’s a video of it somewhere and it’s a melancholic watch because some people aren’t here with us anymore, others moved on and one couple is about to get married. Oh and the Carnival hug! If you see anyone you know at Carnival you give them the deepest and most heartfelt hug of the year.
How did you get to know the Swing Ting family?
Kazabon: I think Murlo introduced us initially; he was a resident at both parties and could see the similarities and knew we would click. We booked Samrai to play at our World Carnival party in 2013, then met the full crew when we djed at one of the Swing Ting parties at Soup Kitchen. We’ve been friends ever since. We share a similar love for music and they are some of the most amazing and genuine people we know. We love these guys so much that we try to take regular trips to Manchester to catch up with them. Our summer holiday last year was a trip to Manchester Carnival to see Platt, Joey B and Fox shelling it, which was wicked.
Hootie Who: Those guys are amazing, and not just on a musical level. They really care about all aspects of what they do. Something that really impressed me early on was Samrai talking about helping the next generation of club promoters as they navigated the perils of promotion: it could be really easy to just take what you learn and not bother sharing the knowledge. I can see myself in a pub (hopefully the Junction) in 40 years time arguing with them about whether the Spice Girls or All Saints had the better career. I say All Saints by the way.
Towards the end of last year the Conservative MP for Kensington floated the idea of charging entry to Carnival and changing the dates to save police overtime costs. What do you make of these proposals?
Kazabon: Bun Badmind! They have been threatening to change Carnival for such a long time now and it has managed to stand its ground. Carnival would never work in this way, it would ruin its spirit and what it stands for.
Hootie Who: We just found out that Brixton Splash has been cancelled this year which is another shame. London is really going through it at the moment but Carnivals across the UK are getting squeezed out. It’s not an easy thing to sell the idea of Carnival to well-heeled residents of West London but it’s a vital part of the community there. I’d be interested to see if Mark Ronson and Richard Russell from XL ever speak up for it.
You celebrated your fifth birthday in May. What are some of your favourite HDD memories from the last five years and what are your plans for the next five?
Kazabon: It’s so hard to fit it all in, but the thing that stands out to me over the last few years is that a lot of the amazing guests who have djed at our parties have since become our really good friends. The core HDD raving crew will always stand out to me, especially La’Donna, Chonsak and Quincey (RIP) who always brought the vibe whether there were 20 or 200 people in the dance. One of my favourite guest sets was Serocee mcing with a wireless headset (a la Britney Spears), dressed in a teacher’s hat and gown for his history of dancehall set. Also Seani B’s set at the fifth birthday party was an absolute madness, I will never forget the stage invasion or one of the craziest palances that had shoes, hats and earrings flying!
Hootie Who: That time the police came and shut us down but everyone kept on singing No No No regardless. Looking at the people in the dance and seeing all their happy faces is something I will always cherish. My 60+ year old dad coming to see us DJ was pretty funny, I was scrambling for clean versions of everything (we had none). There is nothing better than doing something you love with the people you love. The next five years will be interesting, the radio show and DJing is the priority at the moment. I really want to help usher through the next group of DJs and producers. I’m keen on doing some more merch things as well, we’ve always been doing bits and pieces but would love to do some more.
Your set at PVC will be your first time performing in Glasgow, is that correct? What can the PVC crowd expect from your set?
Kazabon: Yes it’s our first Scottish gig and we are really excited about it. You can expect our usual mix of bashment, afropop and soca – unlimited vibes! Especially if the rum is flowing and Hootie Who gets hold of some Buckfast!
Hootie Who: So I’m an ⅛ scottish (shout out fellow Nigerian-Scot Ikechi Anya) and am very excited to finally be coming to Scotland. Expect bare wining and World Carnival wahala and Buckfast. Maybe I won’t get on the mic and shout “It’s Yersel”.
Youse had a mix played on Toddla T’s Radio 1 show this month, but you’re no strangers to radio. You’ve held down a bi-weekly slot on Radar since the station’s early days and you were both involved, in differing capacities, in the Style and Swagger show which ran from 2010-2012 on NTS (via a brief stint on Reel Rebels Radio). Do you approach radio sets differently than you do club sets? How?
Kazabon: Radio is a different vibe to club sets for sure. On radio you can be a bit more selfish and play a wider variety of tunes. There’s also room to give tunes a bit more space when you play them on radio – there’s not always a chance to in club sets.
Hootie Who: Radio is a great testing ground for club sets as well as giving exposure to up-and-coming artists. Radar is amazing because they really want everyone’s show to be the best it can be. I don’t know any other radio station that has practice rooms.
Rihanna’s new single is a breezy island bop which debuted on your third and final Radar show of January. Which Caribbean artists would you most like to hear on the remix?
Kazabon: I’d love to hear Busy Signal as he’s so good at interpolating pop hits and bringing them to the next level. I think Ishawna could hold her own on this too.
Hootie Who: I’m with Kazabon, Busy is the one. Maybe Alison Hinds with a hint of newly Christian Lady Saw as well. I find the lack of remixes out already strange which has me hoping for something official.
Kazabon: you’re a Trini girl. What are a few of your current favourites from the 2016 soca season?
As usual Machel Montano has been killing it this soca season with Road Trip, Temperature and Waiting on the Stage (as well as a truck load of remixes). I have also been loving Unlimited Vibes by Kes & Lyrikal, Farmer Nappy’s Rental and Ricardo Drue’s Professional.
Sticky Honey was a pop-up cinema night organised by Rosie Malachi & Dylan Meade with the intention of giving artists a new platform in Glasgow to showcase experimental video works. A special installation by Sarah Courtney was commissioned for the entrance of the event and films from over 20 different artists were screened.
The initial open call asked artists to submit short films that challenged mainstream ideals of fantasy & sexuality, films with an emphasis on liberation, the politics and poetry of the body, or queer & feminist ideals. With the one guideline of “A night dedicated to exploration & expression. As explicit or non explicit, obscure, far out or fantastical as you like….”
The event was hosted by WAVEparticle ‘Open Spaces’ at the Cleland Lane Arches in Laurieston and produced with funding from the GSA SRC & GSASA.
Films Screened came from: David Ian Griess, Krystof Kucera, Sofya Staune, Daisy Chetwin, Eilish Dougan, Honey Jones-Hughes, Grace Higgins Brown, Kelly Doak, Vik Quickly, Slawomir Krzyzak, Holly McLean, Lachlan McFeely Bolt, Tara Marshall-Tierney, Robert Mills, Kirsty Leonard, Dylan Meade, Rosie Malachi, Conor Baird, Josephine Lohoar Self, Fay Nyxturna, Graham Bell Tornado.