Down at our sister venue Dance Tunnel, they’re putting on a special post-Christmas/pre-NYE party featuring two amazing ladies, Tama Sumo AND Lakuti, playing records all night long. Whilst the Berlin based couple play regularly together they are equally formidable apart.
Lakuti, born and raised in apartheid-era South Africa, and a former resident of London, has many faces within dance music, having run parties, a record label, DJs, now running her own agency and has even been known to sing. We caught up with her ahead of her set to find out more about her vibrant upbringing, gay clubs in South Africa and more…
You’re well known for your techno parties cum record label Süd Electronic, that you ran with Portable. Did you strive for a family type feel within both branches?
The parties covered a wide spectrum musically, from techno to house to minimal and more experimental edges. The basis for Süd was basically to try and highlight new music .
When Portable left the UK in the early years of us running the party, I took on the challenge to do the parties on my own. Bringing people together from all walks of life was at the very core of how I ran them, even down to the DJ’s and live acts booked.
It was important to me to invite people who shared the same vision and outlook, and saw their contribution at the party as an ongoing collaboration rather than just an ‘in and out – – bang my job is done’ approach. It was important for me that people of all genders, race and sexual orientation felt welcome and that this was their party.
The parties in particular ran here in London for about 11 years. To what do you attribute it’s long-running success in a city that is quite tough with competition?
There was nothing too complicated really, and I never went in with an intention of doing a massive party in the sense of conquering the world. I put my heart and soul into trying to offer an oasis for myself and like minded people. That is all.
How did you find living in London, and what made you want to leave?
I will always view London as my home. I absolutely adore the city and it’s people. London is the most diverse city in the world and this is what makes the city so incredibly special. the negatives though, were eventually too hard to ignore. After 15 years of having lived in the city, those negatives became more and more impossible to ignore .
This is not a city that allows you any breathing space. People often have to run around often doing several jobs just to pay the rent. The politics and the political establishment is also a huge factor in deciding to leave the city. They are taking everyone back to the dark ages. Their disdain for the poor truly saddens me. And they are running the country to the ground as far as I can see. I recently saw a survey which showed London to rank lower than Johannesburg, Warsaw and many more other cities when it came to quality of life.
You’re married to Tama Sumo… can you sum up for us why it is important to strive for marriage equality?
I personally do not believe in the institution of marriage. My belief is that government has no business in anyone’s bedroom. We have all seen time and time again how governments use marriage to penalize those that choose to leave their lives differently. Yes, on paper most countries are now opting to give rights of marriage or civil partnership to the LGBTIQ community but if you look at the small print, what is being offered is not good enough. There are still great disparities when it comes to the rights offered to heterosexual couples as opposed to LGBTIQ partnerships. For example the tax breaks given to heterosexual couples in most countries are not the same to what is offered to people in civil partnerships.
I do not want to be a pawn to the state and I can’t help but think that we are selling ourselves short in believing that marriage equality will bring us meaningful and lasting equal rights. I have the utmost respect for those who choose this path and they find meaning in it. On a personal note, I could not be any happier to be in a partnership with such a great human who has so much time and so much love to give.
You guys DJ together quite a lot, how do you think you’re about to work so well together (where most couples would drive each other mental)?
We do drive each other mental sometimes, hehehe. But I guess that is part of life. We have so much in common and we share a huge passion for music, we make each other laugh and share a common basis as to what is important in life. These are for me the ingredients that keep us going and keeps everything exciting and magical.
You also run an agency, Uzuri, which means “beauty” in Swahili. What drove you to set up your own agency and what was the inspiration behind the name?
It happened by chance really, that I encountered a USA based DJ that needed an agent and I thought about it, and thought that it was a challenge enough and an aspect within the workings of the music industry that I had not explored. All part of learning I guess, and I do love a challenge!
What kind of influence do you think growing up in South Africa has had on the vast musical output you are, and have been, involved in?
South Africa is my birth country and my roots are there, and therefore it has shaped me as a person. South Africa, in particular Johannesburg, had a thriving clubbing culture back in the early nineties and some of my most memorable going out experiences were in Johannesburg.
My grandmother was a Shebeen Queen back in the ’50s in Sophiatown. I grew up listening to her stories with great interest about how she ran her shebeen. It was a jazz shebeen and people such as the great, late penny whistler Kippie Moeketsi used to drink there. The great poet and writer Don Mattera too. So my grandmother is truly the person responsible for making me want to put on parties. I can never thank her enough and wish she was still alive and was able to give her seal of approval.
And what about your family? Music was obviously a big part of your life with your grandfather being a double bass player…
My family were all music lovers. There was always music in the home. My mom used to collect soul, funk and disco; Barry Whites, Ashford and Simpson, Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Betty Wright, Mahalia Jackson and much more.
She used to hide her records in a suitcase on top of the wardrobe. My grandfather was an avid jazz collector. Sundays were dedicated to a bottle of VO Martell brandy and him cleaning and listening to his records. We had a lot of discussions and arguments as Sunday was my day for listening to the top 40. With age I am so grateful to both my mom and grandfather for giving me the foundations for appreciating music.
You studied law at university in SA before moving to the UK- do you think that’s what helped you have such a broad and successful career in the dance music industry?
I did go to law school and I also went to film school briefly. It does help to have some basics as you do deal with a lot of legal documents on a day-to-day basis, so learning about how these things operate is certainly an advantage.
Although personally, I never did see myself as being part of a greater music industry and there are a lot of things within the industry that I do not approve of.
What were your favourite gay clubs in SA at the time? And what’s the gay scene like there now?
The club that really kicked things open for me after leaving home and in my 1st year of university was Mrs Henderson’s with DJ Nuno. The club was beautiful. A ballroom type of place. And Nuno was great, playing great music. Then came Idols, then Embassy. Embassy was the club to go to if you loved house music. Stuart, the DJ, was really one of the best DJ’s the country had to offer. He knew his regulars and just knew when to play the tunes that individually got us going.
Finally, you are the vocalist on Portable’s track Deeper Love… is singing something you want to do more of or is it something only a best friend could coax out of you?
I would never call myself a singer. Now and again, I will sing for friends but singing is definitely not something I view as a career path for me!
Join Lakuti at Dance Tunnel Presents Tama Sumo on Saturday 28th December from 10pm – 3am at Dance Tunnel.
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Tags: Dance Tunnel, Don Mattera, jazz, Johannesburg, Kippie Moeketsi, Lakuti, London, Portable, shebeen, Sophiatown, South Africa, Süd Electronic, Tama Sumo, Uzuri