Lakuti keeps it moving

From growing up in Soweto, moving to Toronto for her studies, relocating to London in the 90’s to finally coming of age when landing in her adopted home base of Berlin – to say Lakuti’s DJ sets are an amalgamation of sounds and influences would be an understatement.

Her love of traveling was only matched by her musical curiosity and with each stop along the way, she picked up inspirations to create her singular approach DJ-ing but also the various projects she is involved in: running the Uzuri label, curating events, running her own booking and management agency.

As that Soul II Soul classic goes: “Keeeep on moving (Don’t Stop, No!)” Lakuti’ s journey embodies that timeless joint perfectly.

Hi Lerato, so nice to meet you. We’re really excited to welcome you for your first set in Montreal on October 25th!

@Lakuti_: I am so excited to come to Montreal. I was there once visiting the city back in the early 90’s whilst i was staying in Toronto. To come back and get to share music with you all is making me so happy. I have been following the Music Is My Sanctuary website and love what you do .

Thanks for the kind words!

I wanted to know how much has living in many different cities (Johannesburg, Toronto, London and now Berlin) influenced your approach to music, creativity and all of the projects you are involved in?

@Lakuti_: From a very young age whilst growing up in the townships in Soweto , I often dreamt about travel and to have fulfilled that dream has been a really humbling experience. I think ultimately there are more similarities than differences in all of us even though the politics often dictate otherwise. Where ever i have settled i have luckily managed to find my tribe, music is a great leveller in that sense. All these cities have offered me something valuable and have definitely influenced how I approach music.

Johannesburg laid the foundations for me, but then coming to Toronto was an eye opener. It was my first time leaving the African continent and I was lucky enough to feel welcomed and meet people who were involved in music. It was an opportunity for me to learn beyond where I came from. London is where I feel I really grew musically. London back in the 90’s was a truly special place you could be out every day of the week and be able to hear all different kinds of music. From going out on a monday to hear James Lavelle, Patrick Forge or Talvin Singh to going out to a club another night to hear Derrick May or going out to hear Gilles Peterson to hearing Jah Shaka the day after. Berlin is where I feel I came of age and thanks to Panorama bar and Berlin as a whole for teaching me to play longer sets than 2 hrs where you really have to keep things interesting to keep people locked in.

Definitely, the music scene and DJ/club culture is every city is generally small enough that you can quickly find your tribe as you say. You are also lucky to have made your major stops in cities that are music hubs and all kind of have their distinct own sound right?

@Lakuti_: Johannesburg has its own distinct sound for sure and London still does though in smaller pockets as compared to back in the 90’s. In many ways due to the internet and dance music going more and more mainstream, more and more cities are losing their own identity. There is definitely a more homogenised sound now and things are more fashion orientated and so a certain sound is fashionable for about 6 months then something else becomes more fashionable.

What’s a one of the wildest cities you’ve played that you never dreamed you’d get to go out there? and what’s one city or country still on your wish list?

@Lakuti_: It was always a dream of mine to go to Japan and it did not disappoint. I was so impressed by the level of attention to detail. They really care for sound.

Another city I have to mention is Tblisi in Georgia. I did not know what to expect my first time playing there seven years ago, all i knew was that it was surrounded by Turkey, Syria and Russia . I must admit I was scared to go. But despite the airport being one of the worst for me for racism the clubbers were some of the best I have ever had the opportunity to meet. They had such warmth and were super open to all kinds of music. I have been going there once a year at least ever since and each time i am meant by such warmth by the party people.

I would love to experience playing more in Africa and my dream would be to play in Nigeria and use that as an excuse to finally see Fela Kuti’s Shrine, which is still going and i hear there are road blocks each time the club is opened.

Do you do a bit of record digging when you’re touring?

@Lakuti_: I try to whenever I am staying longer than a day in a place. Sadly at the moment, time has not been much of a friend but yeah if I am in a city longer than a few hours or a day, record shopping and trying out good eating spots are things I most enjoy doing.

To say you have a busy schedule would be an understatement! Must be quite something to balance your DJ projects as well as running Uzuri Records and the booking/management agency.

So let’s talk about Uzuri a little bit: 30 releases in, what would you say is still the driving force behind it. The mission – passion – vocation.

@Lakuti_: I am a bit of a workaholic. I enjoy keeping busy. It keeps me out of trouble (hehehe) but i’m learning to also self care and delegate a bit more these days.

I started the label as i was surrounded by talent without an outlet. I had to teach myself on how things worked very quickly and then embarked on running a label. I am a great believer in supporting the needs of my immediate community and somehow my psyche is wired in such a way that i do like a bit of a challenge too ?. Pretty much the label still operates from that ethos up to this day.

I’m sure the same applies to the artists you represent as an agency?

@Lakuti_: Very much so when i started the agency none of the artists were known. To be honest i had no intention of starting an agency. at the time i was running the Süd parties in London which ran for 11 years. One of the artists I booked had a great time at the party and we connected and he was convinced that I could do a good job working on his bookings. I agreed to do so on a trial basis and the agency is still going 11 years later.

I definitely recognize myself in that statement. When I love a song, an artist, a label I will do everything in my power to spread the word. To champion music I believe in sounds like a positive contribution to the world . we all need music in our lives .

I know have probably been asked this question a lot over the years but whats your view on being a DJ and feeling the obligation to produce in order to get more gigs, bigger rep, etc… I ask because I am also labeled “just a DJ” sometimes, but a ton of my favorite DJ’s have been that as well (Gilles, Josey, Lefto, Alex Nut, etc)

@Lakuti_: I think both things are so different. Being a good dj does not automatically make you a good producer vice versa. I can understand why it is easier for clubs to book producers as they garner more press due to their output and it is tough out there for musicians to make money just from putting out records these days , but ultimately these are two very different areas within music.

On the subject of DJing and the evolution of the craft / role of the DJ. What do you think has gone right (improved, inspires you) about the current state of DJing… and what have we lost from the craft since the 70-80-90’s

@Lakuti_: In many ways back then because it was all new , things naturally felt fresh and more exciting. Clubbing as we know it has become a huge industry worth over a billion dollars and with the internet everything is so fast and can sometimes feel commodified and less and less about heart. I still feel though that there is still a lot of life left within the whole scene. I just hope that we can slow down a bit and remember that ultimately with the right presentation and lots of love , music has the power to truly be transformative. I have a lot of faith in younger folk. There are so many embracing this ethos and wanting to learn about the culture.

I think it is also important as veterans of the scene to not always been looking back and talking about how things were better and this and that. Inspirations from the past are really important but we need to push the scene forward… which brings me to my next question

In addition to being a DJ you are also heavily involved in the industry as a booker-manager-label owner. I was wondering what you think of where we are with the parity in music lineups (with initatives like Keychange, Discwoman) and the industry as a whole (with collectives like She Said So)

What are some things that have gone right and where can we all still affect social change in music?

@Lakuti_: What these collectives have done for women is a great thing and I hope it is something that will carry in the industry for a long time and it is not just a phase. There is still a long way to go and engaging meaningfully with these things is important . sometimes words such as diversity i feel have become just buzz words and that is a shame. We need more intersectionality in the music industry.

I feel that there issue of race needs to be addressed urgently in particular in electronic music. It is not an easy time for djs of colour. There are only a handful lucky enough to get the gigs but overall it saddens me to see people of colour being left behind considering the great contribution they have made to the scene. sometimes with all these major blogs, if you did know any better, you would think that black people stopped making dance music a long while ago as the music gets no support.

I absolutely hear you on that. I don’t expect all club goers to research the history of techno, house, disco… but everyone who is in the industry and needs to acknowledge and respect the roots of this music which is now a billion dollar industry and help and restore some balance.

@Lakuti_: Indeed!

We are based in Montreal, and the North American scene has its share of issues to fix. Conversation for another time ?

What kind of music do you listen to at home? Outside of what people would know you for from your DJ sets?

@Lakuti_: Oh it varies! When i am feeling home sick i tend to listen to a lot of south african music. I grew up in the 80’s as well and i am a sucker for 80’s pop music when i am feeling particularly nostalgic. at the moment i am also obsessed with music from the 70’s . the 70’s were so rich soundwise .Ultimately i am open to lots of different music and to a large degree there is something good in almost every genre except for edm lol! That is more about cake throwing than music lol.

What’s your favorite record store in the world? What’s your favorite record store thats no longer around?

@Lakuti_: That is a toughie but sounds of the universe in London is still a fave. I do miss vinyl junkies which was another great London record shop which shut down some yrs back.

agreed on both! big fan of SOTU and only went to Vinyl Junkies back in the day but loved it

Whats a dream B2B, a DJ you’ve always wanted to play a set with?

@Lakuti_: Obviously Tama Sumo, we have very similar taste and approach so that makes sense. Outside of Tama Sumo, one of my faves is Marcellus Pittman. Hopefully one of these days we can make that happen!

I went record digging with him and Theo couple weeks ago, both such great people. Dope digging buddies too!

Yess they are both great humans.

Well let’s leave it on that note, hope we will have a moment to take you out to great diner and some digging after the gig

We are all really looking forward to meeting you. And hearing you!

@Lakuti_: Thank you so much for the invite i am so looking forward to meeting you all. and eating and digging sound great.

If you are in Montreal on October 25th, please join us for an evening with LAKUTI on the decks with an opening set from the Step Aside DJ’s. Link