Looking back and forward: DTM Funk starts San-Kofa Rhythm record label

Pictures by Bernice Vijgen

Share

To many dancefloor aficionado's, DTM Funk has been a surprising local discovery. The versatile selector's name has been going around his hometown Antwerp for a couple of years already, but recently, the rest of the country is catching up. If his DJ-sets are known for one thing, it's their effortless blend of rhythm and groove, disregarding genre categorizations in the process. It's precisely these themes that will be in the centre of DTM Funk's newly announced record label, San-Kofa Rhythm Records. The first EP 'Seis Estudios Para Guitarra' by Susobrino will drop next month, but you can hear the first single 'Verano Ayer' exclusively right here:

Before David was playing gigs as DTM Funk every weekend, he was a well-known promoter-DJ that put on footwork and juke nights in Antwerp under the Foot Juice banner. But after an extended (almost two-year-long) stay in Berlin, he started picking a few tricks at the Weboogie crew. The eclectic DJ- and party collective welcomed David with open arms, booking him on numerous nights in the German capital. "Everyone always played hip hop and trap, so I started playing more G-funk instead", David explains. "That's why they started calling me the 'funkmaster', which is where I got my current artist name from. Not much later, DTM Funk was playing major festivals like Melt and MS Dockville. “From that moment onwards, people in Belgium started taking me a bit more serious”.

Horst 2017 was a turning point. “That was the first time I felt that my DJ-set had a lasting impact on the people who were there. Suddenly, I started getting recognition from a lot of unexpected sources”. He joined the Brussels-based Culte Agency (a booking agency that also represents Le Motel and Hiele, ed.) but refused to sell himself forcefully. "Everything needed to come naturally. I knew I was more than a footwork DJ, but it just took some time before people were able to see me for more than that. As long as the music has groove and rhythm, I'll play it. If you look closely at the kind of artists I've booked in the past – like Luke Vibert, Kamaal Williams and Ata Kak for example - you'll notice that it wasn't only footwork and juke”. 

If people ask me which music I play, I’ll say it’s Afrocentric music. That doesn’t mean it’s Afrobeat necessarily; it’s just about the groove and the rhythm.

In Antwerp, people we’re getting used to the new David, mostly because of his own African Boogie Nights, which he has been hosting (mostly) at Pekfabriek in Borgerhout. "At first, people expected strictly African music, but to me, it was about combining those traditional rhythms with modern electronics. African music is more than Fela Kuti; it revolves around grooves, rhythms and a good vibe on the dancefloor”. This seed was planted in Berlin too, David says. “I once went to a night called African Acid is the Future, where I heard acid, electro, techno, cumbia and Afrobeat mixed together. I realized that I wanted to have my own club night where you can listen to different rhythms, all under the same good vibe. It could be done in Berlin, so I have to give it a shot at home”.

Slowly but surely, Belgian promoters were starting seeing the potential in David's eclectic DJ-style. Last year, he received great slots at Dour Festival and Listen! Festival, confirming his status as one of the upcoming DJ's to keep an eye on. Even Amsterdam's renowned De School took note and booked him alongside Suze Ijo for a three-hour set that turned into a spontaneous seven-hour long session. "The club guys were so hyped about us; it was one of those goosebump moments. I finally felt like people knew what I wanted to bring and that I got the recognition for it in return”.


With his DJ-career set on the right track, David now had more energy to focus on his imprint. "It was an idea I had been playing around with for a long time already, but defining what kind of sound I wanted the label to stand for forced me to delineate what kind of DJ I am. If people ask me which music I play, I’ll say it’s Afrocentric music. That doesn’t mean it’s Afrobeat necessarily; it’s just about the groove and the rhythm. And so, this should be the starting point for San-Kofa Rhythms”. Translated to Twi, a widely spoken language in West Africa, it means “To go back and get it”. This perfectly encapsulates the message David tries to convey. "It means that all music comes from somewhere. If you acknowledge the music’s origins and its essence, it becomes so much more valuable, and you become better prepared for the future. This became clear to me when I first visited the country of my roots, Rwanda, as a 19-year-old. It's only after that trip that I've grown as a person and that I started to see a new perspective on everything around me; that's why everything I will release on the label should come from somewhere genuine".

After that inspiring first trip, David has been going back to Central Africa many times; most recently, because he was booked on the internationally praised Nyege Nyege Festival in Uganda. “A magical experience, not only because I was able to play a set that truly represented my peculiar self, but because for the first time in my life, 90% of the audience was black – and it wasn’t even a hip hop night. It was a real eye-opener. There was no prejudice, and there were no headliners; just an amazing atmosphere that embraced everyone's different cultures. After I came home, I immediately started checking out all the DJ's I had been dancing to until 10 AM, but had never heard of before".

San-Kofa Rhythm Records is a safe platform for creative artists to express and present their roots, their core and their soul.

Up first on San-Kofa Rhythms, an EP by the Hasselt-based Susobrino (who was one of the three selected Most Promising Artists at the Red Bull Elektropedia Awards in 2018). Just like David, Susobrino is known for mixing traditional music from the country of his heritage with a modern electronic sound; only Suso’s roots are Bolivian, not African at all. “That’s not the point”, David insists. “Susobrino succesfully connects the past with the future with his productions, creating a unique groove in the process; that’s exactly what I had envisioned for the label”. The two already knew each other for a while, but only got closer when they were both booked at Worldwide Festival’s winter edition in Switzerland last year. “I knew he was making a lot of electronic beats, but then he sent me real roots stuff. It wasn’t classic salsa or cumbia, but he explored his roots and gave his twist to traditional Latin music. It was the perfect release to kick off the label with”.

In an age where digital music streaming reigns supreme, it’s a bold move to start a record label that’s focused on vinyl sales; though David doesn’t see the issue. “I’m never going to make a lot of money with the label, but it will help people to better understand the values of San-Kofa Rhythms”. It’s clear David wants to do things correctly from the start. All San-Kofa releases will be pressed on vinyl, entirely according to his terms. As he prefers to work with local businesses, Crevette Distribution’s extensive but under-the-radar network was an obvious choice. But David goes beyond working locally. “The ecological footprint of the vinyl industry is something I’m deeply concerned with”, he says. “By working with Deepgrooves, a pressing plant in Leeuwarden that works with renewable material, I hope to limit my impact. The releases will look good on the outside too. Slam poets will provide verses that will grace the record covers; the first one will be taken care of by Ashley Morgan. Additionally, the artwork of each copy will revolve around the African fabric aesthetic. A friend of mine works at Vlisco, a textile company that makes these kind of prints; and we’re going to use a new design for every new release”.

For those who expected heavy hitters, Susobrino’s cuts isn't explicit peak time club material. It doesn’t seem what David is going for, anyway. “His selection serves as an excellent living room soundtrack, but it’s tried and tested on the dancefloor too”. The three upcoming release shows in Antwerp, Hasselt and Brussels perfectly reflect that duality. There will be live try-outs with Susobrino in someone’s living room (with both Bolivian and Rwandan snacks) followed by a proper party in a more capable venue afterwards”.

It looks like David has finally found all the pieces of the DTM Funk puzzle. It's only a matter of showing everyone the bigger picture now. “This summer, I overheard two random people explaining how they would describe my sound. They used words like grooves, eclecticism, percussion and funky. For the first time in my life, I thought 'people get it now'. To me, the people must know what I'm about, and not just the promoters. I don't do this for 'the scene', you know. I do it for everyone. I just want to spread some good music into this world”.