Well established in Sheffield, with feelers in Amsterdam and performances across the country, it’s time that Manchester welcomed Banana Hill – a night dedicated to the best in African and Latin American music, with all sorts of funky genres in between. Beginning in Sheffield when the Jack and Chris met at university, past guests include Auntie Flo, Gilles Peterson and Andrés.
KK: What is Banana Hill? There’s the website which contains a tonne of interesting stuff and the clubnights. What came first – the chicken night or the egg site and why did one follow the other?
CK: Banana Hill started as a music blog set up by Jack, which developed into a radio show when we met at Sheffield University in 2010. The name comes from an actual hill near his house in Manchester! I found some of the recordings of the radio show the other day; it’s not surprising it only lasted a year haha. After that we decided to start putting on live bands and attempting to DJ afterwards in a tiny Sheffield venue called The Green Room. It did take us a while to figure out what we were both really passionate about and where we wanted to take it, which I hope we’ve managed to go some way to establishing at this point. The site has definitely taken a backseat over the last year as we’ve put a lot of effort into the club, but in an ideal world we’d like to have both running well. We’ve come into contact with some great people via the site, such as the Vresh guys in Amsterdam, Okmalumkoolkat in South Africa and Homeboyz in Angola, so it’s something we’re looking to keep up.
It’s a bit tricky to talk about genres as we both come from broad musical backgrounds, but we try to create a blend of styles from around the world; underground sounds of house, disco, soul, funk, jazz, UK bass, hip hop & techno, with classic & contemporary African & Latin American rhythms; afrobeat, kwaito, kuduro, afro house, baile funk, calypso, wassoulou, shangaan & beyond.
Who are Banana Hill? I’ve read that you’re a DJ duo but is it just you two that run everything or are there others who help out too?
It started off as Jack and I, and we do all the bookings and DJing. However we do have a small group of people who help and advise us; it wouldn’t be possible without them. My girlfriend Chelsea is key to our events; artist liaison and assisting with booking. Have to say a big thanks to Toby and everyone who’s helped us over the years (you know who you are), and Alex who’s joined as a new resident DJ.
Why did you decide to come to Manchester? What was the attraction after Sheffield? You recently expanded to Amsterdam as well… How did that come about?
Jack is originally from here, and I moved over after I graduated so it seemed like a natural progression. Though Sheffield remains our base, branching out to Manchester and Amsterdam is really exciting. The two cities have such healthy music scenes for a load of different types of music so it’s amazing to get involved.
Jack has been studying and living between Amsterdam and Kampala (Uganda) since February so we’re launching over there at Canvas on 14th November with Portuguese producer Batida. It’s in collaboration with some promoters called Subtropikal, hopefully it’ll become a regular thing! He also made some connections and played at a club in Kampala in the summer, so we’re definitely looking at doing some other stuff on the continent at some point.
How does Manchester compare to the other cities you’ve worked in?
It’s a lot bigger than Sheffield and there’s so much going on, so it’s pretty daunting. It’s really encouraging to see is the network of promoters and music lovers who work together to help create the forward thinking scene we have now. We’ve had a lot of help from So Flute, Hi Ku, Groove Kitchen and Party for the People, and a warm welcome from you guys at Nextup, so have to say a big thanks for that! It’s also different as we’re no longer students, and we originally built the club by doing midweek parties with our mates.
No worries! There has been a rise in the amount of African-leaning nights recently – Frontin’, You Dig?, MogaDisco – what do you think the reason for this is & is there any communication between you and other club nights which can be classed as similar?
I guess pretty much all music has roots in Africa so it can appeal to so many people. It’s great to see each of these parties popping up with their own style and love for different aspects of African music and blending it with UK underground club sounds, which are always 10 steps ahead of whatever Fearne Cotton and Zane Lowe pretend to like.
Something that’s definitely helped is the success of dancefloor-ready edits emerging from artists in Europe and US, but seeing legendary acts like Tony Allen and Ebo Taylor playing at festivals like Dimensions is massively encouraging.
There’s definitely a lot of communication between these nights doing similar things, especially as at this point there aren’t that many. We tend to do a lot of gig exchanges and work on tour shares with other promoters around the country; it’s a great little family and everyone is in it for the right reasons. We’ve had the opportunity to play in a range of new places; London, Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow and beyond which is always exciting to see new venues and clubnights.
How do you make Banana Hill stand out, aside from the absolute quality bookings?
Thanks! It’s helpful that we each have different tastes, but a lot of common ground. This means each party varies, but is tied together by our core principles; music we love, not taking it too seriously and making sure everyone has a dance and a smile.
If money was no object, which artists and where would you hold it?
If mortality were also no object we’d bring Amy Winehouse back from the dead to play in our living room.
Top five throwback tracks? Throwbacks are influential tracks which cannot be classed as recent or new/forthcoming.
In no particular order…
Francis Boy feat. Sana – Itocota
Angolan kuduro was something we both got into a few years ago and influences us a lot. This is a bit slower than the 130-140 beat of kuduro, but it’s amazing.
Femi Kuti – Beng Beng Beng
We’re massive fans of Fela, but this is just pure vibes from his son Femi!
Mezzoforte – Garden Party (S.O.L. Brazil Mix)
Brazil! A slow building summery house jam.
Dur-Dur Band – Dooyo
Awesome Tapes From Africa has put out some gems, and this is one of our favourites. 80’s Somalia.
Flying Lotus – Do The Astral Plane
Instrumental genius from Flylo.
Catch Banana Hill’s Manchester launch event here: