Sef Kombo's been dedicated to the London house scene for over a decade.
The South London DJ, promoter, broadcaster and label boss has always uplifted the sound of the capital, giving a platform to the ever changing currents of house music that flow through the city's underground clubs: UK funky, soulful house, deep house and afrohouse.
A true multi-hyphenate, Sef's been throwing it down on stations like Rinse, Reprezent, 1xtra, Bang, Kiss and East Africa Radio for as long as he remember and he's been at the helm of one of London's leading house music parties, TilTwo, while recently linking up with Kitty Amor and D-Malice to create Motherland, the epicentre of the city's afrohouse movement.
Sef's been on the pulse of new movements in house music, bringing together the UK and Africa via his boundless energy for unearthing talent (he released 'Afro Power', a mix CD featuring only African artists back in '09). This has led to him becoming A&R and non-executive Director for Sondela, the new afrohouse sub-label from Defected.
Read on for more about Sondela and hit the mix for a showcase of Sef's inimitable energy in the booth.
Tell us about Sondela!
Sondela! The afrohouse arm of the mighty Defected Records. Something that has been in the works for quite some time and been more ongoing since February slowly putting bits together. Louie Dunmore and I are running the label as A&R with the aim to discover new emerging talent within afrohouse as well as established names and alongside other great existing labels put out fantastic music as well as exposing and growing this great genre to new audiences. Sondela will also put on club nights, we have already had one in Newcastle that was great! In the future we hope to be curating our own festival stage too, we really want to give it a good go!
You're an A&R for the label. Can you give us an insight into how you discover and sign new talent?
It’s a lot of time spent looking for and discovering new talent since I already have a vast network of talent I know of so it’s a process I am still very much learning. I’ve called on a few label mates who have told me how they have discovered talents over the years and used that as benchmark on how to start conversation with new talent, informing them of the Sondela project with the aim to align our creative visions and develop excellent relationships.
Can you tell us about some of the upcoming releases?
We have a few cool releases lined up for the label, we won’t reveal the names just yet! It’s an exciting one.
You're also a non-executive Director. What does that entail?
It entails me being a part of the whole operation of Sondela, from contract offerings to strategic planning for the label moving forward, a lot to take on yet one I’m committed to learning, using my transferable experience and being the best at.
Do you think more musicians and labels should get involved with charity work?
If it’s possible, I really think it’s a great idea, the more the involved in this type of work will increase the amount of exposure of talent that exist that might have never had the opportunity just because of circumstances that may hold them back. For us working with Bridges For Music and the sponsorship of the 30 students over the 3 years will be extremely beneficial to all parties, I think so much will be learnt.
Do you think afrohouse should be getting more attention on Western dancefloors and in the Western press?
The dancefloors have been blessed well especially in more recent years. Yet when it comes to press, it absolutely should get more, it’s good music and I say that with no bias because I’ve been in the trenches with it when it seemed like it was trying to find a new direction from its initial raw spark, there have been so many artists, DJs and record labels who have really put in hard work over the years from all over the world with this particular style of house music, there has been enough to have got more press attention.
You've run TilTwo for a decade and are involved with Motherland and Sessions: how are you adapting to the current situation in terms of continuing to promote and evolve the afrohouse scene while clubs are shut?
I’m adapting by still doing a broadcast on No Signal Radio which is one of the hottest networks in the UK at the moment and also entered into the live streaming space after wanting to do so for so long but unable to find suitable products to get that off the ground. Thankfully affordable products have been released during the lockdown and I’ve been able to ask some very good friends of mine to be a part of something special. It’s another another avenue of promotion of the music here in the UK as a lot of work goes into it and we as a collective are still learning. Using Spotify playlists have also been a useful tool to continue spreading awareness of the coolest releases whether it be new or a throwback, the Til Two playlist for example based on every single track that has ever been played at the even is over 500 records strong and it’s constantly being added to.
You run events, host a weekly radio hour and present a podcast, as well now running a label. Why's it important to have so many strings to your bow as an artist?
It’s important to me because it helps me to really understand how things really work, instead of me just taking a guess or having an uninformed perception of things. It helps to tie stuff together and create better results and open up opportunities not only for myself but for others. Knowledge is power too!
What advice would you give to young Black people looking to get into the music industry and maintain a career like you have?
I believe that bringing your authentic self to the table is the best thing you can do and give 110 per cent to what you do. Have pride and passion in the music styles you enjoy and want to express to the world. There are ups and downs, frustrations and disheartening moments but you always got to remind yourself of why you are here in the first place, you’ll be surprised at what comes along. Lastly there are plenty of people who look like you who can offer advice and/or assistance so don’t be afraid to ask questions if there are things you’d like to know.
Ngeke Ku Lunge (Demented Soul Imp5 Afro Mix) - Noxious Deejay ft. Xelimpilo
Amasiko - TekniQ
Ladon - Manyelo Dafro ft. Bassekou Kouyate
The Duel - Kid Fonque & Jonny Miller
LoMhlaba - Cee ElAssaad ft. Thandi Draai
Forge - Enoo Napa
Tishiki (Manoo Dub) - Paso Doble & Jim MasterShine ft. Idd Aziz
Amagwala 2.0 - Kususa
Ancestor's Calling (Saint Evo Remix) - Native Tribe ft. TTAN
Inkinga - Kususa
Your Voice (Enoo Napa Remix) - AWEN & Caiiro