"Having spaces where people can gather to dance, meet likeminded people and enjoy music together is absolutely crucial to a prosperous and healthy society."
Words by The Right To Dance
Raised on Bristol's rich sound system heritage,Kahn &Neek have been paying it back to their hometown for over a decade, keeping it at the forefront of musical innovation as producers, DJs and label-heads. Their sound - and careers - emerged from Bristol's early dubstep scene in the early 2010s and, since the genre has splintered into many directions, their focuss has remained on its darker elements with heavy nods to grime, both its instrumental and lyrical form. Their work has found homes on leading labels for that intersection - Deep Medi, Keysound Recordings, Butterz and Terrorhythm - while their ownBandulu Records has been nurturing their local community since 2012. It's this "vital support network" they pay tribute to for the ninth TRTD Mix, one of the rare occasions since their Essential Mix and Fabriclive selections that the two hit record together. Their hour long session is accompanied by a Q&A touching on their local scene, unifying dance floor experiences and a nod to British club history.
First off, a huge thank you for donating your time to the TRTD Mix series. Why is The Right To Dance and War Child something you want to lend your support to?
Kahn: Thanks for having us, it’s a pleasure and a privilege to be involved. I think I speak for both of us when I say that we have great admiration for the work that War Child has been involved in over the years and that it’s an honour to have been asked to contribute towards the TRTD mix series and lend our support to the fundraising efforts of such an important cause.
Throughout history, people have fought for the right to dance for a variety of reasons, from the personal to the communal. Why is dancing and, more broadly, dance music such an important part of your life?
Kahn: Having spaces where people can gather to dance, meet likeminded people and enjoy music together is absolutely crucial to a prosperous and healthy society. Regardless of what is going on in your life, knowing that there is a place you can go to express yourself and feel apart of something is so important for peoples' wellbeing. Some of the most important connections and moments in peoples' lives happen in these types of spaces.
Our friendship and subsequent collaborative work together is a good example of that I think, having both met as teenagers in a nightclub in Bristol and formed a friendship out of a shared interest in sound system music and the community surrounding it. Without having that space available to us and the wider context of dance music as the impetus for us forming a bond in the first place, we may never have met and our lives would be very different today.
Neek: It changed our lives for sure! Similar to what Kahn said, dance music is about escapism first and foremost. We found a space to connect within it. Through being able share our version of it, we have had the chance to explore the world and see how people experience it in many different ways. It's so important because it's a universal thing.
Could you give us some insight into which one of our pillars you themed your mix around?
Kahn: whilst all of the core pillars of TRTD are important to us, I think that Community spoke to us the most in the context of the Kahn & Neek project. Our close knit community in Bristol, as well as the wider national and international community we’ve built throughout our travels, have given us such a strong foundation to build the project upon and a vital support network from which to develop and fully realise our creative endeavours. We’ve tried to exemplify the importance of our community and show our appreciation for it by including tracks from several key contemporaries and collaborators of ours including Commodo, Hi5Ghost, O$VMV$M, Bengal Sound, Drone and 0079, to name just a few.
Are there any particular tracks from the mix you’d like to highlight?
Kahn: For me, one of the tracks I was really keen to include in this mix was the excellent Bengal Sound remix of Daboor and Shabjdeed’s iconic track ‘Inn Ann’. I had been following Shabjdeed’s work for a while after hearing his album ‘Sindibad el Ward’ with Al Nather, so it was such a pleasant surprise when Bengal Sound sent over his remix of such an anthemic and important piece of music. Hardly any other artists I’m aware of in our immediate community had been remixing or reimagining the contemporary rap coming out of Palestine through the sound palette of UK bass music. That crossover is really exciting to me and I hope there is more collaboration between our communities in future.
Are there communities or moments within dance music culture that have felt unifying to you?
Kahn: The collaborative Teachings in Dub and Deep Medi weekender events that ran for a number of years at the Trinity Centre in Bristol were really unifying I think, bringing together artists and audiences from both the dubstep and dub reggae communities under one roof. There was a real sense of unity and celebration of a shared history that ran through those events.
Neek: I remember when we put on the 10th birthday of our original club night Sureskank way back in September 2016, almost eight years ago now! We had a massive line up of grime MCs and dubstep and grime DJs. It felt like us realising an idea we had thought about for years, a true meeting of both genres. It was something we were trying to do with our DJ sets and in our productions finally happening right there in front of us.
If you could go back to any dance floor in history, what would it be and why?
Kahn: For me it would probably be in London in the early 1980s, with an ideal night out being something like Prince Far I at the 100 Club then onto The Batcave in Soho. It’s one my favourite eras in music and I just imagine it must have been a very exciting time to be alive and to hear all of that music coming into being.
Neek: I think it would have to be at a massive free party to see the birth of the UK rave scene for me. My aunt and uncle were both there and their stories and photos have always intrigued me. I would have loved to have felt that energy for the first time with everyone else.