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“It’s about love, and bringing people together.” This simple idea, as founder Lerato Khathi said into the microphone at a party back in December last year, is the basis of Süd Electronic, one of London’s most respected and established underground nights out. Sometimes everything is just perfectly right: music, sound, people, the whole atmosphere of it. Süd Electronic parties are like that, they always have been. The main draw of Süd Electronic is its music – a connoisseur blend of Chicago-hinged house and Detroit-flavoured techno. Although it isn’t a membership or invite-only event, the crowd are usually devoted regulars; people don’t just go for the quality music, but also the general vibe that it focuses on. “It was and remains our small revolution,” said Lerato. It’s not about franchising and running a mega rave; it was more – and still is – about the music and bringing people from all different walks of life together.
The history of Süd Electronic stretches back to 2000. Run by Lerato (you may know her better as Lakuti, who also runs the Uzuri label) and Alan Abrahams (Portable/ Bodycode), they’ve had lots of reputable guests like Levon Vincent, Shed, Juan Atkins, Move D, Jus Ed, Tevo Howard, Fred P, Rick Wade and many more. Not to mention regular DJs Tama Sumo, Steffi, and Prosumer. The night has taken place at a variety of east London warehouse spaces and basement bars over the years.
Eleven years after it began, Süd Electronic still maintains that special party feeling. But sadly, it’s leaving London after one last dance. With Lerato moving away from the UK, tomorrow will see the official end of the night. Taking place at a secret east London location, the last Süd Electronic event will feature Move D, Lawrence, Efdemin, Tama Sumo, Portable and Lakuti, with an interactive light installation run by Kite & Laslett. We spoke to Lerato before she packed her bags, and chatted about the whole concept and future of Süd Electronic.
Why did you start Süd Electronic?
Lerato: Myself and Alan (Portable/ Bodycode) started Süd as a creative outlet for us. We both moved from South Africa to London in 1997 and whilst we enjoyed going out to different spaces and parties we felt that we were still yearning for a different kind of party – a party where music and location and people formed a near perfect synergy. We wanted to create a space that allowed for a freedom of expression; where gay, straight, white, black or whatever could come together and be able to engage and also redefine the space how they saw fit. A party which got others to hopefully get inspired to also start their own DIY revolution.
What’s the appeal of the event? How do you want it to be different from other nights that are happening in town?
Lerato: I want Süd to be a space that is welcoming to everyone no matter what walk of life they are from. We are living in such regressive times politically right now. Our governments are doing everything in their power to keep people divided. We all need a space where we can all feel equal even if it’s for those few precious hours. It’s also extremely important to me that DJs and live acts we invite also share the same vision that we are all equal and that DJs are not demi gods and need their own VIP area. For me that is such an 80s attitude. Going out and enjoying music should not be a lifestyle choice that only the rich and hip can engage in. So I do hope in the 11 years of doing this we did manage on some level to create a welcoming space for all and hopefully inspired somebody to also use creativity to bring people together.
Are there any other nights from any other times/cities that you think influence how you do Süd Electronic parties?
Lerato: I would say the biggest influence has been a small club in downtown Johannesburg in the early 90s called Fourth World. Johannesburg was so exciting in the early 90s. We practically lived in this club. I use to love a gay club called Embassy too, also in Johannesburg. But Fourth World, I would say, was the biggest influence.
Which was the most memorable Süd Electronic party?
Lerato: There have been so many. It’s really hard to say. I still remember very vividly our first party with Prosumer at our 8th Birthday back in 2008, back when BG’s, aka The Shacklewell Arms, was not trendy. There was something in the air that night. Very sexy vibes. Everything seemed to come together. Prosumer delivered a blistering set. At some point he dropped Aaron Carl’s (RIP) ultimate classic – Down. You should have heard the ‘Queens’ screeching like it was 1989. Hahaha… Great Moment! Another great memory was of our first party with Move D back in 2007. He had not played in London for a decade before then. This was back at our old haunt with the ‘crazy lift’. Our friends from Bodyhammer now do brilliant parties there. The space feels like an old New York loft with big windows so the sun started seeping through and Move D dropped Roy Davies Junior’s – Gabrielle. Definite goosebumps moment! Another night that is worth a mention only because there was such a huuhaa! [At that time] our friend Janine Rostron, aka Planningtorock, just self-released her first album, which we thought was great and so we invited her to come perform live. The room was literally divided into half; happy people and annoyed people. The po-faced techno boys were not happy! [But] we loved her! This was back in 2005, or was it 2006? Oh, I can‘t remember…
So, Süd Electronic is leaving London soon, what’s next?
Lerato: The 5th of November will see us celebrating the last Süd party. You know, change is good. It means new things can come out of that change. 11 years is a long time for a night to run. We’ve done that and I feel and it’s time for a short break. Besides, for me, the Süd nights will always be about London. So new country and different city require new fresh ideas. I have a few things in mind which are nowhere as ready to be shared. So let’s just say that I am very looking forward to taking a break and solidifying my ideas, going for walks, checking out some new nights, learning about a new culture and studying new people.
And the Süd Electronic label? Any new releases coming up?
Lerato: We are very excited to be kickstarting Süd as a label again after a few years break. We feel that we are ready to move things forward. We have a few exciting releases planned in the first half of next year. Check this space…