One of underground SA’s most exciting exports in the world of so-called ‘afro-house’, Floyd Lavine, shares an exclusive 20-minute mixtape
By Ian McNair at Platform
The self-professed “student of the rave” and one of underground SA’s most exciting exports in the world of so-called ‘afro-house’, Floyd Lavine was in South Africa for a few weeks and a few rare appearances on the Mother City’s dancefloors. Lavine has built up a solid reputation in Berlin with a residency at Watergate nightclub with his now-monthly night, RISE, which is in the process of launching a label division with a release from RISE co-promoter, HYENAH. The pair have built the night around sharing the distinctly African sounds in the dance music they love and most often play out.
Where did you get your ‘break’ in the music industry?
Well, for the past 10 years I’ve been involved in the electronic music industry in South Africa, London and Berlin as DJ, music producer, label owner, event organiser and raver – the full 360. I’m a student of the rave.
I kinda made my own luck, really. I think apart from working hard at your craft, this industry, like most industries, is about building relationship and taking risks. In the beginning nobody wanted to book me, so I decided to start my own events with the help of some close friends. We grouped together and did our thing and that’s how we built ourselves. I’ve always had that spirit of just doing it and not waiting for approval, sometimes it works out, most of the time it does not, but at least I keep trying.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a DJ and producer? How do you deal with it?
I think both the professions have their challenges, when I have my producer head on I think more like a chef, or a painter. I’m either about creating new ideas from scratch or sourcing new inspiration by gathering references or collaborating on projects that will expand my ideas. I think the challenges of being a producer is about showing up to the work and completing your ideas. I find that it’s more important to finish tracks than to sit on loops. It’s better to have a good enough track than a masterpiece idea that will never be finished.
As a DJ, the challenges I face is to constantly create the vibe that I envision for every set that I play. The challenge comes with traveling to different countries. I find that every country has its own unique groove and it’s important to tap into that groove if I want create a special vibe. So being prepared is important, knowing your music and also the opening DJ or the resident DJ of the event that you’ll be playing at is very important as they are a guide or can give you a glimpse into what the crowd likes in a specific country or event.
You’ve been a resident at your own RISE night at Watergate for a solid while, and you’ve been traversing the globe channeling your roots and navigating the leading edge of ZA-infused dance music for years. What is the most fulfilling part of travelling the world with your music? How does the approach to your music change, having experienced the world’s appetite for it?
Being a resident at RISE has shaped the way I play. What is key to know is that having a residency is one of the best ways to hone your skills. RISE has an identity and we want to explore this sonically so this pushes me to dig deeper to my roots.
What has been rewarding is seeing the response the global audience has had to my version of African house and techno music – this brings me joy and also faith in the power of music.
What do you aim to achieve with RISE? How successful has your mission been?
Our aim with RISE is to keep on creating this musical bridge between Africa and the rest of the world. RISE is about introducing the world to our version of African house and techno music and building on a solid foundation, so that in the future our platform will be the key stepping stone for young African DJs and producers.
The artists we have booked for RISE events in Berlin have been some of most accomplished African artists as headliners. Combining them with talented European or Western artists always creates a special vibe musically and sets a standard of what we expect when we do a RISE event.
The success for RISE has been the power of collaboration – musically and personally. The RISE crew is made up of people from different backgrounds and countries but we all share a common vision.
It’s great to see the impact that RISE has had in Europe and especially Berlin which is mostly dominated by techno music. RISE brings colour and flavour and offers something familiar but different to Berlin.
My personal vision for RISE is to inspire my African people that no matter the hand that we have been dealt, we shall RISE above our own expectations.
What has the process of expanding RISE into a label been like? What have you learnt?
RISE started off as a bi-monthly event held at the iconic Watergate club in Berlin, and because the residents are all producers in their own right, this was the next natural step to start to create the sound of RISE.
Running a label is another set of skills one must try to learn as an independent artist.
What I've learnt is the importance of self-releasing. You need to believe in the music you’re producing and releasing, be willing to build key partnerships and relationships in areas that you are not an expert in – this is will save you time and also improve your business.
What is it like living mostly in Europe as a young South African musician? How does it feel to return to Cape Town and to always have one foot in the city?
I feel blessed and grateful to have the opportunity to be based in Berlin, one of the world’s best cities and also the leading city for electronic music. Berlin for me is a place I find a sense of peace, or let’s say peace of mind. I’m deeply influenced by my environment so for me it was important to be around the people and artists that influenced me to strive for more.
Returning to Cape Town and South Africa always gives me the sense of ‘home’. I need to always feel this.
What is world-class about Cape Town’s dance music culture, that Capetonians don’t even realise?
I think what is world class about Cape Town is the people.
What Capetonians need to realise is: The more diversity that happens at events, the more beautiful Cape Town will become. Unity In Diversity! That must be the spirit above anything else.
It’s sad to go to events in Cape Town that only cater for one specific group of people. We all need to try harder to be more inclusive and fight the stereotype and the indoctrination so that we can get over the fear of ‘the other’.
South Africa is special because it’s Africa, not Europe, and we must embrace our own unique vibe and be proud to have a multiracial environment.
What is your overall message in the world – musically and personally?
Unity In Diversity.
We need more compassion and empathy, more silliness, even more laughter, more kindness and more dancing.