Akanbi’s DJ sets will make you feel sexy

100%: Ahead of his set at Horst festival this week, the Lagos-via-New York cult DJ tells us how he's creating “the sexiest flow, bubbly flavours and big high spirits” on dancefloors this summer.

Akanbi makes sure the crowd has fun and feels sexy at every DJ set he plays, dropping everything from sensual amapiano to thumping techno and, yes, Akon to get them there.

Today, he’s calling from his hotel room in Kunming, China, the latest stop on a proper touring bonanza. Over the last few weeks, Akanbi has played gigs in Colombia, Brazil and Japan. Up next: Vietnam, before a whistle-stop trip around Europe, which will include a slot at Horst festival in Brussels and a pit stop at Dekmantel in Amsterdam. Oh, and he’s also flying over to New York for a quick Boiler Room set.

I think of myself as a travel professional at this point, a real boy scout!” he says, laughing. Now based in New York, Akanbi was born in Virginia, but he did most of his growing up in Lagos – it was vital, his mum insisted, that he be exposed to African culture as early as possible. That’s where Akanbi had his first taste of dance music via Fatboy Slim’s Push the Tempo, which was duly sent round his and his classmates’ clunky Nokia burner phones.

And my mum would also take me to lots of birthday parties, where there were dance competitions. I was always winning those, actually…” This is the moment Akanbi realised he had an affinity for partying, but also for the kind of music that would get people on the dancefloor.

I had a craving for it. There was a lack of access to the internet in Nigeria and when we could finally get on YouTube things [exploded],” he says. I moved to New Jersey for college when I was 16 and I had… Wifi! That was a whole different ball game for me. I had to catch up on a decade’s worth of media.”

Once Akanbi had filled his boots with new music, it felt like the right time to share all the treasures that he’d found. In 2014, he started the now-cult club night Groovy Groovy out of a basement in New Jersey. Punters would form queues around the block just to get a foot in. It was clear people were responding to the vibe, that we had something positive.”

Fast forward a decade and Akanbi’s planning a supersized anniversary celebration for Groovy Groovy: a North American tour kicking off in June, which’ll last all the way through to October, before travelling to locations around Europe, Asia and Australia, if all goes to plan.

Across this whole journey, one thing I’ve tried to do is maintain a childlike excitement for music. It’s a powerful thing: you can’t see it, you can’t touch it, but it just makes your life go. I love that.”

10% What kinds of emotions and experiences influence your work?

I always come mentally and spiritually prepared to have a good time. I strive to put on a sexy party, an intentional party, a spiritual party, a friendship party, a love party. Everybody’s had a stressful week at work and they want to let loose. That’s what I’m here for.

20% What can we expect from your set at Horst?

Summertime vibes, bubbly flavours, big high spirits. The world is going through so much chaos right now, so it’s all about healing frequencies. I want people to really feel their body, I want people to feel at ease. I want to take everyone back to the playground, you know? People are gonna be making out, I need people grinding on each other. The sexiest flow.

30% What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?

My mum told me I was born to be great and I really believe that. Greatness isn’t ego – it’s an ability to love, share and see other people. I think living your best life is loving as much as you can, basically. My mum’s a big Christian and those are the main things I really took from the religion.

40% If you were cooking to impress someone, what would you make?

I’d season a whole tilapia or sea bass, I’m really good at that – be very generous with the seasoning. Some baked broccoli on the side with rice or potatoes. That’s my go-to.

50% What’s a bad habit you wish you could kick?

A lack of punctuality. Before I became a full-time DJ, I used to work in construction – punctuality, then, was crucial, because time is money. You really can’t fuck around. I just couldn’t make that eight o’clock start! Being on time saves you so much general stress and anxiety, and it’s important to be respectful of other people’s time. But I move where my spirit wants to move. I’m not a clock-based guy.

60% If you ruled the world for a day, what would go down?

We’re gonna stop all the fucking war, that’s for sure. All the guns, anything that could allow for violence to happen, we’re shipping that shit off to Mars. All we need is more love, simple as that.

70% Love, like, hate?

I love women. Shout out to my mum, shout out to my sister, shout out to my niece, shout out to my girlfriend. I really appreciate you all. I like food. I like having a good time. I like being at ease. I guess I hate war. I hate violence. There are so many other ways to resolve conflicts. I hate prejudice. I hate bad vibes.

80% Favourite song of all time?

Akon – Lonely. Community is important!

90% What’s the last lie you told?

There’s no reason to lie. I’m a grown up – you only lie when you have a fear of being punished for something. If you put your whole shit out there, there’s no secrets.

100% What can artists do to help save the world?

Just try to contribute something to this world. I hate the takers, the people who always want to take and not contribute. Shout out to the contributors, everyone just trying to add to the beat in whatever unique way that they can. There’s no requirements, just come with what you have, that’s it.

Horst Arts and Music Festival runs from 9th to 11th May. Grab yourself a last minute ticket here.

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