At this year’s Listen! Festival in Brussels, Stephane Lallemand, aka Lefto, curated the main room’s programming on the Friday. Sharing the line-up with adventurous selectors like Sassy J and FunkinEven, his set that night spanned everything from classic anthems like Outlander’s Vamp and Prodigy’s Out of Space, through to contemporary hip-hop (JID – Never), and leftfield trap cuts like Hucci and ASADI’s Villager.
Lefto is one of Brussels’ key tastemakers, and he’s been championing hip-hop in the city for over two decades. It all began when he worked at the Brussels record store Music Mania, where, thanks to his enthusiasm, over the years the rap section expanded from a single crate to half a floor.
Having started DJing in the mid ‘90s, these days Lefto is a regular on Gilles Peterson’s event line-ups and he hosts his own stage at Belgium’s Dour Festival. Over time Lefto’s taste has broadened, and this is reflected across his radio shows on both Studio Brussel and Worldwide FM.
In this edition of Club Regulars, get the lowdown on Brussels’ burgeoning music scene.
How did you first develop a passion for raving?
I grew up in the city at a time in which new beat music was at the top of its game. It became very mainstream despite being club-focused. It was everywhere; on television, on the radio, and blaring from the cars on the road. As a young kid I’d go to that one record shop that everyone mentioned on the radio, and when I was 14 that’s where I discovered the scene. I used to live on the outskirts of Brussels which was famous for its clubs, so I ended up in those big venues like EXTREME, where I heard new beat and music from Bonzai Records.
What’s special about the Brussels club scene?
I would say that Brussels has a very good and open-minded club scene; the fragmentation of the scenes due to different cultural backgrounds in the city gives more perspectives and diversity. In a way, it also creates division, but I guess that’s a normal thing. In a big city you can’t have everyone in the same place at the same time.
What challenges, if any, does your local scene face?
There are many challenges, but for every local scene there is always a struggle to get recognition and success on a local scale; sometimes local artists get more recognition abroad before they get attention locally. From that there’s also the struggle to make it internationally; if you’re not British or American it is tough. There is a sense of protectionism on the world stage by certain countries where there is a lack of attention or interest for foreign music scenes on radio or press in general.
If you could change one thing about the scene in Brussels, what would it be?
I don’t think I would change anything about the scene, as it’s so good as it is, but I would maybe find a way to promote the scene better. As a city I would also try to give people/tourists more guidance about where to go out in Brussels. The city is a bit obscure at night and it is often difficult for strangers to know where to go, despite there being many amazing places to go out.
If someone is visiting Brussels, where would you recommend they go out?
Any other local DJs/parties/artists you’d like to shout out?
There are too many but I can shout out the brothers at Kiosk Radio who organise parties in the park in the summer, the Traphouse homies for anything trap-related, DJ Kwak and Strictly Niceness for his consistent black music nights, Crevette Records for their record shop, nights and service for the community as well as Deep In House for their contribution. DJ KONG and the Ensemble label, also the Loop Sessions where producers gather together to make beats with samples chosen by key people from the scene. Shout out to the Brussels rap scene for putting the city on the map in France as well. Also the Listen! Festival crew who do an amazing job for the city and all the clubs in town like the ones I mentioned, and more great venues like Ancienne Belgique, Vk*, Recyclart, Botanique and Beursschouwburg. They’ve all been supporting the local scene for a long time.
Where do you go in Brussels to find new music?
I like to dig in a few record shops downtown like Veals & Geeks, there are a few good shops around that area worth visiting. I find new music everywhere, most of the time it lands in my emails.
Other than Brussels, where are your favourite places to play and why?
There are many places I like to play. Paris because they have a good energy at the moment, Tokyo because they are geeks, totally into music, Los Angeles because the entire scene comes down to say hello, and Milan for the intensity on the dance floor. But nothing beats my hometown.
Lefto plays We Out Here Festival, Abbots Ripton, UK, 15 – 19 August