Club Reg­u­lars 012: Lefto

The Brussels hip-hop head has nothing but love for his city’s music scene.

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 (JIDNev­er), 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?

There are some great clubs right now like C12, Fuse and La Cabane.

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

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