DJ Chef: 'Forest Gate birthed the global phenomenon of drum and bass'

Shafique Khan (DJ Chef)

Shafique Khan (DJ Chef) - Credit: Fatou and Elijah Sserunjogi

Two young people have interviewed a DJ as part of a project on a long-standing record shop for Newham Heritage Month 2021.

Forest Gate Youth Zone members Fatou and Elijah Sserunjogi learnt oral and photography skills when they caught up with Shafique Khan (DJ Chef) as part of Rendezvous Projects' oral history interviews for the project Crate Digging: The Influence of De Underground Records. 

Fatou and Elijah Sserunjogi interviewing DJ Chef

Fatou and Elijah Sserunjogi learnt photography skills when they caught up with Shafique Khan (DJ Chef) - Credit: Katherine Green

Rendezvous Projects said the Sebert Road shop and recording studio was pivotal to British underground dance music and culture, as well as influential for a generation of local musicians and music lovers.

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Elijah


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So, DJ Chef, what’s it like teaching and exploring music with the young people of Newham?

DJ Chef

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I love Newham because it has so much creativity. Young people have so much energy and teaching music is a great way of harnessing that energy and guiding them, and some take it and go on to do amazing things.

There's no better way I could imagine spending a day than making music with young people. It's too much fun.

Elijah

What led you to explore drum and bass as a style of music?

DJ Chef

It's a long story but the quick answer is a passion for music and finding the tribe that I was most connected with. Drum and bass is/was something that felt like ours. We were 80s hip hop kids and we were listening to stuff that was imported from America.

There wasn’t a UK urban music scene at that time.

In the mid-to-late 80s a movement started happening that was very British. Inner-city communities started creating a new sound, my sound was UK hip hop and evolved into the new breakbeat sound.

That gave birth to many subsequent genres of British music, and I was lucky to witness these genres be created.

So, I was here before grime, dubstep, trap and I’ve seen them develop.

The reason I'm so involved in it is because it was ours, we developed it, worked it, made it, publicised it, promoted it and did everything for little financial gain, just for the love that it was ours.

Elijah

How was the music received amongst your peers and the general public?

DJ Chef
Drum and bass is embedded now, it’s here to stay, so computer games have drum and bass music, adverts have drum and bass music, drum and bass is here. It’s not a fad or a fashion.

It's a global phenomenon, it started off in communities here in Forest Gate.

Fatou

How different is the music culture from now and then, how has it changed?

DJ Chef

It has changed because you guys can access music at the click of a finger. We had to go places, research music, we were discovering all the time - where you have Spotify, YouTube, all these amazing platforms.

You can say, "I want to listen to some West African or Indonesian music", you can get this at an instant.

We would have to know somebody who had it. So, music culture was a lot more about discovery and the journey of that discovery, like going to a record shop because you could only listen to the tracks at that place or hear it on a radio station.

Looking into music today, it's easy to find a million songs, and your generation, your taste in music is more varied. Like we were tribal.

We were a reggae or soul or hip hop or a rave person. And we were quite institutionalised within our tribe. But now, you can like 30 seconds of this and 30 seconds of that.

Fatou

If you had to choose one generation to grow up in, which would it be?

DJ Chef

The 70s because I got to see a lot of things grow organically and work in analogue. Things took time to produce, it was about quality rather than quantity. It was a craft and you made something that was amazing.

Listen to the interview at https://www.newhamheritagemonth.org/records/crate-digging-the-influence-of-de-underground-records/

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