Guest of Honor: London-based Esa Williams

Guest of Honor: London-based Esa Williams

Feb 11, 2017 |  by  |  Music
About the author
Hello there! I'm ELLIS D, a Dutch illustrator and designer based in London. If you join me on a trip to 'design wonderland' you'll come across popping colors and the use of different techniques. My style is clear and often I combine existing forms in order to create new stories. If you like to see more of my work please visit:

Yesterday London-based Esa played a set at the Tolhuistuin. He came straight from Cape Town and played mostly music he discovered and bought there, with some exclusive tracks from some of his favorite labels, delving deeper into the sounds from South Africa around the ’80s and ’90s.

How did you start playing music? Was there always a lot of music around when you were growing up? (if so, how did that influence you’re own musical taste and choices?)
“Growing up in Cape Town it was hard not to be surrounded by music, if it wasn’t during our family Thursday prayer meeting, it was the the sounds of the Cape Carnival. My late father was DJ and as a kid I would accompany him to certain events. Back then I wasn’t that interested in the music as I was the one carrying most of his equipment and I’d fall asleep in the car whilst he did his thing. At these family functions my dad’s uncles would also play Jazz and the local Langarm music, and this is where I started playing percussion behind a curtain where nobody could see me. I guess all these influences have contributed to my current musical taste and choice, but with a focus of moving forward with technology and living in the UK/EU.”

You lived in Glasgow before moving to London – how was the music scene there and how is it different from London’s? Moreover, what make you decide to relocate to the capital?
“Glasgow still has a very special place in heart and the people and experiences I had there has also influenced me both musically and personally to where I am today. My move to London was a natural progression, the same way I left Cape Town back in 2004, taking a risk and seeing where it takes me. London has been equally amazing and challenging, it’s much bigger than Glasgow and it’s presented more opportunities.”

I’m currently just making as much music as I can.

Whilst I’m asking you these questions from a rainy London, you’re enjoying the South African sunshine. What are you up to all these miles away from home?
“I’ve come to Cape Town with a project Gilles Peterson and his Worldwide FM platform are curating with Lufthansa as part of their Lufthansa City of the Month campaign, it’s bee really special and I can’t wait to share the final product soon.”

Describe your sound and style and how both might have evolved over the years. Which milestones are you most proud of?
“My sound is still very much global but with a focus on bringing together elements from my roots and the West where I’ve lived for the past 13 years. I’m still experimenting a lot with different sounds.”

What project(s) are you currently working on? And what projects are you dreaming about and hoping to make reality one day?
“I’m currently just making as much music as I can to soon be released on a Dutch label… I’ll be touring Ata Kak again this year, a few remix projects one for the Kasai Allstars on Crammed Discs and starting my residency on Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide FM later this month.”

Besides working on your own projects, you seem to enjoy helping others by giving workshops. How did that come about and how do you combine it with your own hectic schedule? Do these workshops inspire your own work in any way?
“I started doing workshops and curating events with RBMA in Glasgow back in 2009 and from there I just felt a fulfillment whenever I could share and learn new things at the same time. Thus far I’ve done various workshops and educational programs all over South & East Africa, Cuba, Brazil, the EU and the UK. It’s been very difficult at times as I’ve had a busy schedule but I’ve now joined a dutch management agency who’ll help me utilize my time better and hopefully I can do more and venture further.”

… the whole Dutch scene has really blown me away…

There are still eleven months left in 2017, how are you planning to spend them?
“I’m very optimistic for the next 11 months of 2017 and yes as there are plans in place I’m still going to just take each month as it comes and see how many opportunities I can manage.”

Which artist inspires you? Anything on repeat at the moment?
“This is a hard question as I’m inspired by so many, the whole Dutch scene has really blown me away with the likes of the Dekmantel crew, Rush Hour crew, Redlight Radio and the list goes on into Rotterdam and further afield. The whole new young London Jazz scene and my friends from South Africa, Nonku Phiri, Cards on Spokes and Portable doing some amazing things too.”

You seem to be juggling a lot of projects at the same time, which means a day off would be a rare treat. If you have a free day or weekend, how do you prefer to spend it?
“I enjoy time with my partner, eating good food and cooking, checking out interesting events as London is good for this, also chilling out away from loud music, haha!”

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