Interview: Jerome Sydenham / Ibadan

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On November 14th, Panorama will be playing host to Berlin through New-York label Ibadan, with a selection of DJs which include label boss Jerome Sydenham, his S.A.T project  partner Aybee, Studio 54 resident Nicky Siano as well as Robert Owens and Katsuya Sano. We sat down with Jerome to talk about the night and the work of Ibadan.

Hi Jerome, you’ve got your label night coming up at Panorama, can you tell us a bit about the line-up and your connections to the artists?

Nicky Siano’s Gallery party in NY was one of the first club scenes for me to check out (in my early teens) so his movement had a tremendous influence in my formative years of my dance music opinion. Robert Owens was the first House music vocalist that stood out back in the mid eighties (he still sounds just like the record!). Katsuya Sano is and old friend of mine and has been an artist on Ibadan records for many years (Nature Soul, Lo Hype and Katsuya sano) and is a great DJ from Tokyo. Aybee is another dear friend and this party is the official album release party for our band S.A.T. (Sydenham, Aybee, Trent). Look forward to a musically vibrant affair!

You’re sharing the bill with the people from Leisure System, who are bringing down Venetian Snares which is quite an opposite musical direction. How do you feel about this kind of mixing of the genres and do you feel that’s something that is missing in quite often musically monochromatic Berlin?

I honestly had nothing to do with that and haven’t truly formed an opinion about this but I am most certainly curious. Lets hope it works for everyone.

As an artist you are known to be equally comfortable on all kinds of Techno and House bills, and it feels natural seeing you on the line-up of heavy Techno nights like Tuna Park in Tresor and then seeing you play at Disco/House stronghold Wilde Renate the next month. Were you always versatile in your musical ventures or do you feel that it’s really evolved since moving to Berlin?

I have always been versatile in my purchasing and consumption of music over the years but that said Berlin brought the Techno reality firmly home.

Ibadan Records is home to quite a few sub-labels (Avocado, Apotek, UK Promotions…), with Ibadan being the more House and Apotek the more Techno. Do you not feel you could be releasing all the music under the Ibadan imprint and do you think it’s important for a label to have a consistent and identifiable sound in the current context when so many genres and influences have blended and overlapped?

Yes, Ibadan Records could and does carry multi genre formats but in the case of Apotek (hence the name) my intentions were Techno specific. I am very open in this sense.

You are originally born in Nigeria, in Ibadan, which is where the name of the label comes from and tracks like Sandcastles, Timbuktu or Aro bear a strong Africanized mark. How do you feel that your origins have influenced your music?

My openness of appreciation come from my upbringing in Nigeria as I grew up in very musically diverse environment but this is just as important as the effect London and New York had on me.

Do you follow the wider African electronic scene and if yes do you have any recommendations for us?

Yes I do and I would start with the South African scene (that will keep you busy for a while).

It feels that over the past few years electronic music is getting more and more influenced by Urban African Electronic music, be it through our exposure to Kuduro, South African Shangaan electro or the syncopated rhythms that we can find in UK Funky and Jersey Club. To what extent do you think that the more classic forms of House are influenced by African sounds and rhythms?

This is not so easy to answer as beyond the African influence, you have to consider the Latino urban influence although Afro based is quite a distinct subculture (don’t forget to throw in some Kraftwerk and Manuel Gottsching to make it complete).

You and your partner Christine started the Church night in Berlin this year, which is very pleasant musical experience, with a generally older, friendlier and musically knowledgeable crowd. Do you think that the younger generation lacks appreciation for the ground-work of the old-school scene?

Actually its Christine Pedersen (my partner) and Andy Roda who are responsible for The Church Berlin, I am merely guilty by association. As for the younger crowd, I believe they would enjoy it equally as much but are just not aware of the vibe yet.

You’re releasing your SAT project with Ron Trent and Aybee later this month, what can we expect from the album?

It is a sophisticated combination of Deep House and Techno. A thoroughly enjoyable experience.

What are your plans for Ibadan for 2015?

Major item of 2015 is celebration through tours and music of the 20th anniversary of Ibadan Record. A milestone that I am terribly proud of.

Find out more about the Ibadan night at Berghain HERE.