A Man Called Shango — The King of House

I was lucky enough catch Shango’s show live a few weeks back. We got talking about his setup, DJing and how he got into house music. It was great to hear what Shango had to say — and I had to hear more. I got in contact and, thankfully, he was down to do an interview.

When watching A Man Called Shango DJ, there are some really standout parts to his setup. First and foremost is his insane Rane mixer, which always sparks a reaction. Then there’s the fact that Shango uses a lollipop instead of modern day headphones. These elements highlight that, although the digital age has enhanced DJing, there’s just certain parts that never change for some people. I was so intrigued to learn more about the DJ and Shango went above and beyond to really help me understand (and relate to) his love of house music…

Hi Shango! Can you give us an insight into your background and how you first got into music and DJing?

I’m originally from Brooklyn. NYC born and raised; and my people are from Barbados, so growing up in a Caribbean home I was exposed to a lot of reggae, calypso & soca. This was a major influence early in life as West Indian culture is rooted heavily into very vibrant danceable music. Couple that with growing up in Brooklyn in the 80s and 90s: hip-hop was a major influence as well. The 90s was the best decade in hip-hop and that really got me into wanting to DJ. Also, on the other side, reggae and dancehall sound systems were at their peak — which made the whole experience even better.

Where did the name A Man Called Shango come from?

It was inspired mainly by my love for A Tribe Called Quest. We all have that one artist that effects you so deeply that they change your view on music/ production as a whole. For me, it was Tribe when I was heavy into hip-hop production. I often used Tribe’s Low End Theory style when I sample. I wanted a moniker that represented my roots in hip-hop and also that paid homage to Tribe. Shango is a Yoruba god associated with thunder this represents to other facets:

  1. My Afro Caribbean roots
  2. The sound of a pumping bass line (thunder).

Simply, it stands out. I didn’t want to label myself as a DJ because I have plans on incorporating live instrument and drum machines into my sets, and I didn’t want to be labelled or boxed in. Finally, just using my government name felt kind of odd — I know a lot of DJs do it but didn’t work out for me. Who likes hearing their own name!?

How has your DJ style changed over the years?

I think when you start as an amateur DJ, moving towards a professional background, you’ll eventually change your style a bit because you have to move with the culture. I kind of felt that hip-hop wasn’t moving in the same direction so, as I was musical, I transitioned to house in the early-mid 2000s. I was always the odd one on the block listening to artists like the Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, Masters at Work & Tricky. This was just part of the wide range of what I call house because, at the end of the day, it all stems from house music and all the sub-genres. In a nutshell, I went from hip-hop to house music.

Can you remember what the first record you ever bought was?

The first actual vinyl record I bought was a single.

Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince — I think I can beat Mike Tyson (laughs). I took it straight home and put it on my mom’s hi-fi system; you know those old cabinet style stereo systems with the one turntable on top (laughs), and I went to town on it just scratching away — I was like 11 or 12. As for house music, the first album I bought was Derrick Carter’s About Now.

What made you switch from the style of setup you learned to DJ on to the setup you have now?

Well, I think we all started out on some form of a fader/crossover style mixer. As for me, that was a Numark DM2000X waaaay back in the day when I was just playing hip-hop. Over the past 9–10 years has been when I’ve really embraced house — not only as a genre of music but also as a culture. I started eyeing up rotary mixers about 4 years ago.

We all know they’re not cheap, so I continued to press on with the Rane 62 and just honed my skills mixing with just the EQ knobs. Then the MP2015 was announced and I knew I had to have it. I think Rotary mixers are awesome; they push you to listen to the track more, in bits and pieces, and also it’s a bit of an boutique item. Do I need it? No… But it’s one hell of mixer and I can’t see going back to a fader type any time soon! Over the years, I’ve had the Rane TTM-57 and Numark NS7 too.

You’ve moved around quite a lot over the years. Did/ does that affect your DJing or do you always take your setup with you?

I’ve always taken every piece of kit with me, wherever I’ve lived. I’m a bit of a gear junkie — I also produce and record on the side as well so I have quite a lot of audio equipment. As of late, it’s all been incorporated into a studio setup to broadcast via the web. As far as my current kit goes, my MP2015 doesn’t leave the house. I use a Rane 62 for gigs that don’t have mixers at the venue.

I know you’ve touched on your wonderful Rane mixer, but could you go into a little more detail? What made you buy a rotary Rane mixer?

Well, after having the Rane 62 for a while I was impressed with the build quality and sound from Rane. It was all a matter of timing, the MP2015 came out right about when I had the funds to splurge on a mixer and I was already eyeing up a few Bozacks on eBay (as well as the Allen & Heath Xone:V6).

The Rane MP2015, by way of features alone, takes the crown out of the bunch. I’ve never played on any of the listed above and knew I was going to remain in the digital realm so I went with the 2015. As far as mixers go, the most important thing is sound and the MP2015 delivers crisp clean sound with no buzz and clean kills on the EQs — it’s basically the Rolls Royce of mixers.

Secondly, the pots are so smooth they feel luxurious... I don’t know how else to explain it! Like I said, although it is a boutique mixer I feel it stays true to the culture of house and that’s the main reason it’s my mixer of choice. I can go on and on about the features but anyone in this game knows it’s a crown jewel right now.

Where do you discover your music? You have such great track selection!

Traxsource is my main source for house and I have a few music pools as well, like Franchise Record Pool and Crate Connect from back in the day. Traxsource is the mecca right now; I don’t know where else you can find such a vast array of sub-genres of house. It’s king right now!

What are some of your favourite tracks at the moment?

I’m really digging COEO right now — the dudes are dope. I really like Back in the Days from them.

I also really dig this joint from a dope house head — DJ Tony Soul — with Loop Jacker called House Music, I luv It. I really enjoy music from The Martinez Brothers & Osunlade too. To be honest, I spend HOURS digging on Traxsource to find the gems. If we still were in the days of vinyl, I can see myself living in the record shops.

Who’s your biggest inspiration as a DJ and how have they shaped the ways you perform?

Hands down one of my favourite house DJs of all time is Dimitri from Paris. When I heard Monsieur Funky mix… That was it for me, I was hooked and I didn’t hear that mix until around 2001. It’s his blends, the dude is the truth — I love blending my tracks instead of just killing a bass line or fast transitions. Dimitri is dope when it comes to this, according to my ears anyway. What was pivotal was when I heard that mix, it was the first time I’d heard that funky soulful deep jacking kind, all meshed together. That’s how I mix till this day. He really inspired me. Also growing up, I listened to Frankie Knuckles on the radio when he did his sets live from clubs out in NYC and they broadcasted it on WBLS. That also planted the seeds of house in my soul.

Do you still go to raves or music events?

Well… Being a man of my age (laughs), with 3 kids, I can’t find the time to hit the local rave, but due to my current location there are ZERO house music clubs or spots to even play out at. I’m currently trying to find a spot to start playing at, but there aren’t too many house heads in my part of Louisiana… New Orleans maybe, but it’s hours away, so for now Chew and a few other house music broadcasting sites are my church!

What was your favourite club to visit? What made it so special?

When I was living in Omaha, Nebraska (of all places), there was a spot called Bar 415 that I played a few times and went to for my house fix. I loved playing there because of the DJ booth placement, it was right above the bar and I had full view of the dancefloor. From above, it had that raw kind of dive bar feeling as well.

Also House of Loom in Omaha, it was created by DJ Brent Crampton — very hip/ down to earth venue and chalk full of that house music scene culture. It was the first spot I saw a live percussionist that accompanied the DJ, and they also passed out tambourines and shakers to the crowd. The whole place felt like love during Brent’s sets!

We’re huge fans of your Sunday shows on Chew! Can you tell us why you use the Chew platform and what you like about it?

Well, for me, Chew is filling a huge void in the DJ world. You have tonnes of talented DJs (from all over the world) that want to showcase both their skills and ability. For the longest time, you just had (and still have, to some extent) DJs on YouTube and Ustream/Livestream etc. They can’t get the exposure they want due to hit or miss listener bases. Chew brings like-minded heads together to enjoy each other’s talents, as well as broadcasting live with an awesome user interface. When I heard of Chew I hopped right on. It’s still growing and I’m excited for the future of Chew.

If you are intrigued to see the man in action, he performs on Chew every Sunday. Massive shout out to Shango for the interview, it was a pleasure learning more about you!

You can follow Shango on Chew so you’re notified the next time he goes live:

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