Gilles Peterson, Music Pioneer :: 120 Seconds

Gilles Peterson of Brownswood Recordings shares the extent of his obsession with Arsenal Football Club and some insight into why he's taking a break.

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Music lover, record collector, DJ, broadcaster… Perhaps most famous for his much loved genre-exploding radio shows on BBC Radio 1 (and 17 other stations around the world including Japan’s leading commercial station J-Wave), Gilles’ insatiable appetite for new music undoubtedly lies at the heart of his success. Worldwide is 10 years young and fresher than ever – a benchmark for broadcasters the world over; global demand for his DJ sets is at an all-time high; the mighty Worldwide Festival (held annually in France and Singapore) curated by GP just gets better and better; and as for his record label Brownswood Recordings? Well, it just goes from strength to strength.

His Brownswood label recently dropped Volume 4 of the acclaimed Bubblers series and a classy second album from pianist Elan Mehler – ‘The After Suite’. A new set from singer Jose James is imminent. The album entitled ‘BLACKMAGIC’ finds him breaking new ground, collaborating with Warp’s Flying Lotus and reworking Afro Warrior Benga’s ‘Emotions’.

Gilles is actively working on remixes for Brasilian super star Seu Jorge and Brooklyn-Lagos-Paris-London based Afro surrealist Keziah Jones. He is also enthused about a bunch of brand new tracks resulting from a collaboration between Elmore Judd and two Kenyan musicians – Owiney Sigoma. The final mix is to be done in Damon Albarn’s studio in early 2010.

However, it’s Havana Cultura, an ambitious project focusing on contemporary Cuba, sponsored by Havana Club, that has the DJ most fired up. Coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of the Revolution and the easing of embargoes on Cuba, Gilles made a second visit to Havana in July 2009. He worked at the Egrem studios in conjunction with young, virtuoso, pianist and arranger Roberto Fonseca and together they have succeeded in uniting a host of young artists including rap crews Ogguere, Free Hole Negro and Obsesión plus vocalists like Danay, Telmary and Kumar. Of the older generation, it’s only the mighty Mayra Caridad Valdés, sister of piano legend Chucho, who makes an appearance in the mix. The double album, released on Brownswood Recordings, unites the dynamic and fresh studio recordings with an accompanying CD of tracks collected from Cuba’s urban underground on this and a previous visit.

Jazz is Peterson’s religion. After delving into his spiritual jazz archive in Brownswood’s vinyl bunker he has co-curated the book ‘Freedom, Rhythm and Sound: Revolutionary Art Covers 1960–78′ with Soul Jazz supremo Stuart Baker. Also on the deep jazz front Gilles confirms that the Horo catalogue – a final outpost of indie jazz which has been left untouched to date – is about to see light of day in 2010. A “deep compilation for the headz” has been crafted and mastered and is destined to get a worldwide release.

This year’s Worldwide Festivals in Sète and Singapore have proved established events and the sublime Sète Festival just down the road from Montpellier on France’s gorgeous Mediterranean coast, now in its fourth year, reached tipping point, sold out and broke even. Next year Gilles is looking to expand to Sao Paulo. October saw him in Japan for the annual J Wave Celebration Of Live Music in the mix with Khromanium, Salsa Swingoza and Quasimode. A Tokyo Heavy Hitters DJ clash at the Liquid Room included DJ Kentaro, DJ Mitsu The Beats, the legendary Muro and Raphael Sebag.

A lightning strikes three session foray into New York at the end of ‘09 will include an exclusive Q Tip party at Santos, a very special session at the Museum Of Modern Art and a Monday night on the decks at Deep Space with Francois Kevorkian.

Basically, the man’s DJ schedule is as mental as ever and over the next year he plans to explore new audiences in Kazakhstan, India (Mumbai + Calcutta) and Bangladesh (Dhaka). Gilles will touch down in Australia to play WOMAD in Adelaide in March. Nearer to home his new residency will be in the back room of a new session at Corsica Studios. Never tired of engaging with the cutting edge sounds of a new generation, this session will be a collaboration with dubsteppin’ We Fear Silence Collective featuring an awe-inspiring array of dubstep’s leading lights.

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