Djeff is born in 1984 in Lisbon, Portugal, to a musical filled family. An avid consumer of the big pop acts as well as the African rhythms from an early age, it’s when he finally enters his teenage years that he awakens to the electronic sounds through his sister’s record collection.
After some years in the circuit he has become a renowned Dj in the Portuguese and Angolan scene, the country where he now resides, but he’s also performed in countries such as France, the United States, Greece or South Africa, sharing the booth with artists like Louie Vega, Osunlade, Boddhi Satva or Ralf Gum. In 2011 he founds his own label, Kazukuta Records, which he uses to show the world the new talent in the Angolan house scene, meahwhile he releases ‘Ascensão do Soldado’ (Soldier’s Ascent), through the Angolan label LS Republicano and the British Tribe Records. 2017 is “Gratitudes” year, his third artist album.
We caught up with Djeff to celebrate his latest single ‘Zugu Zugu feat. Zakes Bantwini’ out via Spinnin’ Deep.
Electronic Groove: Hi Djeff, thanks for the time to chat with us. You had your first taste of music by listening to acts such as Michael Jackson, Europe, Reel 2 Reel and Robin S, which is pretty eclectic. How did you make the jump to house?
Djeff: Thanks for inviting me. I was blessed to be born into a music loving family with African roots both in Angola and Cape Verde, so it was even more eclectic than you imagine! My older sister had the first electronic music tapes from Angolan and Cape Verde’s traditional music, we jumped into soul, pop, rock and then electronic music. My passion for Djing started later but was really intensified when I saw Erick Morillo play for the first time, his flawless technique combined with his relentless pursuit of originality music wise really opened up a new frontier to me.
EG: With such a prolific output, you’re known for genre-hopping as well as fusing your roots into your sound. What have been your biggest influences within house and electronic music?
Djeff: Music has no boundaries, genres are just labels we choose to be able to speak about music, but there’s more in common between music genres than differences. Why do we focus on the differences? I believe compartmentalizing isn’t prolific or wise for an artist searching for musical ways to express his soul. Erick Morillo is my main reference within house, but I have other music producers and Djs that have inspired me to, Louie Vega, Joe Claussel, Osunlade, Black Coffee, Boddhi Satva.
EG: You just released your new single ‘Zugu Zugu’ with Zakes, how did you get the chance to collaborate?
Djeff: We met in Rotterdam, Holand, during a Liberation event, Boddhi introduced us at a party we were playing together. I’ve been a big fan of Zakes music for many years now. While I was playing my set, he came into the booth and we had a lot of fun together. After my set our conversation was we need to hit the studio and make something. When I came back home and start checking my instrumentals at the studio, I just sent him the one I believe fits better with his vibe. Once he replied “I love it”, I knew we had a great song already.
EG: On the same subject, ‘Zugu Zugu’ feels like a departure from the sound you have become known for – can you tell me the process behind the track?
Djeff: It’s a mix of what I’ve done until now and something I’m trying to find out what it is. The soul is there, the rhythm, the energy but it has that extra magic touch that makes people go crazy on the dancefloor. I’ve been playing around the world in various venues for different crowds so I think this is a little bit the result of all that I’ve been learning in past years. When I’m playing I like to take the crowd on a journey through the sounds of house, doesn’t matter if its afro, deep or tech, so I’ve tried to make something that fits all these patterns.
EG: You set up Angola’s first house music label – how is the scene in Luanda and Africa in general?
Djeff: The Scene in Luanda is still growing, nowadays ‘afro house’ is what the people listen in the clubs. Right now they just need to be a little bit more open-minded and understand house music is something spiritual & open-minded, doesn’t need to be always the same thing as they know. There are some cool parties, but a few play only commercial music. In South Africa house music is really big and completely different, you can listen to this genre on any radio station.
“My mission as a Dj is to make the people happy on the dancefloor, make them dance, smile, sing, scream and have a good time”
EG: You champion a lot of young African artists on your label – how important is it for you to support the scene?
Djeff: I believe in music and in young, raw, untamed talent, in general Africa is full of talented musicians that just need support and a stage to showcase their music, this is what I intend to do with my label, Kazukuta Records, and we’ve been able to support many upcoming music producers and Djs by releasing their music worldwide.
EG: Are there any African DJ/producer’s we should be looking out for?
Djeff: Sure, some like Homeboyz, Afro Pupo, Wilson Kentura to name a few.
EG: You became synonymous with the afro-house sound that grew in Europe, is this a scene you feel an affinity with, or something you feel you’ve outgrown?
Djeff: Yes, that’s right, when I started my career I was already dreaming about mix the sounds of Africa with the others I was a fan of. When I was a young house Dj there was not too much ‘afro house’ in the scene, I remember playing tracks from Louie Vega, Osunlade, Bob Sinclair, Martin Solveig or Manoo. When I started making my own beats these artists were my influences. Nowadays I’m looking for something different, something that makes me move and I think people will love on the dancefloor, something that makes them feel emotions, feelings, and take them into a different zone, doesn’t matter if its afro, latin, techno, or deep. If I like it I will play it or do it. It’s music!
EG: You’ve now played in some of Europe’s biggest club, how do you approach your set nowadays?
Djeff: My mission as a Dj is to make the people happy on the dance floor, make them dance, smile, sing, scream and have a good time. I select my music always with the goal that it needs to mean something for them. Each track its a different approach for each person, everyone feels the music in a different way so my goal is always to put them all together inside my spaceship.
EG: You recently changed your artist name – what was the thought process behind this?
Djeff: It really follows the idea I’ve stated before about diluting boundaries, my artistic name was a flag for one sound and didn’t represent accurately all the music I play and produce, so Djeff is a more coherent approach as it doesn’t appeal to one particular genre.
EG: What do you have coming up over the next 12 months?
Djeff: A very important release, ‘Zugu Zugu’, more music on the way, many performances among which I’ll be returning to Watergate in Berlin, and my debut in Ibiza! I’ll be playing Supermatxé on August 16th at Privilege, also Marbella, Morroco and Tel Aviv.
Djeff’s ‘Zugu Zugu feat Zake Bantwini’ is now available. Grab your copy here.