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A Magazine for Sheffield

Gilles Peterson: Spotlighting Sheffield's 'Future Bubblers'

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Since 1998, Gilles Peterson's presence on BBC radio has continually forged new paths, spotlighting a dizzying mix of jazz, soul, hip hop, funk, electronica and anything else that takes his fancy.

As well as his electrifying DJ sets, he's known for bringing new sounds from around the world to UK airwaves, whether it's South African gqom or new rhythms from South America. It's fair to say that globe-hopping Sheffield nights like Barang! and Banana Hill might not exist without Peterson's influence on club culture.

Over the last two years, Gilles has been working on a new project called Future Bubblers, an Arts Council-funded initiative to find and nurture new talent outside London, equipping up-and-coming musicians with the industry skills and expertise they need to get their sounds to appreciative audiences.

In its first year, the project focused on grassroots music from Nottingham and Salford. Now Gilles and his team of mentors are turning their attention to Hull and Sheffield. We caught up with him to find out more about the project.

What's the ethos behind Future Bubblers?

Future Bubblers is all about helping young musicians in England develop their potential. Especially outside of London, there's loads of young people doing interesting things who might not get many chances to get their music heard. By linking them up with mentors, putting on showcases and doing shows in our focus cities like Sheffield, we're trying give them a little boost. It's about making it easier for independent artists to get their music out there.

What links the musicians that you're searching for?

There's a big spectrum of sounds which we get coming through. The one thing really connecting it all is an independent spirit. We like people who aren't afraid to take it a little 'left'.

With your famously diverse knowledge of music, have any new genres entered your musical taste due to the project?

I don't know if it's been about finding anything totally new, but we've had people pushing things forward in their different scenes. We've got one of our year one Bubblers, Snowy, who's getting a lot of attention now for the grime scene he's helping build up in Nottingham.

And all three of our new Bubblers in Sheffield are doing interesting things in their own way. With Tinashe, Ajay Carter and R. Lyle, we've got weirded out R&B, grime and soundsystem culture, and electronic music that pushes it out there.

When starting off in the industry, how do you think a project like this would have helped you get your foot in the door?

It's hard to say, as everything was so different when I was starting out in the 80s. Back then, it was all about pirate radio for me, which is where a lot of underground music came through. Now there's endless opportunities to connect music with people with online, but it's hard to cut through. Future Bubblers helps these new acts to stand out above everything else that's going on.

Recognising the dozens of different music schemes throughout the UK, what do you think is special about Future Bubbles for the Arts Council to become so heavily involved?

I think maybe the connections we have to the wider underground music scene helps us support the artists to develop.

What success stories have you had so far and have any artists been picked up by the bigger labels?

I mentioned Snowy before, but we've also had Three Body Trio and Yazmin Lacey setting up their own label, and Medikul has been getting lots of DJ bookings since he did one of the Bubblers showcases.

After taking on Nottingham, Salford, Hull and Sheffield, what's the future of the project? Where next?

We can't announce it yet, but we will be coming to two more cities for our third year.

The selections on your 6Music show are always globally focused. What role do DJs and the kind of musicians you champion have to play in a society that is seemingly turning more towards insular nationalism?

It's always good to see artists that do engage with what's going on right now. I think at the moment, a lot of people in music are starting to realise again that what we do isn't separate from what's going on in the world. And with my label, Brownswood, we're going to start trying to work with other labels to be more active in that.

Over the past few years in Sheffield we've seen you DJ for the Tuesday Club and for Banana Hill at the Night Kitchen. What memories of playing in the city particularly stand out for you?

It's always a great crowd at Banana Hill and it's great to see them doing stuff in Manchester and London now too. I think people have always seemed up for dancing, even when I take things a little weird.

Sheffield's Future Bubblers

Ajay Carter

Since moving from London to Sheffield, Ajay Carter has been busy making ripples in the city's hip hop scene with confident and uncompromising verses that don't betray his seventeen years: "I see man, They're like 'oh my days' / They're amazed every word I say / They blow back every bar I spray / But I do this every day." Those lines are from his guest spot on 'I.D.' by Sticky Blood, a production pair bigged up by local hero Toddla T. Carter's mentor is Abdullah Al-wali, a labels manager at Warp who also runs local label Bad Taste and popular cross-disciplinary festival Connect The Dots.


Not to be confused with the US singer of the same name, very little is known about this vocalist, songwriter and producer from Sheffield, but those in the know describe his music as "peddling a warped take on R&B", adding that his fractured approach to making music "hinges on a feeling for the unexpected." His mentor will be Emily Kendrick, who works at XL Recordings, home of Arca and The Avalanches, and who liaises between the label and artists to get their ideas off the ground. Her next project is to help Tinashe get his foot in the door of the industry.

R. Lyle

When not brushing up on his Biomedical Sciences, Sheffield student Ewan Lilley creates hazy, rain-soaked little worlds into which he weaves pointillistic broken beats. Like Burial, he is already adept at creating productions with a sense of depth and space, despite so far only having three tunes to his name. If you like the sun-soaked rhythms of Mo Kolours, you might dig this guy, so check out his Soundcloud. His mentor is Throwing Snow, a producer aligned with the Houndstooth label whose latest LP, Embers, we described in January as having "a unique substance, with its nonlinear form disrupting all elements of predictability through a wide range of arpeggios and intriguing cyclical patterns."

Skinny Pelembe

Born in South Africa but now finding himself in Doncaster, Skinny Pelembe can do it all, producing and writing his tracks, as well as playing guitar and taking up MC duties. Like R. Lyle, his productions are doused in cassette tape hiss and his heavy-on-the-reverb approach takes inspiration from Jamaican dub productions of the 70s and 80s. His mentor is Alex Patchwork, a former journalist turned music industry tastemaker who currently works at Ninja Tune. He's also turned his hand to production, DJing with his pals as the Patchwork Pirates and running his own club night.

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