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La Rumba World party: La Rumba’s international club culture in Sheffield and beyond

The club night's return has been welcomed by their loyal following – with a fifth birthday coming up we spoke to founder Román Rocha.

by DJ Tat
Dhalf 2021 10 03 132153 164
La Rumba.

Despite the impact of lockdown and the pandemic on Sheffield’s rich and vibrant club scene, La Rumba are back looking stronger than ever. With a fifth birthday party around the corner and a lot of other plans afoot, we chatted with La Rumba boss Román Rocha about the last couple of years and the future of the regular night.

For those who don’t know about La Rumba, how would you describe the ethos behind it?

La Rumba was born in 2017 as a way to get more DJ gigs and to bring as many friends down under one roof to share each other’s music, with an ‘anything goes’ policy on what gets played. The general vibe back then was a ‘feel good party atmosphere’ with no expectations from anyone.

I was born in Venezuela but have lived in the UK all my life where my maternal side is from, so I suppose this inspired me to start a night where you can expect to hear all sorts of genres from different cultures around the world tailored towards the club. That still includes the more common UK genres like house, techno and UK bass, which Britain has a rich history with.

La Rumba can be interpreted as an Afro-Cuban dance style or sub-genre of music which leads some people to assume that we’re a Latin night, but it’s also a slang term my family back in Venezuela use to describe a party or celebration where friends go to have a good time. This felt quite fitting for the name of the night, partially as a homage to my roots, but also as a fun way of capturing our ethos in two words.

You’ve got your fifth birthday coming up on 11 March in Sheffield and a party the day after in Leeds. What are you planning for the celebration?

For the Sheffield leg we’ll be hosting two parties at Bal Fashions and Plot 22 – two intimate venues bang next door to each other for a full Exchange Street takeover, where one ticket gets you entry to both clubs. We’ll be hosting one of house music’s original pioneers, Maurice Fulton, alongside SNO and Lukas Wigflex, two of the UK’s hottest DJs around right now.

We’ll be taking the party to Wire in Leeds the following night with DJ Boring as headliner with Leeds party-starter Reeshy and Marco Ono – two DJs and producers that have been killing it recently.

You must be especially excited ahead of the celebration after the impact of lockdown. You were unable to celebrate your fourth birthday – how hard was it picking things up again last year?

I can probably speak for all promoters when I say last year was the hardest, most nerve-wracking but exciting time due to lockdowns, low consumer confidence, and sadly due to people losing passion for music and club culture.

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La Rumba.

I remember feeling so gutted around our fourth birthday last year and promising myself that we’d do something mega for our next one. We say jokingly that we’ll be celebrating our fourth and fifth birthday in one go in Sheffield as we’re using two different venues.

Live music often features at La Rumba nights. How important is it to bring the live aspect of dance music into a club space?

I do feel it’s important to introduce people to different cultures and experiences which is partly why I started La Rumba as a multi-genre night. Whether that means having different genre-focused nights or enhancing the standard club experience with live elements, we’ve become more driven in recent years to host more live acts, and to expand our horizons and think outside the box with ambitious ideas.

I was struck by how well you capture your nights using photography and there is a rawness to those images – a lot of them could have been taken at a 1990 rave or a late seventies New York loft party. It’s hard to capture the energy of a club night with photos, but you do it well

Thanks! We try to capture that energy and make it look cohesive across different shows but all the credit goes to our photographers over the years for the shots.

We’ve worked with our lighting guy, Zaron Mezmiras, on most of our shows for four years now. We build something bespoke for each event. He knows the vibe we want to create and our photos tend to capture this really well.

You’ve had some impressive guests over the last five years including Mr Scruff, Crazy P, Optimo and Shanti Celeste. Is there any particular guest who has impressed you above others?

It’s tricky to separate the artist from the overall event as they come hand in hand. To host some legendary figures like Scruff, Optimo and Dele Sosimi is an achievement in itself. However, there have been some standout moments from Auntie Flo, Nubiyan Twist, O’Flynn and Romare where everything just fell perfectly in terms of the music, production and the turnout.

Going beyond the birthday party, what else can we expect from La Rumba in 2022?

It does feel like La Rumba is finally returning to where we were at pre-Covid, so dare I say you can expect bolder, more ambitious line-ups, not only with ‘bigger’ headliners but with more diverse, up-and-coming DJs and live artists together at some of the coolest venues around Sheffield and Leeds. You can also catch us at We Out Here and Westival this summer too.

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