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SNO Rumba rhythms and Congolese club

Ahead of her set alongside Awesome Tapes From Africa and Mr Scruff for La Rumba's third birthday, we talked about the family member that started her along the path that eventually led to the DJ booth.

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Rising selector SNO has no time for moody club music.

Born in the township of Bophelong near Johannesburg, Selina Nongaliphe Oliphant moved to Manchester in 2007 and turned her initials into a moniker. Her DJ sets are joyful and eclectic, mining a rich seam of African dance music from the seventies, eighties and nineties.

Ahead of her set alongside Awesome Tapes From Africa and Mr Scruff for La Rumba's third birthday, we talked about the family member that started her along the path that eventually led to the DJ booth.

Tell us about your introduction to music.

My uncle had a collection of records - soul, jazz, funk, a bit of disco - and that's what I used to listen to. I also listened to R&B and at a later stage I discovered hip-hop as well. It was a broad range of different genres that I grew up with. In around 2014 or 2015 I discovered from my cousin that my uncle had sold his records. From there I went out to buy a turntable, mixer and speakers, and then started buying the records that I could remember he had.

How successful were you at rebuilding the collection?

I only bought what I could remember. Obviously I grew up finding my own taste as well, so I was listening to a lot of African music. My uncle didn't have a vast range of that kind - this is more what I'm listening to at the moment. But I still listen to everything else I grew up with. I have jazz records, I have hip-hop, I have disco. Growing up I listened to bubblegum from South Africa and Kwaito as well. South Africa is also very big into house music.

How did you get into DJing?

In 2015 after I'd bought my turntables I was collecting music and a friend of mine, Levi, who has a night at Soup Kitchen [in Manchester], couldn't make that night so he basically asked me to cover for him. I'd never played for anybody. I'd never played outside my apartment and I didn't know how to mix records. He asked the guy playing before me to show me how to cue up a record. I took my bag, I played a four-hour set and after about two songs the guy said: "It looks like you know what you're doing, so I'm going to leave you to it."

Somebody who was listening, Jamie Groovement, asked if I could do a mix for his podcast. I told him I'm not a DJ, I don't know how to do this, and I don't even have the recording equipment. I went to his house and did the mix, and the rest is history!

Jamie sometimes writes for Now Then. Small world! Four hours is a long debut set, but you thought it was just going to be a one-off thing?

When I bought the records I didn't set out to become a DJ. It just happened by chance. After I did the mix for Jamie everything just came to me and one thing led to another. It's been happening until today.

You're now a resident at Banana Hill. How did that happen?

After I did the mix Reform Radio discovered me and asked me to do a takeover. After that they offered me a show. Chris [Cervo] heard one of my shows and asked if I'd be interested in warming up for Gilles Peterson. I was like, "Yeah, why not?" He started asking me when they had parties if I'd come and play, and after a few times he asked if I'd like to be a resident.

You've had some really big shows. A couple of months ago Mr Scruff warmed up for you.

Yeah, it's called Get Down Early. It's this concept Dimensions Festival have where they get a big artist to warm up for a small artist like myself. They asked me who I'd like to warm up for me. I had to give them five names and Mr Scruff came out on top.

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Who were the other choices?

I chose Mr Scruff, Lakuti and Alexander Nut. Midland was there as well. I did a mix for his NTS show last year after he heard me play at Houghton Festival and he really liked it. I'm open to anything, I'm not strictly into one genre of music. The other one was DJ Katapila. Have you heard of him? He's from Ghana.

I've been listening to your NTS show and there's always a lot of music in them. How do you put together each one?

It's different tempos and different styles, so I put it in a way that makes sense. I listen to my records quite a lot and I want to put styles that sound similar together or one after the other.

What contemporary African music are you into?

I'm going to be very honest with you, I'm really stuck in the seventies, eighties and nineties at the moment! I just want to make people dance to the old, organic kind of music from the past, and there's a whole lot of it. I'm still going through all that. I spend a lot of my time trying to find dance music from Africa.

How do you find it?

I listen to a lot of YouTube. How I do my research is that I look for musicians from, let's say, Ghana or Congo, bring up a list and I'll just explore maybe one. Obviously I go through [online record marketplace] Discogs as well. I do go to record shops, but maybe not as often as I should. When I'm travelling with work I'll go record shopping on my rest days.

Which artists do most people not know about that they should?

Oh gosh, there's loads. Pamelo Mounk'a, he's a singer-songwriter from Congo known for Congolese rumba and Soukous. I like him quite a lot. Who else? I'm listening to Nayanka Bell, she's an Ivorian singer. I'm also listening to a lot of Prince Eyango from Cameroon, who's a singer-songwriter and guitar player. Oh yeah, the other one is Franco Luambo Makiadi from the band OK Jazz. I've got a lot of records from him. He plays Congolese or African rumba but also Soukous as well.

Have you ever been tempted to produce tracks yourself?

I've had a lot of people asking me this within the last three months! I've never really thought about it to be honest. I'm actually enjoying playing other people's music at the moment. There's a lot of African music out there that I want to get my hands on and play. It doesn't get nearly the exposure that it deserves, so maybe one day I'll make a tune, but at the moment I've never thought about it. All I'm thinking about is playing these records from Africa that I think should be heard.

It's a way of bringing out these musicians who should be more widely recognised.

What I want to do at the moment is bring all that music out there. There's a lot of it obviously, and it doesn't mean I can ever get it all out there, but I'm going to do as much as I can to get the music out there that I think should be heard.

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