Untitled 909 Podcast 175: Kombé

A heavy hitting, moody mix from Somatic Rituals co-founder Kombé who explores the realm of 140 to celebrate the release of his debut EP, ‘Foreign Exchange’.

Based in Basel, Kombé is a resident at Elysia club as well as hosts a regular radio show on EOS Radio. Alongside his work through Somatic Rituals, the event series and record label he founded with Mafou and Mukuna, Kombé is also part of the OKRA collective – an event series and Oroko Radio show which aims to bring more visibility to underrepresented communities within nightlife. Now including 9 artists in the collective, OKRA recently won the Basel Cultural Promotion Prize for their commitment and work within the local scene.

As a DJ, Kombé has guested on radio shows for the likes of Laksa + re:ni, GiGi FM, Refuge Worldwide, NVST and more. His touring schedule has led him to play for the likes of Groovy Groovy in New York, De School, EOS Air and most recently, the Somatic Rituals crew have been celebrating their 5th anniversary with a tour including dates at Ohm, Garage Noord, Kapitel and their home ground Elysia.

Hi Kombé, how are you doing today? What have you been up to lately?

Heyhey, I’m good just came back from the first two parties we organized and curated outside of Switzerland at Ohm in Berlin and Garage Noord, Amsterdam. They were really cute, big up at this point to Mukuna and Enyo for putting this all together. There where so many highlights. So now I’m trying to recover and balance my work life with my DJ life I guess.


Let’s start from the very beginning, what was your first introduction to music in general and then more specifically electronic music? 

So electronic music in general I would say the CDs my Dad used to burn for me with just random stuff on them. I Remember one CD contained some gritty Dancehall and I was just blown away by the bass and what this sound was.


Who was the first artist or band that you were a fan of?

The first CD I ever bought with my own money was in primary school when I bought 50 Cents debut album “Get Rich or Die Tryin’”.


Was there a formative moment growing up, whether that’s seeing your favourite band live or an incredible DJ set, that led you to this path? 

There was this Club in Basel called “Das Lokal” which existed only very briefly back in 2011/2012. I was still underage back then and I always had to gamble and sneak in. Their booking at the time was crazy good. Seeing the likes of Joy Orbison, Girl Unit etc. really shaped me. Also, through their bookings I then discovered Manaré, Bambounou and French Fries. I was blow away in seeing Manaré and Bambounou playing as they are black DJs that really sparked an interest in me, seeing someone who looked like me playing this futuristic sounding music.


How has the environment you grew up in influenced your sound and approach to music? 

Everyone was quite musical around me growing up. I was also playing instruments the drums and upright bass. I guess music has always been the staple artform in my life.


You’ve just released your debut EP, ‘Foreign Exchange’, in which you explore the parallels of currency exchange and cultural exchange – what inspired you to make this connection within your music? What draws you to these themes? 

During the time I wrote the ep I was on holiday in Kenya, where my father is from. So, I was thinking about an ep title and so many forex bureaus in Nairobi. I wanted to find a way of showing how, like my DJ practice, I take influences from every possible source that can at some point bee super abstract from where it stems from. I found the idea of currency linked to musical influences a nice analogy. Like transactions in a volatile market it is sometimes difficult to tell where something comes from through this process of merging something new comes out of it.


You mentioned the tracks were written in 2021 and 2022 – what was the process like producing these tracks? 

I had some sketches ready at the end of 2022 but really I was able to take some time of work and focus on production for a whole winter at the end of 2022. I really enjoey locking myself in the studio. I have been making music for some time now but this intense focus really elevated my ears and sense of producing. Also during that time I spent was in exchange with Lino ½ from Atrice a lot who is a Sound designer by profession. So I was able to learn a lot and get some more tools for it.


The EP is released via Somatic Rituals, the label and event series you run alongside Mafou & Mukuna – what motivated you all to launch the label? 

I was just kind of out of necessity. We wanted to release some music and decided in doing a tape. Which was out of a process of curiosity. Then with Mafous first ep I just felt the time was ready since he had just such good music laying around on his drive. Also, I think we all have a certain vision that now a lot of labels share so it only makes sense that we could build our own sonic world through the label.


Where do you look for sources of inspiration outside of music? 

I would say mainly visually through art and photography.


You’ve also contributed a mix for the 909 series, what’s the concept behind this one? 

I feel like I wanted to record a mix in a tempo I haven’t recorded a lot of mixes in. Lately I really enjoy playing the 140bpm zone, traversing through different rhythms and switching between broken steppers and technoid trax.The mix turned out quite moody with heavy hitting drums. I hope y’all enjoy this one.


Do you have a different approach to preparation for club sets to online mixes whether that’s for a platform or radio show?

It’s usually very similar in the way my build up happens. I mostly go of tempo and mood and then build it together from there.


Is there a staple track in your DJ sets at the moment?

I would say many but if I had to choose the latest release by big Laksa – Mind and Daega Sound – State of Mind.


As we come towards the end of the year and start reflecting on 2023, what’s been one of your favourite memories from this year? 

In the beginning of the year, I had a blessed trip to New York with Mafou and Mukuna to play at our dear friend Akanbis party “Groovy Groovy”. The trip was super wholesome, and I met many cute souls, so that was my highlight in the beginning of the year.


‘Foreign Exchange’ by Kombé is out now via Somatic Rituals – buy here.