#PHANTASYMIX 37: Bakongo

Having already released on underground labels such as Livity Sound and Trule, Bakongo has made a serious impact over the past year or two, capturing the ears of dancers and collectors even without the benefit of a sub-heavy dancefloor to showcase his productions, which blend elements of “techno, garage, dub and broken beats’, spun and reinterpreted with understanding and imagination.

Inevitably, U.K. Funky is the other key influence on Bakongo’s sound, given that Bakongo is the not-so-secret, more recent alias of Wayne Goodlitt, who has been doing serious damage across the genre under the alias of Roska since the 00s. Known and hugely respected as a dedicated Godfather of Funky in the UK, Goodlitt’s DJing and production career have taken him around the globe to showcase both the evolution and the consistency of the sound, specifically through his own Roska Kicks and Snares imprint, and more recently through internationally-known MCs like Serocee and Fox. Back in 2009, he was one of Phantasy’s earliest remixers, adding his trademark bounce-and-weight to Boris Dlugosch’s enormous single, ‘Bangkok’.

Better known as Roska, in a recent, wide-ranging interview with Beatport, Goodlitt pondered “What happens to funky the other nine months of the year when there’s no sun shining?”. Just as it begins to appear again, Goodlitt switches to Bakongo and answers this question fair-and-square, generously gifting Phantasy an hour full of upcoming material, collaborations and edits, as well as material from the likes of Chrissy, DJ Gregory and LSDXOXO. Collectively, it amounts to irresistible body music, brightly beaming down but not without a touch of grit and darkness.

Accompanying the mix, Bakongo spoke to John Loveless in May 2021, via email. Full mix tracklist below.

Thanks for delivering this mix, and making us privy to so much new material, all of which sounds great. When did you begin recording as Bakongo, or did the project exist before it had an official name?

I started this project at the same time as I released my first single as Roska back in 2008. I released 3 EPs back then and revisited the project every so often. The Roska brand took off well for me so there wasn’t a need to juggle two aliases.

What’s the etymology of ‘Bakongo’ as a name? I like it a lot, it somehow describes the music perfectly and rolls off the tongue.

At the time I was looking at a lot of African tribes and face masks and the name Bakongo stood out. I’m probably from Jamaica but the sounds of African tribalism isn’t far off my influences from dancehall music and beyond.

What are some of the musical influences on this project specifically?

So I like to see this as a stripped back version of Roska but more mature. Less melodic, more about the drums, spacious and energetic at times. Techno, garage, dub, U.K. Funky, broken beats with a hint of that London feel.

You’ve been making music as Roska for a long time. You’re an elder statesman of UK funky and broader dance music (and trust that I mean that as a compliment, not that you’re past it!) How does the headspace for producing as Bakongo differ from your other work? I feel like the atmosphere is darker, headsier…

Haha, it only dawned on me the other day how long I’ve been around and blessed to still be present. it took me a while to figure out how to differentiate the two sounds without them overlapping too much. The Roska material is fun and radio and club ready whereas the Bakongo tracks are directly for the dark spaces and heavy sound systems.

A lot has changed in UK dance music since you remixed our own Bangkok by Boris Dlugosch in 2009 (!) That felt like a nice moment, one with lots of sub-genres intersecting… The late days of ‘early internet’. When it comes to musical tastes and diversity, do you personally feel things are more or less fluid a decade and more later?

I remember that remix so well. I’ve still got the PC I made it on haha.

I feel like the music then out-lasts the sounds created today, but paved the way for everything now.

You’re well respected for sticking with UK funky through-and-through. I wonder what that kind of devotion to a genre feels like, psychologically? You get these bubbling moments when it feels like “UK funky is back”, or so the press say. Whereas for you, I suppose it never really goes away?

At times it’s felt stressful as when it’s not the ‘in’ thing to be playing and you’re not exactly on everyone’s mind to book invest in at any capacity. I’ve learnt to embrace it and take ownership of it and I’d be lying if it didn’t pay off. My peers around the emergence of U.K. Funky have all moved on to different sounds or roles within music.

Now and then you get someone from the past wanting to come back and create U.K. funky, they will market it as ‘U.K. funky is back’. It causes so much stress as if to say that no one is making it. So annoying, haha.

John Loveless, May 2021.

Track list:
Bakongo - Disposition
Bakongo - HDMI
Bakongo x Cando - Oh
Byrell The Great - Akashas Tears
Scratcha - Hardbody 999
Bakongo - Bongo Crush
Bakongo - 100 Leaves
Tribal Brothers x DJ Polo - Three Tribes
Bakongo - Ashy
Bakongo - Level Cowbell
Bakongo - Oww
Bakongo - Tribal Warrior
Al Wooton x Priori - JL
DJ Gregory - Vaseva (Argy Beats Remix)
Kaval - Busy Signals
Roska - Windbreaker (Bakongo Edit)
Bakongo - Thirteen
Chrissy - Clap Yr Hands (Nightwave Remix)
High Graid - The Talisman
Bakongo x Spectr - Close Call
Dom 877 x Magugu - Nah Follow Dem
Bakongo - Lights Off
LSDXOXO - v x x d x x p v s s y

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