Se√Īor Oz on the New Afrolicious EP, Recording in an SF Apartment, and the Jimi Hendrix of Africa
The Afrolicious crew outside the Elbo Room
Thursday nights at the Elbo Room, conga and timbale drummers flash their sticks, DJs mix in wild world grooves, and dancers get delirious at Afrolicious, the weekly club event put on by Kansas City natives DJ Oz and his brother Joey Maguire. The four-year-old club night is a hybrid live band-and-DJ dance party where African, Latin, South American traditional and electronic music freely mingle. The international music, or "global groove," sound popularized by producers like New York's Nickodemus or Philly's Diplo has had a firm foothold in San Francisco since the days of Cheb i Sabbah's long running nights at Nickie's BBQ in the Lower Haight. But San Franciscians have always spun a more percussion-rich organic sound than their East Coast cousins. Oz and crew affirm this on their new Afrolicious EP, titled A Dub For Mali.
The three-track release, made with the help of Thievery Corporation's Rob Garza, sees live drummers, African singers, and electronic production fused with alternately chill and lively results. While the energy of the Afrolicious party can only really be experienced in person on Thursdays at the Elbo Room, or at their occasional one-off nights at Public Works, the EP accurately depicts the concepts that built it. We caught up with Oz on a lazy Sunday at his Mission District residence to talk about the new release and the craziness of the musician-packed stage at his weekly club nights. A Dub For Mali EP is out now on ESL Music. Afrolicious, with DJ Oz and Pleasuremaker, goes down every Thursday (including tonight) at the Elbo Room.
When did you, Oz and your brother Joey move to SF?
We moved here over five years ago, in 2006.
How long have you been doing the Afrolicious club night?
We started at Elbo Room in 2007, in the spring, and we just celebrated four years as a weekly night this past April. But it kinda started before we came out here. I was always doing club nights in Kansas City [Missouri], and [my brother] Joey always had his bands and was doing DJ stuff, too. I started doing DJ gigs with live drummers and we just kind put the pieces together. We did some small parties called Afrolicious before we even got here.
Did you and Joey always have similar music tastes?
We were both always into a lot of blues, jazz, soul, R&B, and rock growing up. I did college radio and started getting into hip-hop and electronic music. Joey also did radio and did a show with guy from Venezuela called Latin Lab. They were playing Latin records alongside African music that had a Latin influence. [Joey] started getting interested in African music that also had soul and funk influences as well. He probably had more influence on the Afrolicious sound, whereas I was into broad spectrum of stuff. We just put the ideas together and came up with the name and idea for the party together.
Seems like you have pretty unique and loyal following at your night. What type of audience do you normally get?
I think it's the best audience in the world. The crowd is open to hearing music they might not have heard. Because it's a party, they're willing to take a chance and trust the DJs because they know we'll make them dance. It's a pretty diverse audience. It's not a flavor-of-the-month or hipster crowd; it's all different types and ages. There are a lot of girls on the dancefloor, but it's also straight, gay, black, white and brown people, representative of the Mission's culture. It's pretty special.
Along with the DJs it seems like there's always a million musicians on stage. Besides you and your brother, who are the other main players in the Afrolicious night?
On a weekly basis, we have a percussionist named Enrique -- he's lived in the Bay a long time, and used to play with Los Mocosos and he plays with J-Boogie. He's a beast. He plays bongos and congas. We also have a timbale players, a young guy named Sergio, and he's fantastic too. We have djembe (drum) player named Diamond, as well as a few emcees -- one named Iggy Mon from Trinidad and Tobago, and DJ Fresh Is Life, also from T&T. Those are the main weekly Thursday residents. We have also expanded Afrolicous into a full live show with a horn section, a bass player, Joey on guitar, and I run computer and controls. We have a couple of additional vocalists in that band. We're really trying to create all original music and develop that into a real stage show for bigger venues, as opposed to just a DJ thing.
Is it ever too out of control on stage?
It can come close. We always like to have a kind of organized chaos, and part of the magic is that it feels like anything can happen. But we've gotten to a point where we vibe off the crazy energy of the audience, but not at a sacrifice for quality. We do want to be open-ended, and vibe off whoever stops by and off the energy of the crowd. The crowd want their minds to be blown, and we're going to do our best to give it to them!
Who have some of your bigger guest DJs or bands been?
DJ DRM from Bastard Jazz, DJ Said from Fat Souls, DJ Smash and Jeremy Sole from Afrofunke or Musiacs are a few.