Brick Lane Jazz festivall 2023
Cyndi Anafo and Chris Ellis, aka the Handson Family, have been DJing and promoting independent artists in the nation's capital for more than 20 years. Their passion is also centred on the historical importance of Black music in the club culture of South London, which has allowed them to expand their creative endevours.
This year the Brick Lane Jazz Festival will take place in the heart of the historic East End of London and will cover 7 incredible venues over 3 days featuring a host of world renowned musicians. You can find more information about the festival here.
Hi Cyndi & Chris, it's an honour to talk with you ahead of this year's Brick Lane Jazz Festival, and you are going to be playing at the Ninety One Living Room stage, which has been curated by Jazz Re:refreshed, what does it mean to you both to be part of such an incredible line-up of acts?
Honestly, we are always so very humbled to be in the midst of such talented live musicians.
Can you tell me a little bit about your set and what we can expect?
An intergenerational mix of progressive jazz sounds, as jazz has been and always will be.
With over two decades of experience championing and supporting independent artists, how much has your approach to your work changed during this time?
If anything, our approach has remained steadfast, and some of the industry that wouldn't have ever dealt with us is coming around to the angle of unapologetic that we and the likes of brilliant independent brands like Jazz re:freshed have persisted.
What are some of the main issues independent artists are still facing?
Where to start... lol... perhaps one particularly irritating issue is how increasingly independent artists are expected to be the full A&R kaboodle before larger. More established brands will take a look at them. It asks the question, What are these larger brands here for if they cannot do the work that they used to commit to in previous times?
Have you any superstitions or traditions you follow before going out on stage?
There's nothing out there. We are only playing other people's music at the end of the day. I guess we prefer to arrive a good time earlier than our set to scope out the vibes...
"Sometimes we do solo mixes, but we will have input on what tracks are on them. Over the years, we have seen that people enjoy our 'friendly' back-to-back sessions."
How did the Handson Family come about, and have you both always had this passion for music?
Music has been in both our respective families DNA, and being raised in a particularly brilliant era of pioneering Black music across House, Hip Hop, Acid Jazz, Funk, Jazz, and Drum-n-Bass also didn't hurt. Between our immediate families, we have three other musicians and one DJ, so it was hard to avoid so many fantastic music genres and scenes like so many other respective DJs and music lovers of our generation. It's beyond passion—it's the culture.
When creating a mix, how important is the creative collaboration between you both?
Over the years, we have found different ways to navigate that. It's hard enough being a duo, but add 25 years of marriage and you have a whole other ballgame! Sometimes we do solo mixes, but we will have input on what tracks are on them. Over the years, we have seen that people enjoy our 'friendly' back-to-back sessions. Thankfully, as promoters, our roles rarely overlap. Chris does all of our graphics and design, and Cyndi is the booker and admin arm, and we both are very 'HandsOn' (geddit). on the night of sound installation and hosting.
Hard question, but do you have a favourite mix you've made?
Ha! We did a mix for a now-defunct bar called Tongue & Groove in Brixton that would definitely have been up there as a good mix. These were the days of CD burning, and we handed over our mix to a nonchalant barman. Several months later, we got a call from the manager to say that she had found it on the floor of her boss's flat and they both loved it. The residency we held there was a turning point in how engaged we became in DJing and running events. We don't have a copy, but note to any budding DJs: mixes matter.
How would you best describe South London’s legacy of Black music club?
If legacy could be defined as a quality memory, then South London has bags of good memories pertaining to quality Black music nights. Recently, our optimism has brightened with a number of small, independent promoters doing some lovely stuff in South.
And finally, what would you like your audiences on Saturday to take away from your show?
To connect the dots of what the Brick Lane Jazz Festival is delivering aurally and to discover some new sounds that will take them on their own journey of musical discovery.