Beatport Next: The Dance Floor Futurism of Junior Simba

From Zimbabwe to the UK, the Leeds-based DJ/producer and Beatport Next star Junior Simba details his dance music metamorphosis, the virtue of patience in the studio, the car he named his recent EP after, and more.

11 min
Screenshot 37
Jun 23, 2023
·
By
Cameron Holbrook

Growing up in Zimbabwe, Junior Simba – the UK-based DJ/producer and member of our Beatport Next Class of 2023 – received his first copy of FL Studio at the tender age of 13. Receiving no help or technical guidance, digging into his first DAW all on his own was an uphill battle, but the flame of his musical magnetism and desire would not be so easily extinguished.

Things took a turn in his late teens when he eventually moved to Leeds to attend university. In a city with such a distinct and rich history of electronic music, Junior Simba’s newly adopted home gave the burgeoning DJ/producer all the tools necessary to hustle, learn, and take flight – both in the studio and behind the decks. Fusing his original sonic influences of Rhumba, Kwaito, and Afro house with the newly-discovered sounds of drum & bass, tech house, leftfield bass, and beyond, Junior Simba locked into a dynamic sound all his own, a potent mix of “dark, tense amapiano and cosmic, zero-G Afrobeat, all wrapped with levels and levels of futuristic soul.”

Since becoming a staple of the Leeds underground scene, he’s gone on to perform all over the UK and internationally, playing alongside heavyweights such as Fatboy Slim, Dusky, LF System, Hot Since 82, Patrick Topping, and more. His tracks – supported on the airwaves by the likes of Sarah Story, Jaguar, Pete Tong, Danny Howard, and The Blessed Madonna – continue to pick up steam, and his latest Focus EP is a deadly exercise in fine-tuned bass and breakbeat proficiency.

We caught up with Junior Simba to learn more about this latest record, his foray into the world of dance music, the tracks in his repertoire that hold a special significance, his plans for the summer, and more.

Check out Junior Simba’s latest Beatport Chart.
Junior Simba Interview 3

Thanks for joining us! How has 2023 been treating you thus far?

2023 has been great thus far. The first series of my party Sometimes We Party, my party brand in Leeds, has gone down well which I am pleased about! Have had some great guests such as Kimii, Kilimanjaro, Sam Girling, Kloyd, Charlie Boon, A.P., Emily Pilbeam, Lau.ra and Aletha! I have also got to play some amazing and fun parties in Europe and around the UK, as well as do a Hör set, which has been very cool!

Tell us about some of your earliest musical memories growing up in Zimbabwe.

My early memories of music are getting on the combi (bus) to school and having South African house music on, tracks from the likes of DJ Cleo, Dj sbu, Mafikizolo, Brenda Fasie, and Oskido, etc. Then we used to have these summer Christmas parties where loads of Rhumba would be played all day long. I also just have these memories of Celine Dion CDs in the house.

After moving to Leeds to attend University, how did the city help shape your musical perspective? Bring us back to the moment you decided to persue a career in music.

Before Leeds, I had not really been into house music. I was more into dancehall and hip-hop parties. I had been messing around on virtual dj at school and stuff, so when we were in our flat in the student halls, I used to use Algoriddim dj to connect to my Spotify and do these mashups at pre-drinks before we went to nights out like ‘Good Life’ or ‘Flux’ or ‘Cirque’ at Beaverworks in Leeds which were great for having broad genres. Most Friday nights, I would be at the kitchen table with my laptop “mixing.”

Then during my 2nd, I joined the Uni Radio Society to make friends, so I applied for as many shows as I could. I ended up on a drum and bass show, plus an electronic music show. Ben (aka DJ Animal) was amazing to watch as he mixed and presented the d&b show we called ‘Breakin’ Out.’ I started buying tunes and learning to mix and then joined the DJ society called BPM. Then one night, Ben just left me alone in front of people to mix on CDJs and although it was a bit of a mess, it got me more eager to learn to DJ. I ended up going to Ben’s house to learn to produce as well over time – initially making drum & bass. I just remember FL Studio becoming a part of my daily routine, and I have never stopped since. One year Ben won best DJ at the radio station, and I got a special commendation, a wholesome student-teacher moment!

Junior Simba Interview 1

What were some shows you attended early on in Leeds that profoundly affected your creative output? And how did this exposure eventually lead you to join the city’s underground DJ circuit?

The parties I remember are the Goodlife, Flux, and Cirque parties. They always had a good mix of big names and local DJs. I would go to these and try my hardest to get to know the local DJs and getting contacts to try and get onto the parties. As far as creative output, nights like Sub Dub and the Hessle Audio parties were at the centre of my obsession with Bass and the darker sounds in electronic music. Then there is the Mint Club (which is closed down now), and Mint Warehouse/Mint Terrace parties with the likes of Eats Everything, Green Velvet, Hunee, and MCDE had an effect.

Would you say there is a track in your repertoire that stands out above the rest in terms of feeling a personal sense of accomplishment about it?

This is a tough one because certain tracks have achieved different things for me, so I feel great about them all. If I was to pick one, it would be “Kingdom” because it feels like it was my true introduction as Junior Simba, and the lyrical content comes from a strong body of work from Vanessa Chisakula. “Precision” comes close as well.

From when you first received a copy of FL Studio when you were 13 to now, what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from your journey into production?

This is going to sound like every YouTube production inspiration video I’ve watched, but it’s 100% true. I think patience is up there. Learning the craft takes a long time, and it never stops. Then I think accepting and asking for help is key. When I got FL studio at 13, I said no to help and wanted to learn it myself, but then I ended up giving up for five years and ended up having to get help anyways! Everyone says this, but at first, you want to add every single synth into a song. Learning to delete and keep as few elements as possible is something I am still learning.

Tell us about your most recent Focus EP on Cross Country.

Focus is named after the only car model I have ever owned! The EP is a love letter to the vehicle that has accompanied me to festivals, video shoots, and many other life experiences! It’s also a note to self: to FOCUS! I’m very proud of this one, and it also explores the darker / heavier side of my production. It’s been supported by Sarah Story, Jaguar and Pete Tong on Radio 1, as well as The Blessed Madonna on 6music, which is certainly an honour.

How does it feel to be a member of the Beatport Next Class of 2023?

I feel very honoured. Beatport is a very important community to be part of and I appreciate that all my efforts to get me this far have earned me a spot in the class of 2023.

What are you most looking forward to this Summer? And can we expect to hear any new music from you soon?

Mostly playing out!! I’ve got so many fun events coming up. Glastonbury (a bucket list one for me), Hideout, Beatherder, Secret Garden Party, Ibiza, and my first edition of Sometimes We Party out of Leeds (more will be revealed later in the year!). Music-wise, I have some tricks up my sleeve… stay tuned for more!

Cameron Holbrook is Beatportal’s North American Editor. Find him on Twitter or Instagram.

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