Floyd Lavine’s New Afrikan Tales Label is “a Place of Afro-Futurism”

We talk to RISE co-founder and Watergate resident Floyd Lavine about his new label, Afrikan Tales.

12 min
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Mar 19, 2021
Cameron Holbrook

Originally hailing from South Africa, Floyd Lavine has been instrumental in bringing the Afro house sound to Berlin, where is has exploded in popularity over the years.

Despite his success, Floyd’s mission wasn’t completely sonic. As he tells it, co-founding the influential RISE collective, label and party series — which calls Berlin’s Watergate home but also tours the world — was also inspired by bringing more ethnic diversity to Berlin’s dance floors.

Now the DJ and producer is looking ahead to a year full of new music with the launch of his Afrikan Tales imprint — a label built to give African artists “a platform to narrate their tales in their own way,” while creating “a new narrative for the future,” Floyd says. With five EPs on the way in 2021, there’s plenty to be excited about.

We caught up with Lavine to learn more about the imprint, his 2020 in lockdown, and his plans for the year ahead.

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Hi Floyd, thanks for talking to us today. First off, how was your 2020, and is your 2021 (hopefully) shaping up to be any better?

My 2020 was challenging, difficult, and eye-opening, all at the same time. I was traveling a lot in 2019, and for 2020, I was hoping to play even more shows and strengthen my relationships with people throughout the industry that I had met in different countries over the years. Well, that didn’t happen for obvious reasons. It turned out I spend more time traveling to the fridge than anywhere else.

After accepting that there was nothing that I could do except waiting for things to change, I tried to put as much time as possible into creating music, and I ended up collaborating with incredible artists. I also started thinking more about my identity in the music industry and the story that I want to tell as an African living in Berlin. All this led me to start my own label called Afrikan Tales, which I just launched. This year, I’m looking forward to working on the imprint more to give African talents a platform to share their Afrikan Tales.

Do you have any bookings on the horizon yet?

Well, I do, but for now, I’m still sitting, waiting, and wishing like everybody else for the world to open up fully. If 2020 taught me one thing, then it’s to be patient and not take things for granted. I can’t wait to play again, though! I feel like I’m not the only one dreaming about a wild night out and dancing until my health app counts a marathon-amount of steps!

You’ve been instrumental in establishing a thriving Afro House scene in Berlin. Can you tell us about your RISE event series, collective, and imprint? Who was involved, and how did the city’s Afro House scene first start to take form?

Rise Music was founded by Hyenah, Robin Drimalski, Dede, and myself. Later the amazing artists Minco, Jamiie, and Walter Griot joined the crew. We all were in a way connected with Africa and Afro house. With Rise, we wanted to start a music label and an event series that brings a new feel to Europe. At the time, not many people in Berlin were familiar with African house music. During that time, Berlin was also oversaturated with techno, and for us, the audience didn’t feel inclusive enough. The RISE events brought together a community of what we think Berlin should look like: diverse and colorful. We wanted to challenge the status quo by consciously booking people of colour and females. Watergate is our “home base” where we did a monthly event, but we continued to grow and brought the event series to many countries and different continents. We showcased our take on the Afro-sound in Hong Kong, Japan, Brazil, Canada, the States, and most of Europe. I feel like we played our part in helping shape the modern feel of African House Music.

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How will your new label and multi-media platform Afrikan Tales differ from that of RISE?

RISE was a big milestone for me, and I will be forever grateful for what we created. I worked with a great collective of people with different ideas, creating something bigger than ourselves. We pushed boundaries and were able to build cultural bridges between the African continent and Europe. My approach for Afrikan Tales is connected with my personal story and is pretty much a direct consequence of my own journey. Over the years, I traveled to different countries, and a lot of times, I experienced that the way stories from Africa are being told didn’t resonate with me. With my new label, I want to give African artists a platform to narrate their tales in their own way and to use storytelling as one of the most impactful tools and put their very own ideas into the world. Like the name says, Afrikan Tales is about the “tale,” “the background,” “the portrayal,” and “the legacy.” Our continent is full of unique talent and original creatives that will give meaning to us by engaging and educating us with their tale.

How would you describe your debut EP for the new label/platform, Story Tellers? Who features on the record, and what was the recording process like?

The EP is warm and quirky with Afro-futuristic elements. Each song has its own feel. With the lead track “We Here Now,” I was looking to capture a classic, old-school Afro deep house sound, which reminded me of what I was listening to when I was growing up in South Africa. Lore Vain was able to capture that Moloko style vocal, which I have always loved, while also bringing her own captivating flavour.

“Raw Soul” was made during the lockdown in Berlin with my two talented friends Elias and Liam Mockridge. It was created by Elias and I sending each other interesting music parts. I wanted to replicate the feelings that I had during the lockdown in that period of time with the track. The world was getting back to basics, and it gave everything a certain rawness and realness. But I was still longing for a good fun time on the dancefloor, and that’s where the vocals from Liam Mockridge came in.

The third track, “Skirts and Pants,” is my personal exploration of Afro-futuristic sounds. It presents a certain mood that you feel at a very specific time on a dancefloor. A special time when you are teleported into a hypnotic space, where you fully lose yourself in the moment.

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What are the hallmarks of a good storyteller? How does your new label hope to relay these tales of your motherland musically, visually, and narratively?

I feel like a good storyteller is about making people see what you see. Like any art, the art of storytelling is about the feelings that you evoke. I wish for Afrikan Tales to be an overall experience. I’ve met incredible African creatives and artists that are inspired by the continent and I can’t wait to share all their music with you.

Part of my label will also be my podcast Afrikan Abroad where we will get the opportunity to go more in-depth about my journey as an artist, the music industry, and the challenges that come with it. I’m also going to be hosting incredible guests who will share some of their lessons and tips with the audience.

On my website, I want to share stories of creatives and people who are helping to share the new narrative of Africa, what we stand for and what our vision is for the future. Visually and narratively, I want to transport people to another place. A place of Afro-futurism — where Africa is seen in all its dimensions.

What can we expect to see, hear, and learn from Afrikan Tales later this year?

Musically we are looking to release four to five EPs this year. I’m also in the process of looking into new, unsigned talent that I want to bring to the forefront. Once the world has opened up, we want to create events and different showcases to capture our philosophy. Going into 2021, we want to challenge each other by looking at how we can be part of the future: thinking about our natural and social environment and how we can contribute to our community all over the world in a positive way. As I mentioned earlier, I want to use the tool of tale-telling to create a new narrative for the future.

Floyd Lavine’s Story Tellers EP is out via Afrikan Tales. Purchase on Beatport.

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