Groove selector and master of funky vibes Shantan Wantan Ichiban has been around the darker rooms of Sydney’s club scene for a while. With long running and eternally popular club nights such as Dutty Dancing and Player Haters Ball part of his ongoing repertoire, Shantan has also been bringing his impeccable mixes to FBi and Triple J’s airwaves. Before Pineapple Republic comes to the Kings Cross Hotel in partnership with Barcardi, we spoke with him about transporting the global club to Australia and how to keep a club night going after seven years.
BYO: You play a number of different genres of music when DJing. Do you see them as contributing towards one larger genre or are they each distinct?
Shantan: There's a lot of links there between music and I try and bring that all together. I started off as a hip hop DJ and that's where my roots are but there's a lot of connecting genres. One of the DJs who started it came from Jamaica and he was very much influenced by Jamaican dancehall style DJing and getting on the mic. I [play] a lot of UK soundsystem culture which is from Caribbean music and garage, grime. I do try and bring some stuff together that I guess compliments each other.
BYO: We have this thing of categorising everything into genres but it sounds like what you're doing is bringing it back together to how the music originally was performed.
Shantan: For example, what's been happening with Grime is that Grime has become for a little while more popular than it's ever been, when Skepta started popping off again and Stormzy was doing his thing. What they brought to it was the hip hop production values. Grime at first was very DIY, nobody had any money, so when you play those tracks out they're very raw, they don't always stand up to big studio hip hop productions where there was a lot more money. What they did, they brought those hip hop production values, so they were bringing influences of genres and pushing forward.
BYO: You've also been vocal about respecting the local origins of the music you play. From your perspective, how do you celebrate the local origins of the music while also introducing it to a geographically distant audience in Australia?
Shantan: I don't usually get that vocal on social media, I usually just post dumb shit that I do when I'm drunk, but I mean look, there's a lot of great DJs coming up which is a great thing and I was making a point that here are a couple of things you can do to be better. You try and do the best job you can when you're playing music and do it I guess authentically, and with dancehall what I was talking about was there's a culture of riddim juggling. When Jamaican dancehall was produced, a producer would make a beat, but they wouldn't just give it to one artist, they'd give it to ten artists to do their own song on that one beat and they'd put them all out. The way that people DJ would be they would quickly juggle between all those different versions and as a DJ it's a great way to see the bigger track on the versions.
Look I'm a hip hop DJ as well but I don't really scratch which is traditionally part of their genre so you do the best you can. But I think every genre has something distinct to them which is unique, and if you're serious about playing a specific genre, you do what other people are doing in that genre.
BYO: For you, how do you connect with the global sounds that you draw on? Is it through travel or research?
Shantan: Sometimes it's a bit of both. I've been to parties in the UK where they play a lot of dancehall and that's always inspiring and a lot of fun when you go overseas and see how DJs are playing. A trip to Latin American got me inspired by Latin music and I've gone to parties in Colombia and Los Angeles and Pineapple Republic, the party we're putting on tonight, the original party was inspired by going to a couple of parties in LA in 2011. There were DJs from LA, Mexico and Colombia doing fun edits. They would do would take fun edits of Latin music and contemporary hip hop and with something like Michael Jackson in there to make it fun and dumb.
BYO: You also bring some international DJs to your shows on Triple J, how do you find it bringing these international acts to local audiences via Triple J?
Shantan: I think some of the biggest parties in Sydney and the country are some of the afrobeat ones that are happening at the moment. When I pick guests I try to you know I look to local ones and the local scene and some international DJs. Omar Duro who is a Dutch guy doing really cool afrobeat edits, because I've been playing his tracks and they go so well in the club, his edits are a huge part of my set, I was like I've gotta get him in and I hit him up and he did a really fun mix.
BYO: You've led a push for Triple J to be more representative of dance music with Triple J Dance. How have you used a national radio station like that to broaden the dance music or club music that gets played on Australian radio?
Shantan: Triple J has been exploring dance music for a while; Mix Up is a huge brand and House Party is more the indie dance hits and of course Friday Night Shuffle as well, these shows that have been pushing dance music for a while, but Triple J Dance, the idea was to bring it all together and do some fun things together. What's great about it is the different expertise we all bring to it; I have my own background in club music and somebody like Andy Garvey who curates Mix Up as a DJ is big in the house, techno scene and KLP as well, whose [has] expertise making a range of dance music styles.
BYO: In terms of the live side of things, Dutty Dancing has been such a successful club night for so long! How do you keep that energy going for those club nights you run in somewhere like Sydney?
Shantan: When I started doing club nights we wanted to do stuff that other people weren't really doing. There wasn't anybody doing dancehall at the time so that's why we decided to put that one on. Dutty [has] done well for a long period of time and it's more popular now than it's ever been. With the new popularity of dancehall and afrobeat it definitely hit a new audience. We've done a big job of curating the night, marketing it and creating a fund brand that people enjoy to dance and party.
BYO: For the Pineapple Republic night tonight is there anything you're bringing new for this one at the Kings Cross Hotel than in previous editions, or is it a continuation of the same?
Shantan: It's different, it's a mix of different genres, different DJs who have their own specialties so there'll be a bit of Afrobeat there'll be a bit of dancehall and there'll be some Latin vibes, but this time I'll also be playing Baile Funk and MC Fioti with Bum Bum Tam Tam. We see a lot more reggaeton on the charts, there'll be some of this with some of the deeper Latin cuts. Each party we do try and incorporate the new stuff that's happening as well as the classics and try and give you that mix, a wide range of it all.
You can catch Shantan heading up Pineapple Republic at the Kings Cross Hotel tonight and on January 18.