The City Arts & Music Project aka C.A.M.P. is spitting distance from Old Street Roundabout and it was there that Amelia Ideh’s Put Me On It wisely chose to showcase a live set from the man called Dego.
As we stepped into the steamy, concrete bunker beneath City Road there was a tangible sense of anticipation in the air. The prospect of hearing a live set based on Dego’s brand new 20 track set entitled ‘Wha’ Him Deh Pon’ had pulled in richly diverse crowd who were undoubtedly familiar with the music of 4 Hero and the radical trajectory of Co-op. There were a lot of faces in the house – Cleveland Watkiss, Tony Nwachukwu, Gary Nurse, Sue Bowerman, Jez ‘Shook’ Smadja, Vince Vella, Mpho Skeef, Eric Lau, Bembe Segue, Matt ‘Monkey Boxer’ Bailey, Amar Patel, Kiri R2, Kate Theophilus… to name but a few. Yes, it was buzzing and when they hit the stage the audience were clearly unanimous in their enthusiasm for what was to come.
In fact, it felt like you were being immersed in a continuum… a continuum that is very specific to this city. The raw warehouse vibe with it’s overhead silver foil insulated ducting took me right back to those early illegal parties and as the set unfolded you were immediately aware that you were being immersed in something unique but essentially familiar. Basically, Dego’s music is rooted in London’s underground, it has helped shape that underground and no one else in the world makes music like it.
The deep bass lines, the challenging and bold time changes… the drop… the insistent and uplifting vocals and of course Kaidi Tatham’s keys combined to have the whole room rocking. There’s the funk, there’s the broken, there two-step and boogie… there’s drum ‘n’ bass and house and it’s all permeated with the sweat of a thousands of sessions.
There is a tremendous rapport between Dego and Kaidi which comes as no surprise. Reflecting on an interview session, back in the 90’s, at 4 Hero’s Dollis Hill studio, it was clear, from the rack of keyboards on display that Dego and Marc Mac, were serious collectors. They were obsessed with keyboards and had diligently sought out the instruments which had produced the sounds they loved. Kaidi’s distinctive brand of jazz infected free style funk fits perfectly with Dego’s vision and on this night the crowd responded accordingly.
Onstage, there was a family vibe. Akwasi handled bass and synth bass, Matt Lord doubled up on guitar and keys while three singers Sharlene Hector, Obenewa and Sarina Leah ensured the music packed the same cultural punch as vintage Soul II Soul. That said, after their rousing encore, Dego announced it was no big deal and all he really wanted was to deliver something that had that “little bounce”. And in that he more than succeeded.