Black nightlife has always been political. Whether it was the London Met’s suppressive Form 696, a ‘risk assessment form’ that allowed authorities to shut down gigs and parties depending on the demographics of the audience, DJs, promoters and the music being played, or archaic dress codes that enforced dress shoes – it has never been easy for Black music or culture to be enjoyed or for promoters to do their job without jumping through additional hoops. It was facing difficulty from local authorities, the police and venues that forced genres like grime to perform underground or in far-flung venues teetering on the M25 in the early 2000s.
The last few years however, have seen a refreshing change. Since around 2015, a number of events, collectives and parties masterminded by young Black people, for Black people, have grown into something much bigger than an East London basement of a couple of hundred people. These brands – because that is what they’ve become – have harnessed their cultural capital and built themselves into important cornerstones of Black nightlife and culture, with massive brands clamouring to get a piece of the action and tap into the loyal audiences who have long been ignored by the mainstream.
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Cue; Days Like This – more commonly known as DLT. What started off as a small brunch day party in South-East London has grown into one of the most culturally relevant go-to events for Black millennials to enjoy themselves without the stomach-turning fear of the one R&B song of the night morphing into a commercial house remix. In 2015, Londoners Michael Amusan, Bosun Apata, Ife Awosika and Anthony Iban were in New York for an investment bank internship, where they stumbled upon the city’s vibrant Black brunch culture. In cities like New York, DC, Atlanta and LA, such spaces allow individuals to support the bevy of Black-owned restaurants as well as enjoying music from the Black diaspora. Noticing a gap in the London scene, where Black nightlife was only just picking up – in underground spaces – they set out to capture some of the magic they had experienced. “We never used to really go out in London unless it was to house parties or to specific short-lived parties. The dress codes that clubs would enforce would make you look like you were going to church!” Anthony laughs, pointing to the restrictive dress policies often used to keep people out by banning trainers, athleisure or in some cases, jeans.
Deciding that they would create a space for them, DLT was born. “Our first event in 2016 was on a Sunday at a Black-owned bar called Luxford in Old Kent Road, but we still had to really sell the idea that it was viable to expect people to sit down for two-hours with bottomless alcohol on a Sunday with no ‘trouble’ which is often what is expected at events run by Black people or with Black guests” explains Will. The first was such a success that they graduated on to a Canary Wharf venue with increased capacity, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since its inception in that small bar on Old Kent Road, DLT has exploded as a major player in the Black diaspora, throwing parties in Ghana, Nigeria, Ibiza and partnering with major labels and brands such as Livenation, Universal Music Group. It was only natural that after the success of the parties in London, word would soon spread to Ghana and Nigeria, word of mouth would soon spread. “It was a natural direction for the brand, and friends there were very encouraging and introduced me to venue owners – who were already aware of our brand! Then I sent a message in the middle of the night to the rest of the guys suggesting we go for it” Anthony laughs, who was initially met with scepticism from the others. Liaising with other Black business owners is a foundation of DLT, whether it is entering sponsorship partnerships with Black-owned rum label Las Olas or working with local owners and promoters in Nigeria and Ghana to ensure that the local economy benefited just as much.
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To their surprise, what started off as a 200-person event ended up with 2000 attendees in Ghana in December 2019’s Year of Return. Returning in 2021, attendees included R&B songstress Ari Lennox with performances from Amapiano superstars Major League Djz. DLT’s presence in Accra set a standard and gave a glimpse into what to expect abroad, given that their DLT in Mykonos event in 2019 was cancelled due to COVID.
Using the time during the pandemic to regroup and refocus, team member Will (who joined after attending the parties, like most of the team) explains how a team that was essentially ‘stuck’ when restrictions were imposed, used the time they had to their advantage. “With no sight on when we could throw parties, we used the pandemic to focus on the brand as a whole, like our voice as a brand, whether its social media, music, working with [Black owned and run radio station] There’s No Signal on mixes, to curating playlists with the Apple Music. Lockdown made us think about how we want to stand for and exist, other than simply throwing parties. We learnt to evaluate and enhance our brand and mission” Michael explains.
Although DLT was formed in some ways out of frustration at the lack of daytime spaces and venues that would willingly host Black parties, there aren’t any plans for a brick-and-mortar space any time soon. The reliability of DLT lies in its versatility – whether it’s in Ibiza or East London, the carefully curated DJ line up or the Black-owned caterers of various cuisines, partygoers trust the decisions made by the team. So much so that DLT was able to launch an entire festival in Malta, collaborating with travel tech app Pollen to offer package deals that cover accommodation and activities including brunch, of course.
With Wizkid and Kaytranada headlining, WSTRN, Boj, Shenseea, Rema and Juls feature on the lineup. Each day of the festival has been tailored to ensure that all facets of Black music and culture are showcased and highlighted – from afro house to dancehall. “I was looking for any excuse to get Kaytranada on a DLT lineup, even though we aren’t a particularly electronic music party it felt like a slight risk, but on the night he’s headlining we’ve hand-picked DJs like Sef Kombo and Kabza de small to really showcase how eclectic and varied Black music is” Anthony explains, the group’s unofficial musichead.
With DLT Malta on the horizon and world domination not far behind, what initially started off as a safe space for Black people to party founded by four friends has blossomed into an internationally recognised brand that Black party goers can look to for a guaranteed good time. More than that, it has evolved into a community that brings together everybody from foodies to music lovers, with the ultimate aim of fostering Black Joy through enjoyment.
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Words: Rahel Aklilu
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