A longstanding DJ, curator and booking agent, Lerato Khati AKA Lakuti has been an essential figure of the global underground for over two decades now. Since relocating from South Africa to London in 1997, she has surrounded herself with likeminded DJs and artists, forming communities built on shared values of positivity and exceptional music and spreading that message on dancefloors the world over.
During her years in London she was a staple both on the dancefloor and behind the decks of some of the best clubs and bars, inspired by DJs like Gilles Peterson, DJ Harvey and Earl Gateshead. She would go on to release music by the likes of Alan Abrahams (Portable), RüF Dug, Mary Boyoi and Akiko Kiyama via the her since ended Süd Electronic label.
After moving to Berlin, she would go on to become a respected booking agent for the likes of Levon Vincent, Ash Lauryn, Joey Anderson and more through her Uzuri agency. Khati’s influence, then, extends beyond her identity as forward thinking DJ but as a champion of other artists.
A resident and curator at Panorama Bar, this year saw her and her partner Tama Sumo launch their new Bring Down The Walls event series with Larry Heard in Berghain. Marking Heard’s debut appearance in the hallowed venue, the ethos of Bring Down The Walls was described as, “a platform aiming to nurture a more caring music community via Music presentation, discussions and screenings.”
That progressive, socially nurturing and conscious ethos is something that Lakuti has brought around the world through her life-affirming sets that fuse deep percussive grooves, disco, soul, funk and vintage house – a necessary light in a world that feels progressively dark. This year saw her playing festivals and clubs the world over, from Tbilisi, Johannesburg and Cape town to Cocrete, Paris, Farr Festival, UK and, of course, Berghain and beyond.
As the year draws to a close, we caught up with Lakuti to talk all things past, present and future – from the state of London clubbing, to Christmas at Berghain – as she serves up a 98 minute mix of house, disco, soul and percussive groove...
Hey Lerato. How are you? How has 2018 been? What have been some highlights?
“I am well thanks. 2018 has been quite some year of deep inner reflection and despair on the political front. I am ever so grateful for the music, the wonderful gigs, the opportunity to meet and interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds. I’m grateful to have such a supportive family and a close knit group of friends that are keeping me so sane in the madness we find ourselves in as far as the political environment we are currently in goes."
September marked the first edition of yours and Tama Sumo’s Bring Down The Walls show with Mr. Fingers. How was that? Can you tell us more about the ethos of this new initiative and what plans you have for it in the coming year?
“The first edition of Bring Down The walls with Larry Heard feat. Mr White was super special. The energy in the room was so special and the performance was really next level. Tama Sumo and I were really humbled by the incredible support we got from the club as well as the wonderful people who travelled from all over to come and support.
“Bring Down The Walls is another outlet for us to continue to emphasise and highlight the fact that music is something so unifying if presented in such a way – where love and the desire to bring people together on an equal footing are at the epicentre of the event. Another important thing we want to emphasise with Bring down the Walls is context. It is so hugely important for us that we delve into the music beyond surface. It is important to also continue to honour those who paved the way for us often under difficult circumstances for us to now enjoy what nightlife has to offer. It is important to highlight the magical and beautiful work over the decades that has put fuel into this whole thing. We truly believe that only by delving deeper into the roots of the music and the culture can we truly realise the magnitude of this whole thing and just how empowering and positive it can continue to be. We have some Bring Down The walls events coming up, with one on 14th March then something a bit bigger in the summer. Watch this space.”
I saw you were meant to play in Bassiani last month, but had to cancel due to illness. Was that to be your first time returning to the venue since the incidents that occurred there in May? What was the feeling amongst you and your close peers as that was unfolding?
“[It was] be my fifth or sixth time playing in Tbilisi, I believe. Thanks to the wonderful promoter Mariam who first brought me there and continued until now to bring us. Through her, we learned so much about the city and the country and we got to experience the amazing club culture.
“[I was] very much looking forward to playing at Bassani for the first time. As in most places, there are older people sadly wanting to halt progress and further sink the world into a regressive state. Young people should be free to map out their future and most young people I meet are so much more open to explore new possibilities. Thanks to the internet, the world is becoming much more connected and young people want to represent the future and not the dark ages.”
I also notice that you’re playing in Panorama Bar on Christmas day, which sounds really magical. Have you ever played or been there on Christmas before? I would imagine there’s quite a nice atmosphere there on the day...
"I am very much looking forward to playing at Panorama bar on Christmas Day. I am usually cooking and eating and chilling with friends and in hibernation mode [at that time of year], but I hear the club is so fun on that day so I look forward to a good time.
“It’s also great that there is a space that people can come to on that day and feel connected to others. Not everyone has a family to go to and this time of the year can often be a lonely and miserable time, so I am just happy we can be there and provide a family vibe for everyone”
The atmosphere within dance music, particularly in Europe, has been quite divided around BDS and the idea of playing in Israel. Coming from South Africa, which was of course met with similar boycotts during apartheid, did you have any particular feelings or thoughts on this current situation? Of course, fully understanding that the scenarios are very different...
“My thoughts on the subject is that everyone deserves to live in peace and dignity . without empathy in our hearts and the desire to make sure that all of us prosper in this world, I am afraid we are all screwed.”
Moving back to music, when you look back to the UK now, what have you felt about the turbulent nature of club closures and rave culture being clamped down on? I saw you mention previously in an interview that the nature of clubbing in London naturally requires promoters to have a lot of money…
“It is absolutely a shame to see London clubs struggling. London informed so much of who I am and my heart will always be invested in the city. There was a time where you could go to a club every night in London and find a great night with quality music. Sadly the conditions are tough nowadays. A lack of space and everything being so expensive makes it difficult for artists to thrive. The authorities have not done a lot to help the nightlife to thrive either. Despite all of that i still have hope that things will turn around. People still want to go out and still enjoy a night out. Everyone just needs to pull together and make sure that we protect the clubs and also that the clubs remain vital spaces that provide quality as well as being accessible to all.”
How do you feel your relationship with music and DJing has evolved in recent years? What music is exciting you most at the moment?
“On a personal level, I have grown so much in the last couple of years and feel that i am gearing nearer and nearer into my own path and that is so exciting to me. There is a lot exciting me musically and there is so much more access in terms of music from all over the globe which is great. We should celebrate all this fantastic music and introduce it to people."
What’s new with Uzuri? What plans have you for it going forward?
“I am a bit delayed with my release schedule. Will have a lot more output in 2019. Some represses of our back catalogue and new music too.”
What can you tell us about this mix? What should we do while listening to it?
“The mix comprises of music I love, new and old. Dance, share it and spread the love.”
Anything else we should know?
“Be on the look out for Your Love, a night myself and Tama sporadically put together in London. We just had a really special one a few weeks ago and look forward to 2019.”