As a child, SNO — whose DJ name is the acronym of her government name — would spend Sundays listening to records with her uncle. Spanning genres like jazz, disco and R&B, he introduced her to a range of artists, from Teddy Pendergrass and Whitney Houston to Miriam Makeba. Hailing from Bophelong, a small township near the city of Vanderbijlpark in the province of Gauteng, South Africa, she also got into house and hip-hop, which she says were the predominant popular genres when she was growing up in the 1990s.
When she started listening to music from other African countries, it was rather unusual, because South Africans were so focused on homegrown genres as well as those coming from America, she explains. SNO says her increasing interest in music from across the African continent stemmed from a realisation she had.
“I started making the connection between slaves and jazz music. Then I sort of realised that the roots of all music are in Africa,” she says over Zoom. African genres also appealed to SNO because she likes to dance. “I’m into music with a groove, so that’s why I’m attracted to, say, Congolese music — soukous or Congolese rumba — and highlife from Ghana.”
But music, while a passion, was never on the agenda as a career for SNO. She ended up working for a sports event management and consultancy company, which took her to Frankfurt in 2006 and to Manchester in 2007, where she’s still based today. It was while living in the Rainy City that SNO got a call from her cousin, who told her that her uncle had sold all his records, no longer having enough storage space after moving house. SNO was devastated — she’d always assumed she’d inherit the collection — and immediately began buying all the vinyl she could remember him having. “I went to [Manchester’s] Piccadilly Records and got all this jazz,” she recalls. “Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis, then I got some hip-hop records as well: Madlib, J Dilla, A Tribe Called Quest, Knxwledge.”
Despite the fact her collection was growing and she had DJ friends in Manchester, SNO still wasn’t thinking about playing out. It was only because a friend had double-booked himself that she ended up doing a four-hour set at the city’s Soup Kitchen club in 2015. “My friend said to the DJ playing before me, ‘Just show her how to cue up a record’. So he showed me and stayed with me for about three songs, and then after that he said, ‘You know what you’re doing, just carry on’.”
Another local selector was in the audience and asked SNO to record a set for his podcast. A regular show at Reform Radio followed, and then a residency at the city’s Deaf Institute venue, while Afro-centric record label and party Banana Hill asked SNO to join them in 2016.