Get Familiar: Ngoni Egan
Interview by Passion Dzenga | Photography by Andrea Ampsonsah
Patta got love for our family over at United Identities and they are excited to announce their latest addition Dublin raised and Rotterdam based DJ/producer Ngoni Egan who is set to release his debut EP 'Re Teng’. The name might sound familiar as he has delivered waves and waves of forward-thinking DJ sets in recent months so we knew it was time to get familiar with this emerging young talent.
Can you let us know who you are and what it is that you do?
I’m Ngoni Egan, I’m a producer/Dj based in Rotterdam. I was born in Botswana and raised in Ireland since I was 6. At the moment I work as a tech specialist. I spend as much of my time surrounding myself with music, collecting records, producing and whenever I can going to gigs with friends.
How did music first enter your life?
Music first entered my life from a young age through my mother, step-dad and an older sister who all listened a really wide range of music from R&B, Soul, Jazz, Irish folk, Hip-hop, Rap to Bollywood musicals. I remember at one point me and my older sister doing a dance shows for my parents in our dining room where we just blasted music and took turns dancing. My stepdad used to sing when he was younger and he loves Randy Newman, I remember hearing a lot of that and Luke Kelly. My mam played a lot of Sade which ended up in me buying her “Diamond Life” record a few years back which is one of my favourites. My sister used to sing and play the guitar. I guess I was always surrounded by people who had an appreciation for music which laid a foundation for it being a staple in my life.
What music did you grow up listening to and collecting?
I grew up listening to a lot of Hip-hop, R&B, Grime and some Reggae. Me and my sister used to be obsessed with listening to whatever new music was out, particularly from the US. Early 2000s stuff when Missy Elliot, Ludacris, G-Unit, Petey-Pablo, Outkast, Gorillaz and them were putting out tracks regularly. I also discovered Channel U which led me into my Grime phase in my teen years. I then discovered Santigold’s ‘Santogold’ Album which was one of the first electronic musicians who influenced me a lot. In my later teen years, I started going to clubs in Dublin which is where I fell in love with house, techno and electro(although I mistook a lot of electro for techno then). Also, there’s some Southern African music which I heard when whenever I went back to visit family in Botswana. Culture Spears, Kwaito and South African House like DJ Kent. I was listening to anything that made me dance.
Congratulations on the release on the United Identities label - how did it come about?
I got to know Carista and Suze Ijó of United Identities last year, I did a United Identities podcast last year after Suze mentioned it when I minded her cat Baguette for a weekend. I actually reached out to Suze a good while after she mentioned the podcast. We all stayed in touch and Carista gave me the opportunity to have my own release after some talk of being on a different UI release. I then got to work making the tracks. I’m extremely appreciative of the opportunity to release on the label. I have been really inspired by Carista, she has a great ability to uplift those around her.
Your roots take you back to Botswana, how have you echoed the sentiments of your culture on this record?
Yes, my roots take me back to Botswana. I come from Kalanga, Shona and Lozi people. My mother is Tswana and Zimbabwean, she always educated me on our roots which I became more interested in as I got older. I feel that there is a lot of African and diasporic culture which is misrepresented or entirely overlooked by Eurocentric education systems. Towards the end of last year when I was back home in Dublin for Christmas my mam talked about significant historic events in Southern African history which shocked me because these are things which we’ll never be taught in Europe. All of the track names have major points within my family's ancestry. The EP name ‘Re Teng’ means ‘We are here', it’s what is said in response when Tswana people ask how you are. For me it’s powerful as I always heard my family say this when greeting each other, this has been passed down like in any other language through generations. I always felt quite Irish but kind of never got an opportunity to express my Tswana roots as I felt no one understands them. Music is the best outlet to express who I am, my emotions and my culture.
The new record is a refreshing take on electro and techno tropes that we have seen in the past from you, is this the musical space that you started performing in back when you started?
Yes, I started producing and playing techno for a long time and then fell completely in love with electro some years later. My production kind of melts and blends between the two.
What is your typical creative process like when you are working on music?
I usually jam first and go through different sounds and create different patches until something feels like it’s ready to be recorded. I can be stuck on some tracks for a long time and they’ll turn into something completely different to what I started with. But basically, I use drum machines, Desktop Synths, Modular synths, and Outboard effects and run them into my mixing desk and then into Ableton. I’m always learning new things in music. I feel it’s always a journey rather than something with an endpoint. It would be a serious disservice to feel like I’ve reached a point where I don’t have anything new to learn. For me, there’s always so much to explore!
We first discovered you through your DJ set and then as a producer, how would you define the two activities and how do they meld together in your career?
I would define the two activities as a symbiosis which means they are both important for one another, especially production. For me, it’s quite enjoyable to produce as it’s more of an art form and a very deep creative process which is often very challenging at times but can feel very rewarding. Djing is also a creative process which can change and develop over time. I love both and although they are different they mesh into one another. It’s two different outlets and ways to enjoy music for me.
What do you like to get up to when you’re not working on music?
I love going to gigs and seeing people perform at clubs or at festivals.
I also love plants and taking care of them. I picked up boxing training again after many years of being out but with music and my day job it’s becoming more difficult to find time to get back into it but hoping to return soon.
You usually divide your time between Rotterdam and Dublin, what similarities and differences do you see between the two major cities?
The differences are starker than the similarities. Dublin is a very old city, with lots of tight cobblestoned streets, and historic buildings and has a lot of Celtic history. I notice that Dublin has a lot more visible social issues which are very in your face like drug addiction, homelessness and the rental crisis. At the same time, the city has another extremely wealthy side which I feel is problematic as a lot of people slip through the cracks and the divide between wealthy and struggling is prominent. Of course, every city has its social issues but I’ve noticed the phenomenon of rising rents across the world making it difficult for people to make a life for themselves. Overall the culture and people of Dublin are what makes the city fun. There’s a tonne of bars, beaches, lovely parks and really beautiful places like the Dublin Mountains which makes the place special.
Rotterdam on the other hand is a totally different beast. The amazing architecture, diversity, events and culture here is so unique. It’s a very built-up city which appears quite big but feels very local at the same time. The Dutch-Caribbean, Surinamese, Turkish, Moroccan and Cape Verdean cultures to name a few are very etched into this city's being. Even compared to other Dutch cities Rotterdam is truly special. I think both Dublin and Rotterdam share some similarities as they are around the same size. Both are lively and have a lot of interesting people and things to do. One thing I will say though is being exposed to Surinamese food has changed my whole diet, I’m in De Kade which is a food place on my street too often. The food is incredible!
Living in Central Rotterdam-West is like no other place I’ve ever been. Both cities have taught me a lot in life and brought me a lot of experiences.
Where can we expect to see you in the coming months?
In the coming months, there are a lot of events which I am very excited about. There is a United Identities 5-year anniversary event happening in Rotterdams Weelde where I’ll be playing a live set with some other dope artists. I’m also very excited to play at Glitch Festival in Malta and Dekmantel Selectors on the United Identities Boat party. I’ll also be playing at an event in Dortmund this summer. These are all opportunities which I appreciate so much, it’s amazing to get to places I’ve never been doing what I love.