Get Familiar: Jumbi

Get Familiar: Jumbi

Get Familiar: Jumbi

interview by Passion Dzenga | Photography by Fabrice Bourgelle & Galen Bullivant

Today, we have the pleasure of speaking with Bradley Zero Phillip and Nathaniel Williams, the visionary founders of Jumbi. Located in Peckham’s Copeland Park, Jumbi was created with the mission of establishing a safer, more inclusive space that honors the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. The name Jumbi, which comes from Dominican Creole and Antillean folklore, means 'spirit' and pays tribute to the rich cultural heritage of the Afro-Caribbean community. In Haitian Creole, Jumbi translates to ‘Zombie,’ representing a mischievous spirit and a protective ancestral apparition. This spirit is at the heart of Jumbi’s mission to rejuvenate Peckham's nightlife by offering a new, independent, Black-owned space dedicated to kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. Visitors to Jumbi can expect an atmosphere brimming with a passion for high-end audio, vinyl records, diasporic cuisine, and expert mixology. Bradley and Nathaniel aim to celebrate the vibrant traditions and contemporary expressions of Afro-Caribbean culture while fostering connections with diverse cultures beyond their own.

Can you share the story behind Jumbi's founding? What inspired you both to create this space?

Jumbi started with the idea of creating rum, deeply connected to the history of our ancestors who were enslaved on sugar and rum plantations—Bradley's lineage from Dominica and Nathanael’s from St Kitts. Our goal was to reclaim the means of production and retailing of rum. This vision led to the creation of a rum-focused bar, which eventually evolved into Jumbi as it is now. We're excited to announce that we will be soft-launching our rum before the end of summer 2024. Watch this space.

How did you come up with the name 'Jumbi,' and what significance does it hold for you personally and for the space?

The name 'Jumbi' is derived from Dominican Creole and Antillean folklore, where it means 'spirit.' The word traces it roots back to the Congolese word 'Nfumbi' and translates to 'zombie' in Haitian Creole and ‘duppy’ in Jamaica and Barbados. A Jumbi is a mischievous spirit and a protective ancestral apparition, symbolising our mission to shake up Peckham's nightlife and honour our Afro-Caribbean heritage.


What challenges did you face in establishing Jumbi, and how did you overcome them?

We applied for the lease on Jumbi twice, and on our second attempt, we were successful. Surprisingly, some doubted that a Caribbean-inspired Hi-Fi bar would succeed—who would’ve thought?! Our biggest challenge was obtaining our 2 a.m. licence due to stringent controls in Peckham. We mobilised the community to support us, resulting in an overwhelming number of emails to the council. This strong show of unity helped us secure the licence. Thank you, Peckham, for standing with us—challenge overcome by people power! 

Jumbi is described as a beacon of community and cultural celebration. How do you engage with the local community in Peckham?

We engage with the Peckham community by hosting events that resonate locally, such as the Orii Jam on Tuesdays. We also organise various fundraisers throughout the week and weekends. Our takeover of the Tate Modern Late series became one of their busiest events ever, and we’re about to participate in Glastonbury. These events and fundraisers support diverse communities, and our Black diaspora ownership ensures an authentic connection to the community.

How do you ensure that Jumbi remains an inclusive and welcoming space for everyone?

Jumbi is free to enter most of the time, and we host events involving diasporic communities, fostering a sense of inclusiveness. We are also incredibly welcoming to LGBTQAI+ communities, recognising the intersection of these communities in dance music culture. This natural inclusion is part of our ethos. We think it's important to pay homage to both.

In what ways do you honour and celebrate the Afro-Caribbean heritage within Jumbi?

We honour Afro-Caribbean heritage with the food, the drinks , the music, the name - and of course by simply existing ! One homage to these roots is our single turntable setup, blending hi-fi audiophile culture with the Caribbean sound system tradition. This configuration, reminiscent of every West Indian uncle’s living room set up, creates a house party vibe on weekends, similar to the blues parties of the 60s, 70s, and 80s in London.

Can you describe the atmosphere at Jumbi? What can guests expect when they visit?

Jumbi transitions throughout the day, starting as a café in the morning, a lunch spot in the afternoon, and transforming into a lively house party from 10 pm until 2 am. Once the tables are cleared - the system comes to life and the dancing begins - via the single turntable in the main space and the Cdj setup on the terrace. It’s not a club , but it’s definitely more than a bar at this point. House party is the closest we can get to describing the ‘out’ but not ‘OUT out’ experience.

How do you incorporate high-end audio and vinyl records into the Jumbi experience?

Our collection of vinyl records come from our co- founder Bradley's own collection and they’re available for DJs to use, although they are welcome to bring their own.
The vinyl is played on a Technics 1210 turntable, modified by Justin at Isonoe with a custom tone arm and Grado Cartridge. The turntable is powered by a Master Sounds external power supply going through an ISOL-8 power conditioner, which also connects the ISONE 420 DJ mixer. British made Quad amps power the Tannoy little red monitors and the main Hi fi system is built by Danley Soundlabs. We also have an original Roland Space Echo for the finishing touch. In short it’s a setup equally indebted to the 1 deck dubwise systems of British - Jamaican artists like Aba Shanti - I and NYC audiophile disco purists like David Mancuso.


What kind of diasporic cuisine and drinks can guests enjoy, and how do these reflect the cultural heritage you celebrate?

The drink of choice is of course the rum punch which we’ve borrowed mainly from St Kitts. We’ve put a variety of black owned Rums (the very few of them) as front and centre as possible - we think it’s important support Black owned Rums in order to help reframe who profits from this magical drink. In terms of cuisine, We have partnered with Well Fed Naz, who combines her Jamaican and Turkish heritage to create unique dishes. This fusion brings something truly special to the Caribbean and diasporic cuisine landscape in London. We highly recommend trying the Oxtail Double—you won’t be disappointed.

You mentioned working with cultures outside of your own. Can you give examples of such collaborations and their impact on Jumbi?

There are numerous examples of us working with other cultures outside of the cultures represented at Jumbi. We do this because we feel it represents a broad and inclusive approach to curation, reflecting the diverse diaspora that come to Jumbi. We’ve worked with Asian queer collectives such as Motherland and numerous other community groups. We see it as a way of extending our platform to others and supporting the community that we value and know makes a big contribution to Jumbi's existence. Our collaborations with the 948 Collective for Windrush Legacies, and events like the Jumbi x Rhythm Section Record Fair, bring together music lovers from different backgrounds, fostering a sense of unity and shared appreciation for diverse music genres. Additionally, we've worked with Black Lives Matter and Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP) to support crucial causes, which is crucial to our commitment to global solidarity and activism.


How do you select and curate the events and performances hosted at Jumbi?

We use outreach programs and collaborate with organisations we feel should be represented within Jumbi, or we offer a free and open platform for contacts to get in touch with us directly. We carefully ensure that a variety of groups are represented within the space. Ideally, if we have three or four events a week, three of them will represent different diasporas and people within London and beyond. This approach allows us to maintain a rich and varied programme that reflects our commitment to diversity and community engagement.

What are your long-term goals for Jumbi? Where do you see the space in the next five to ten years?

Having opened another branch in Tottenham called Moko last year, we’ve been involved in many off-site festivals this year and are gearing up for a Glastonbury takeover. By next year, we aim to be significant players in the Black-owned rum market, potentially opening another space and maybe even hosting our own festival.

Are there any upcoming events or initiatives at Jumbi that you are particularly excited about?

We’re thrilled about our 2nd birthday celebration, the Tree of Saba, record fair with Rhythm Section and of course the launch of Jumbi Rum. Stay tuned for more details!

How has your background influenced your vision and mission for Jumbi?

Our backgrounds—Bradley being half from Leeds and Dominica, and Nathanael from Birmingham and St Kitts—have deeply influenced Jumbi. We hope our mixed heritage is reflected in our modern take on diasporic culture, showcasing the diversity of London and the world’s future.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of running Jumbi so far?

Creating Family.

How do you see Jumbi contributing to the broader conversation about inclusivity and representation in nightlife and cultural spaces?

We don’t necessarily see Jumbi as contributing to a broader conversation; we acknowledge that by just existing, Jumbi is ultimately pioneering and a force for good. It is a uniquely positioned Black-run and Black-programmed space. This affords us the room to be inventive in our programming and make space for diverse voices. We don’t want to be the biggest or the best space in London; we want to be a space that caters to as many varied voices and people as possible. Somewhere you can go with your grandma for a meal or come in for a date.

What advice would you give to others looking to create inclusive, culturally-rich spaces in their communities?

Do what feels true to you and try to never compromise on what feels authentic. Borrow but never imitate.

Looking back on your journey with Jumbi, what lessons have you learned that you think are crucial for others in the industry?

Get excited, take risks, and do as much research as possible. Above all, treat others with dignity and respect—both good and bad testimonials travel fast, and everyone deserves a happy, stress-free time in our short time on this earth.

How do you handle feedback from the community, and how has it shaped Jumbi?

Feedback at Jumbi is constant. Whether we're in the venue listening to conversations and interacting with guests daily, or answering emails and online feedback, we are always open to conversation. If you think of Jumbi in a more conceptual way, it is a conversation—a continuing and evolving space shaped by the voices and input of everyone who makes Jumbi. This could be a big activation at Glastonbury festival or a smaller, more detailed conversation with our chefs. Everything and everyone contributes to what Jumbi is, making it a collective space. That’s what we value and cherish most about our space.