Nongi Oliphant has been a firm fixture on the Manchester scene for the past year, keeping dancefloors around the city moving and grooving. She features on Reform Radio monthly, playing a mix of South African, R&B, soul and disco music. Her background as a collector means that you’ll find few DJs more knowledgeable about their records than Nongi. Her rise in popularity around Manchester has been swift, in no part due to her approachable nature and penchant for picking the perfect tune for each moment. With her soulful sounds gracing bars, radio stations, clubs and even food fairs around the city, SNO has quickly become one of the most recognisable DJs on the circuit, her enthusiasm for her music as infectious as her personality.
First, our usual ice-breaker. What’s your first musical memory?
I grew up in the township of Bophelong in the Vaal, South Africa, my uncle was the finest collector of Jazz, Soul, Funk, Afrobeat and Disco. He suffocated me with tune after tune for years from artist like Bra Hugh Masekela, Miles Davis, Barry White, Melba Moore, Atlantic Starr, Louis Armstrong, Quincy Jones, Marvin Gaye, Whitney Houston just to name a few which I used to play on his turntable in my grandmother’s living room. I can’t remember how old I was, meaning the exact year to be honest but it was around my teenage years.
You’ve only been DJing for a couple of years. What inspired you to start?
When my uncle sold his collection, I felt loss that I still haven’t felt to date. I therefore decided to buy a turntable and some of those records that I could remember that he used to have. To be honest, being a DJ happened by chance. I wasn’t in anyway close to be known or let alone become a DJ.
Jamie Groovement asked me to do a mix for him after I playing a 4hrs set upstairs at Soup covering for Levi Love. It was my very first time [playing out] and I enjoyed expressing myself through my love of music, straddling genres and showing how unlimited and highly extensive my love for music is. He then posted my mix on his Groovement page and that’s how I was ‘discovered’ or started playing. Although I am a collector first, the response from my mix was quite astonishing and I thought let me give it a chance and see how far and where it goes.
Why the name SNO?
SNO are my initials. Selina Nongaliphe Oliphant. Easy, simple and me.
You work at FIFA so it’s obviously a high profile job – very different to DJing. What do people at work think about your DJing career? It also involves extensive travelling. Do you visit record shops when visiting other countries? How has this affected your record collection?
I don’t [actually] work for FIFA – I work for a Sports Event Management and Consultancy Company called Byrom PLC. We specialize in the provision of Ticketing, Accommodation, Hospitality, Transportation and IT Solutions for major international sporting events. One of the sporting events we have is football, in that case FIFA. We have also had permission to use their name as well, for e.g. FIFA Accommodation Office. Haaa! My colleagues are very supportive. They have been to some of my gigs and enjoy what I play. They think I will leave my job and do DJing full time. Yes, I do visit record shops when visiting other countries, on rest days, not when I’m working of course. You discover some really cool stuff and obviously some of the music you haven’t heard before. I just came back from South Korea and I have some local Korean music which is quite interesting.
You were born in Bophelong. What was your musical environment like when you were growing up?
As mentioned before my uncle was a collector of fine records and I was quite spoiled when it came to good music. I was lucky to have been exposed to the likes of Letta Mbulu, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Caiphus Semenya etc at an early age and my grandmother’s house is opposite a shebeen and the music was played very loud, and in actual fact they still do play music very loud even to this day. That’s where I discovered R&B music from Ha Ace (shebeen).
How did you get involved with Reform?
Jamie Groovement, again, is the one that told me about Reform Radio. I got in touch with Horace James Pomfret who is also a DJ at Reform Radio. I started with a Takeover Show and Sam Oliviera, the Director, immediately offered me a monthly slot after I did The Takeover.
The way I first heard of you was through Cervo, who had a show on Reform Radio. How did you guys first meet? You’ve played at a few Banana Hill nights in Manchester too – how did this come about?
Chris sent me a message on facebook and asked me if I could warm up for Gilles Peterson when they had him at Hidden, in February last year. He told me he listened to one of my Reform Radio shows and he liked and enjoyed it show very much. I remember asking him if he was f***** for real? Is he certain that he wants me to warm up for Gilles Peterson. I remember screaming in my apartment with excitement. I have never been so overwhelmed and gobsmacked like I was that evening. I think the neighbours even heard me. Haaa!
Now for some Manchester-focussed questions…
Where’s your favourite place to buy records in Manchester?
I really cannot pick one place. I like them all. I go to all of them as I am able to pick or find a record in all of them.
What are some of your favourite parties to go to?
Banana Hill – Hidden Club, Keep It Unreal (BOTW), Wet Play, Soup Kitchen and I also like The Whiskey Jar downstairs/basement. It’s a great intimate space and the sound is proper.
What new / young talent should we be keeping an eye on at the moment?
Besides being biased and saying Banana Hill haaa, I also like the Me Gusta guys. I think they have a good thing going on. They do parties every 1st Thursday and 3rd Thursday of every month at Hold Fast. They offer what I mostly like which is African, World and Latin Music. Heads Up really knows how to rock a dancefloor. Tom Boogizm with his NTS mega show, every 1st Sunday of every month from 3pm-5pm and his collabo with Jon K.
Keep your eyes peeled for my homie and bff (haaa!), Levi Love’s EP called ‘Applebush’, coming out on the 25-29 September, 2017 and the LP Jan 11-14 th Jan, 2018. Also look out for Ghetto Child (Darryl Marsden) & Peek A Groove ( Andy Newens & Andy Maxwell).
What do you think of the Manchester music scene at the moment – I’ve noticed you’re playing at a few places such as food fairs, which are different to a typical clubbing environment where DJs are typically booked. Do you think that music is becoming more accessible/readily available to people – now events such as food fairs are able to incorporate DJs? Would this have happened a few years ago?
Yes music is becoming more accessible which is very vital. I believe that’s how it should be and it shows that the music is growing. Music is meant to be out there to be bought, to played and to be heard hence it wouldn’t be made.
You play at a lot of various parties and have a residency at Deaf Institute bar but would you ever start your own?
No I wouldn’t start my own night because I think you have to put in a lot of work in making sure that it is a success and someone who travels a lot like I do with work, I don’t think it’s a good idea because you have to be able to build up a following and a solid base and you cannot do that when you are hardly in the country.
Could you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us [where and how you recorded it, the idea behind the mix and any standout tracks you’d like to mention]?
I did the mix in my apartment using my SL1210s. I wanted to keep it strictly African, South African with an exception of one track. Track no.1 which is from a band called Sankomota and they are from Lesotho. But Lesotho and South Africa are the same thing. My friends from Lesotho know this and they live in South Africa most of them anyway. Shout out to all my friends from Lesotho, you know who are. Too many to mention. Anyway, back to the matter at hand, the tracks are from the musicians I listened to when I was growing up and no genre specific. I don’t do genre. I love music, good music.
What’s coming up on the horizon we should look out for?
I still have my first Thursday of every month at The Deaf Institute. Reform Radio every week 3 of every month from 7-9pm. I will be djing at Beatherder on the 16th July, in The Snug. I will be playing some records with the Peek A Groove guys at GRUB (food fair) on the 29 th July and again with them on the 5th August at the Whiskey Jar, basement. I am djing with Banana Hill & Aroof Roy at Hidden Club on the 12th August. It’s a rooftop party, whoop! I like daytime parties. My biggest is djing at Dimensions Festival in Pula, Croatia from 30th August– 3rd September. I am so honoured to be part of the line-up. Super delighted. Massive thank you to all.
Sankomota – Now Or Never
Letta Mbulu – Down By The River
Hugh Masekela – Stimela
Sakhile – Mantombi
Batsumi – Emampondweni
Caiphus Semenya – Angelina
Mahlathini & Mahotela Queens – Melodi Ya LLa
Banna Bakori – Barena
Mzikayifani Buthelezi – Uhambile
Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse – Rise
Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness (BCUC) – In My Blues
Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Amazing Grace