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Jonathan Banes (Sheba Sound)


  • Eclectic
  • Global
  • Jazz/Funk/Soul

Jonathan Banes is founder of the conscious Ethio-label Sheba Sound.

He is by and large a jazz-head – with an open mind to anything that oozes with soul.

He cut his DJ teeth as a member of Iality Hi-Fi Sound System in the 90s, pushing Jungle & Dancehall in squats and festivals across Europe.

As his interest in dub-infested beats evolved, he organized and played at events in the late 90s in East London, alongside emerging DJs like Lakuti and Portable, showcasing the nascent minimal house scene, emerging out of Cologne and Berlin.

In 2005, his intrigue in afrobeat, reggae and East African heritage led him to explore the music in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopiques compilations had recently dropped, and Addis Abeba was a musical melting pot of energy and creativity.

Securing the audio services of the Dragon Slayer Sound System (built by Ras Paul in Sheshamane)Jonathan’s crew rampaged across Addis with their CRUCIAL parties, shaking the capital with Dub-infused African beats in disused palaces and parks. The parties became infamous in Addis – evoking a sense of freedom and goodwill through a sound-system culture that the city’s youth had never experienced before.

There was a lot accruing of old vinyl, unknown cassettes from the 80s and contemporary sounds – but not much of this stuff cut the party sound-system vibe.

The need to serve up well produced, modern local sounds, led Jonathan to build a mobile studio. His crew recorded music all across Ethiopia over many years; often overdubbing with bass in Addis. The music was mixed up in the UK with the infamous dub producer, Nick Manasseh. The product of this work is showcased through the label, Sheba Sound.

You can watch the award winning documentary, ‘Roaring Abyss,’ on Amazon, which highlights some of these recordings.

Fast forward to 2020, Sheba Sound is due to release a new EP in September, and 40 or so digital releases throughout the next few months.