Introducing: The Tropical Disco Hustle

As summer comes to an end, it falls to club promoters to keep the party atmosphere going; to keep the sun shining in our minds. It’s not always easy to do this amidst the cold concrete and red brick of Leeds’ streets, where the wind whistles and the rain pours. Nevertheless, the music lovers of the city always combat this onslaught. The Balearic scene does not reflect its surroundings, but it does project the positive attitude of its record collectors, who try to channel the essence of trips abroad. A new night at HiFi starting on 17th September is adding to this group of sunshine people. It’s called Tropical Disco Hustle. We spoke to organiser George Hartshorn to find out more.

Who is behind Tropical Disco Hustle?

I suppose I would say ‘the team behind Brotherhood’, but there’s only one of us running it now, so it’s just me, George.

What sort of events have you put on in the past?

A little bit of everything really. It all started out during the tail end of the Dubstep movement, I was promoting bass music nights with two of my best friends Silas and Will for a while. We quickly went from Wire club to selling out Beaverworks, but since Silas and Will left Leeds my music taste changed and i’ve been focussing on more unique parties, finding unused spaces and throwing club nights in them for the first time.

What brought about this shift to a new venue and a new style of event? Can you tell us a bit about the format of the night?

This night is inspired and named after a compilation album called ‘Tropical Disco Hustle’ which was released on Cultures Of Soul back in 2014. The idea is to explore the incredible music created as disco took over the world circa 1980, cross pollinating with the infectious tropical sounds of Soca, Reggae, Latin, Boogie, Afrobeat and Highlife. We’re lucky enough to have one of Leeds best selectors, Mike Greenwell of Cosmic Slop, who will be our guide into the history of tropical disco.

Oh, and as for the venue, Hifi has just had a major facelift, which, along with its heritage will make it one of the best small clubs in Leeds.

I’ve never heard of that Cultures of Soul compilation – could you tell us what it means to you?

This album is really important to me as it was a huge turning point in my life. I spent a good year getting tired of promoting bass music because I didn’t see going anywhere I found exciting. All the while I was listening to the sounds of West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America but never thought it could be played in a club. It wasn’t until I listened to Tropical Disco Hustle that I realised that this was dance music, and when it was played to a bunch of people on a dance floor, they went wild! All of a sudden I was interested in going out and listening to music again. All these years there was this entire scene of dedicated people finding and reissuing compilations and singles but I just wasn’t aware of it – It was my portal into the world of crate digging!

How do you manage to bring together such an eclectic taste in music, considering the other events you run? What is the theme that joins the dots between your music tastes?

I don’t think you ever find anyone who will only listen to one type of music. Good music is good music regardless of genre so for me, as long as I like it, i’ll promote it! As for the connection, I think it’s anything with a bit of rhythm really. It could be a two step garage beat, a 4×4 kick drum or a live percussion section. If something has got a beat then people will come and dance to it!

Your vow to play sounds from around the globe is fitting with the culture of digging that exists among Leeds DJs. Although there are few places to go and dig physically, Leeds’ DJs are some of the finest record collectors around, constantly pushing underground sounds. Why do you think this movement is so strong here? And why is it important to tap into the more obscure music of other cultures?

I want to say we have some sort of secret we’re keeping from the rest of the world, but I genuinely think it’s because Leeds is an affordable city to live in. I really feel for Londoners spending upwards of 40% of their income on rent and bills, not to mention the cost of going out clubbing. In Leeds we don’t have a huge number of record shops, but we live in a place where we can be social, listen to music in clubs week in week out and spend our money and time on our indulgences. We’re not worrying about paying the next bill, we’re worrying about missing a re-issue or wether we should go and see Marcel Vogel or Mr Scruff tonight (Update: I went to see Marcel Vogel).

When it comes into tapping into the obscurities and oddities, I think it’s important because that’s where innovation was. Something only sounds obscure because there’s not a lot of it around, which makes it all the more special in my opinion.

You specifically want to focus on music from the 70s and 80s. What do you find interesting about the music from this time? What was happening to the sounds and the culture that was significant?

For myself, it’s the emergence of the synth that makes this era so interesting, not just in the Caribbean though, across the whole world. You have all these incredible musicians experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what they can do with electronic keyboards. I have no idea what was going on at the time, but most of the amazing music from the era seems to have been made slightly off centre from the main stream. I really hope some of these artists are able to see just how far their music has spread, and that on a late summers night in a basement in Leeds, there will be 400 people dancing to their music.

Do you have plans to do further nights with different themes? How do you plan on taking the tropical disco into winter? Maybe you can be our warmth in the cold months.

We’ve got another date in January for Tropical Disco Hustle, and if all goes well then we might have a little treat for everyone in the summer months. As for other events, I think Leeds is seriously lacking in an afrobeat night so I’m in talks with a few people to get that off the ground before the end of the year.

Could you give us five tracks that will paint a impression of what the night will be like?



Mavis John – Use My Body (Trinidad & Tobago)

Shadow – Let’s Make It Up (Barbados)

Merchant – Instant Funk (Trinidad & Tobago)

Bunny Mack – Let Me Love You (Sierra Leone)

Steve Watson – Born To Boogie (Surinam)

Find the Facebook event with all the details here.


Oliver Walkden