Sadar Bahar x Oval Space

A post-England vs Sweden dance at Oval Space was just the ticket on Saturday 7 July for an evening and morning with Sadar Bahar, Antal, Bradley Zero and Zakia. We sent two of our dance music reviewers down to check it out…happily, the night coincided with London Pride, and turned out to be one of the most joyful crowds they’d seen at a summer party in ages. Oval Space x Sadar Bahar Presents was a dance of seismic proportions. Sadar Bahar is one of Chicago’s most revered funk and soul selectors so when London Student saw he was curating a line-up of soulful music’s most vital artists we had to be there.

So who’s Sadar Bahar? When asked by Oval Space, Antal shared that Sadar Bahar is, ‘simply the DJ with one of the best disco/soul collections out there.’ We’ve been a fan ever since discovering his Soul in the Hole compilation on BBE Records. Sadar Bahar is a DJ well-known for bringing a soulful party with finds full of real musicianship, but here he’d brought quite the gang along with him.

Tice: I chose to head down early to catch ZAKIA warming up the floor, as I love her NTS ‘Questing’ show and think she’s one of the most eclectic diggers London has to offer. At 10.30pm the floor was pretty empty but began to fill as Zakia played a range of cosmic grooves and disco. My favourite of which was Ghanaian Highlife classic ‘Homowo’ by the Basa Basa band. Other highlights included Sierra Leonean funk from Muyei Power and afro-cuban electronics in the form of Oyelo’s ‘Sunlightsquare’. A quick nod to the lush concrete dancefloor at Oval Space here: we couldn’t work out how they managed to keep it looking so fresh (maybe the gum being confiscated at the door and the girl we overheard despairing “they’ve taken literally all my smints”).

Zakia warming up. Credit: Alexander Solo

Alex: Taking over from Zakia Sewell with a peak time slot was Rhythm Section boss, Bradley Zero. Bradley arrived early enough to dance along to most of the opening set and carried that energy through to his own session. It soon became apparent that he had packed deadly heat for the occasion. The selection balanced crowd pleasers (Ear Dis’ ‘Hey Girl’, a cheeky bit of Drake’s ‘One Dance’ and a Chaka Khan finale) with cuts for the heads, including Neapolitan outfit Nu Guinea’s recently released Parev’ Ajere and an unidentified, heavy and tracky groove. This took an almost ‘Billie Jean’-esque bassline against a deep house feel, with some dancehall percussion and was our missed ID of the night. One of the highlights of the evening was climbing up onto the platforms around the dancefloor to watch the crowd completely losing it to Wolf Müller’s edit of Barbatuques’ ‘Baianá’, lasers flying all over. Oval Space felt like a massive moment for Mr. Zero and he became a serious act to follow for the Dutch and American big names stepping up to the booth.

Bradley Zero goes in. Credit: Alexander Solo

Tice: The night’s curator Sadar Bahar then gave a set full of beautifully blended records and seriously rare beats. We wonder if the ear splitting distortion and sibilance during Sadar’s slot was due to a difference between the sound behind the decks and in the crowd, or else de-sensitivity to heavy systems following a lengthy career playing music around the world. Although we needed earplugs for most of the set, Sadar still brought the charm to counteract the tech issues and reminded us why he’s rated as one of the funkiest selectors out there – experience shows!

Alex: The sound issues made for an occasionally taxing hour and a half, but luckily the venue made corrections and the best was just round the corner. Closing the night/bringing in the morning was Rush Hour’s Antal. He had definitely received the Pride memo, arriving with a selection of heavy Italo and blissed-out deep disco. Carefully watching the crowd for an hour before his set, the direction chosen cleared the remaining section of beered up house-bros and switched the vibe entirely. Looping the insistent synth line of Hysteric’s ‘My Man’ sounded particularly slinky in the futuristic venue. Antal Heitlager’s mastery of the mix is of a standard to make budding DJs sell their decks and hang up their headphones. Here the DJ’s experience showed with a pitch-perfect selection: the emotive yearning of Vera’s ‘To The Bridge’, disco funk from Osibisa, Letta Mbulu, and another stunning cut from Nu Guinea’s Nuvoa Napoli LP, a record which seems well on its way to album of the summer status.

Antal’s crowd with light effect. Credit: Alexander Solo

Approaching 6am, with warm July sun rising over the spacestation-like Oval Space and a hundred or so dancers remaining, Antal reached for Altay Veloso’s Brazilian boogie, and the beautiful ‘Débora’. Looking behind the DJ booth, you could spot Sadar Bahar, sat towel over shoulder, arms in the air and cheering on every flick of the faders.

Antal’s closing set, with Sadar Bahar digging it. Credit: Alexander Solo

The club has just hosted revered trans musician, essayist and activist DJ Sprinkles, with Detroit house hero DJ Bone appearing at sister venue Pickle Factory on 28 July. Needless to say we’re very impressed with the in-house programming by Hamish Cole and Toby Nicholas. Oval Space could be London’s most exciting night out in 2018 … it’ll take some beating for us.

Alexander Solo & Tice Cin

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