Prior to their Great Escape performance, we talked to Ahnanse from Steam Down about the values of the group, and what to expect from their live performance.
Based in and around the bubbling south east London, Steam Down are an arts collective with the aim to create a space for people to dance, express themselves, and connect with one another. Ahnanse founded Steam Down last year, but it sounds as though their formation was natural, he tells us. “It was very organic for us to create music together and share what we do.”
There has been a clear resurgence in jazz extremely recently, with the UK being at the heart of the movement, but It’s important to realise that Steam Down are not just simply another jazz act. Through their passionate, virtuosic sound, they embody various styles, from West African and Caribbean musical traditions, to hip-hop, r&b and grime.
Ahnanse tells us a bit about the way that Steam Down collaborates, and how each member of the group gets to have their voice heard. Sometimes they’ll play songs that the group has written collectively, or other times they will play something one of the individuals in the group has written, he says. “That kind of fluidity is really nice because it keeps the music fresh.” They also work together in a Wu-Tang Clan kind of way, each with their own projects outside of Steam Down that they often collaborate on.
Steam Down has held a weekly night for the past year or so at Buster Mantis, a bar and events space in Deptford. They have been using this residency to build a growing community as well as share their work. Here they have had guest appearances from Kamasi Washington, Sampa The Great, as well as members of Ezra Collective and Sons of Kemet. Ahnanse explains that as well being a platform for their music, Steam Down can be a place for people to decompress, as well as find inspiration and motivation. “I feel like part of what we’re doing is a bit of health service.”
When you come and see Steam Down you will not just be watching, Ahnanse says. “We demand our audiences to focus, pay attention and engage, and in return, we give them everything that we can,” he goes on to say. “It’s about making people participants, not audience members.”
Steam Down have a European tour planned for March this year, with confirmed dates in Antwerp, Oslo and Berlin before landing in Brighton for TGE19. Catch them before that at their mid-weekly sessions at Buster Mantis.
“If you come into Steam Down, when you come out of that Steam Down experience you should feel better than when you came in.”
Words by Gabriel Hynes