A band of hectic, talented modern crooners
It’s freezing in Chicago when we’re on the phone with Sirr Tmo. The DJ, dancer and producer affiliated with the Teklife crew – DJ Spinn, Traxman and the late DJ Rashad – calls himself an ‘aspiring artistic scientist’. He talks passionately about footwork culture and has a clear vision of what the scene should look like both in its cradle, Chicago, and worldwide. He speaks like he dances, with twists and turns, fast and energetic. Time to check his temperature ahead of the performance at Bouge B in Antwerp.
Interview by Hannes Rooms
Photos by Lyndon French, shot in Chicago, USA
Footwork is a masculine, battle culture to challenge each other. It’s a mixture of all the basic footwork steps from each dance genre
What’s the state of footwork in Chicago these days?
The scene digressed. People haven’t seen monetising opportunities here. Other people have been able to make money out of footwork, but this is the hood, people don’t see beyond local events. But it’s redeveloping. Just a few months ago, a group of leading figures – the Chicago footwork coalition – came together to bring structure and professionalism to the community. Basically putting the stamp on Chicago footwork and starting to work with locals again. We’re supporting each other’s events and getting the youth more involved.
How’s footwork music evolving?
We’re gonna take it back to what it used to be. Footwork comes from, but is different than, juke culture. Footwork is battle culture, while juke is rooted in a club environment. We didn’t just play footwork, but also dancehall, R&B, hip hop, grime and old school. Because some people weren’t ready for the music at the time, we made it more acceptable. Then we switched it up. But right now we gonna take it back and make it a bit more friendly to the world. Footwork is gonna change within the next couple years to a point where different genres can fit within it.
What are you trying to achieve when producing?
I make music based on my emotions. I mostly do synth and I wanna be the sample itself in some type of way. I do fusion music. We all take different influences, but I try to mix these in a different way than anyone has already done it. I’m working on hip hop, grime, house and footwork right now. My footwork is definitely different. I was in multiple crews before Teklife and a solo artist at first. I never imitated, I always did it my way. But right now, I’m working to get into Afrobeats in the future or even EDM house. I wanna play footwork at Tomorrowland, could you imagine?
Your latest release was written during ‘some of the greatest and roughest times of my life and it syncs with my inner being’.
Somebody got shot and a bullet went through my window. And a lot of footworkers have died in shootings. That’s that. But I’m more worried about my future. I’m basically at the point where either I take my craft seriously and do it full time or put it down. So when I’ll go on tour, I may stay abroad to perform and make a living out of it or I go back to America and be an average person. I’ve gotta make moves. My father told me, ‘If they say you to stay over there, stay over there.’
I wanna play footwork at Tomorrowland, could you imagine?
What can our members expect from the ‘Come on Feet’ show at Bouge B?
It’s gonna be a contemporary street dance performance. I’m introducing two footwork dancers from Chicago and Belgian dancers Rabadance, Geoffrey Ananana and Samantha Mavinga are bringing their Afrobeats background to the table. Then there’s Granvat, who will do the live instrumentations and me, being from Chicago footwork, I will be communicating with the dancers and with the musicians. We’ll put on a show with only four days days preparation.
When I footwork, people say it often looks like I’m floating. I’m levitating and not touching the ground
How would you describe footwork dance?
It’s a mixture of all the basic footwork steps from each dance genre. It’s a masculine, battle culture to challenge each other. For example, you dance with closed instead of open hands. It’s spins, glides, tricks and then you have the combos, and if you’re really great you can improvise all of that. But it’s also about crowd pleasing, showing your big moves to attract the loudest yells. Some do it for crowd reactions and some do it for the craft. But in the end it’s all about gaining respect.
You tweeted: ‘The floor is lava dancing on soundwaves’…
[Laughs] It’s a very spiritual vision of contemporary dance. When I footwork, people say it often looks like I’m floating. I’m levitating and not touching the ground.
Thanks for the interview. Anything to add?
I’m in Belgium until the end of April. If any talented dancers read this, link up!