“I guess I wanted to pinpoint song concepts that you couldn’t write about or sing,” says Kai Wright, better known as Sango, of his forthcoming sophomore album In The Comfort Of. Moments later he’s distracted by an off-the-cuff joke from fellow Soulection affiliate, Monte Booker, who has joined us after a New York night culminated in a missed morning flight. Despite spending an unplanned day in Brooklyn, Booker is in buoyant spirits, and the two easily ping pong between music talk and good-natured ribbing. When the conversation does turn back to music, both reveal an obsession with the technical and pragmatic aspect of the creative process.
For Sango, whose hypnotic meeting of baile funk, trap, classic hip-hop and R&B feels innately lighthearted and danceable, such an approach might feel at odds with the easy listening nature of the tracks he produces – it’s the kind of music that chips away at self-consciousness and slides into your soul and limbs until you can’t help but move to its rhythm.
During live sets, even Sango is in perpetual motion; shifting, dancing, bobbing and moving with the crowd. “I’m a real music head,” he says. “I love music for what it is. Some people just like to make music for what it does for them and that’s cool because that’s their life, but I’d still be making music even if I didn’t have a career.”
Luckily the Washington-born DJ and producer does have a career, one that has been steadily growing since he debuted his Unfinished & Satisfied EP in 2010. Since then, his Brazilian funk and trap-inflected Da Rochina EPs have become dance floor favorites in the U.S. and Brazil, the latter of which where he performed for the first time last year. Fresh off of his last tour stop in Brooklyn, we caught up with the producer to talk about his new album.
What inspired ‘In The Comfort Of’?
It’s inspired by the idea that comfort and being comfortable doesn’t always have to mean complacency. Comfort is almost like being confident – you know enough to be comfortable. Complacent is like being too set and not caring, it’s like settling almost. So it’s this idea that even if you have a tough situation you’re still comfortable doing it because you have to live with it; it’s about being comfortable in your own skin. The album is an unfinished sentence so it could mean in the comfort of your own skin, in the comfort of your own home, in the comfort of your relationship, in the comfort of your current situation.
What has the process been like?
I’ve had to work over the Internet a lot because I have to be at home and I’ve been traveling. I’ve basically been making this album for almost three years because I was in school and stuff.
Anything in particular that made you want to explore comfort?
So to put it on record: All of my releases have been done in headphones because I had to. Everything I’ve made has been in headphones because I spent like five years in college and I couldn’t play music loud. It had to be in headphones and I never had a studio. I still don’t have a studio because I have a son. I was going to make his room a studio but that’s over. Some people are like, ‘Yo I can’t make music unless I’m in a studio’ and I just don’t get it. Let’s just make music. If you love it, this is what you’re designed to do. Anyway, I guess just making music in that way weirdly became a kind of comfort.
Ok, so studios are not necessary to make music. What about discipline?
It can go both ways. My pet peeve is when I have to deal with people that don’t have a sense of timing. It’s ironic because my wife says I have no sense of timing. I understand the concept of time but I just like to take my time. Some people just don’t believe in time at all. For example, I’ll spend like two hours in the studio with someone and they won’t even attempt to write because maybe “the vibe isn’t right” or something.
That’s where discipline is important. Why do you need to wait for a vibe? That means maybe you’re not ready to always create. It’s like they have to load up like a computer or something. Have you ever seen someone who just loves basketball? Like the type of person who just shoots for no reason? That’s how I feel about music and I like to create with people who feel that way too.
So making a track is always a disciplined pursuit?
Yeah, but not to the extent it feels soulless because then that’s just work. You have to have some rhythm to it and passion. You know, I don’t know how to read music but I can feel it. I used to read music but I forgot – I’m honestly really rooted in percussion.
How did you learn to play the drums?
My grandfather was in a Cuban band. When I was like five or six years old he would get me together with my cousins and give us rhythm practice. He’d give us each a random item – like a pencil or a random shaker or even a pot. After that he would give us each a rhythm and tell us to only focus on our rhythm. I had like five cousins all doing different rhythms at the same time. When you’re young it’s hard to focus on just yours so you start copying the person next to you but my grandfather was really strict about that. He’d always correct us so that’s how I learned to keep track of different sounds happening at once. I’ll do a trick that throws my wife off – I can snap and walk on two different beats.
Does the album have a message?
It’s a body of music that is meant purely for the listener. When you prep a meal for someone it becomes their food to eat. So if I cook you food and you eat it, I’m not monitoring how you choose to eat it. My album is sort of like that: I’m just making music for people. A lot of it has no lyrics so it really allows you to have your own thoughts – it’s like a comfort for the listener.
What about the individual tracks?
The very first track is a claim. Anyone who knows me knows that I believe in God. The first song is almost like before you listen to this album if you don’t believe in God you can turn it off but if you do, here’s what I’m about to say…Then there’s a straight up gospel beat. I’m calling it “His Name” and it’s super choir-y. I actually use a Darryl Coley sample because he’s one of my all time favorite singers.
He died last year but he had a crazy voice and was such a powerful human. I sample him a lot. I sampled him on the SPZRKT project I did when he was still called Spazzy Rocket. On the song “JMK” that’s Coley who is sampled. Anyway, on “His Name” specifically I’m letting you know who I am as a person and then it gets into the album.
What about the last song?
I still haven’t decided on it yet so that’s not arranged. I think the last one will end up being something quiet and reflective though.
Press play below to stream Sango’s freshly released album pre-cursor, ‘De Mim, Pra Você.’ The project marks the fourth installment of his ongoing Da Rochina series.
For more of our music features, check out our conversation with rising alternative R&B duo THEY. right here.
- Photographer: Suzette Lee