It's a sticky summer night in the middle of Brooklyn's Commodore Barry Park and hundreds of fans are firmly packed in the rear area of the park anxiously awaiting Sango's performance on Afropunk's Gold Stage. With the sun now set, sparked lighters and glowing cell phone screens are the only things that illuminate the immediate vicinity. The festival seems to be running behind schedule, but fans don't look bothered as this timing allows attendees to finish watching performances on the other stages before joining the growing crowd in front of Afropunk's smallest stage.
As Sango's set begins, cheers rumble from the front of the crowd to the back in what feels like a wave of sound. It’s easy to see that Sango has a unique power over his crowd as fans continue to try their luck slithering to the front for a better view. He's doing a DJ set that technically only needs to be heard, not necessarily seen. And yet, even with an LED display on the elevated stage blocking views of nearly everything but Sango's head bobbing to the beat, it's apparent that the music makes fans eager to draw closer.
Sango has a selfless demeanor that can be sensed a mile away, both on and off stage. It’s common to see artists get lost in their own world when delivering a half hour set but the opposite is true for him. Whether on stage performing, or in the studio creating new music, Sango puts his audience’s needs first. “The majority of the time I just want people to own the music,” he says, explaining that many artists aim to deliver an autobiography of sorts within their music that, at times, wide audiences cannot relate to. “With me, I don’t sing or rap so all I can offer is a beat. That’s a layer for you. If you enjoy it, you can allow that to speak to you in your own way, and fill in the blanks.”
In a matter of years, Sango has taken his productions from his college dorm room to a worldwide platform. Perhaps best known for his passion for seamlessly blending Brazilian baile funk samples with R&B and hip-hop, the Seattle native has found a new way to bring the world’s attention back to his hometown. “There are a few artists that come out of there but they don’t get that sort of megaphone effect,” Sango explains. “And what I mean by that is, no one is really looking for Seattle, so our main goal is to unite there and make one big voice.”
Earlier this summer, Sango teamed up with fellow Seattle native Dave B for their Tomorrow album. The collaborative project is a prime example of what Sango aims to do for his city. “[The] main thing I would say about how we could bring attention to Seattle is by banding together, because there are not a lot of us but we’re all talented.” Little by little, he’s working towards putting Seattle into the discussion.
Months before Tomorrow with Dave B, Sango also released a joint project with Xavier Omär (formerly SPZRKT) called Hours Spent Loving You. Their 7-track EP offered the best of both worlds, and displayed their obvious chemistry. “I love working with Xavier," Sango says. "I can send him anything. I can send him something blind. I’ll just send something out of my folder, I don’t even know what it sounds like and he’ll end up doing something with it.” Something magical that is.
Their chemistry as a duo is set to continue as Sango confirms that they’ve already worked on music for his own upcoming solo album. For the past two years—in the middle of releasing other projects and collaborations—he’s been working on completing an album. Finding enough time to create may be an issue, but it doesn’t stop him. “I just make lots of music,” Sango says modestly. “I don’t feel like there’s a shortage of work because I’m always working.”
When asked who might be on the album, Sango admits he’d like to have features from Jesse Boykins III, Mick Jenkins, Bryson Tiller, and Noname. The album will feature a mix of vocal-lead songs and instrumentals, because "there are some songs that are just impossible to sing or rap on it." He stresses that it’s not really about who he works with, but instead what they create. Though still in the early stages, Sango doesn’t seem worried about getting these artists in the studio because of the relationships he’s built with each of them. “You have to have a good relationship with them—speak with them, spend time outside of music. Even if it is for a brief moment.”
“With this new album, I've been working for about two years. I don’t mind though, I’m doing other side projects that influence that.” Sango jokes that he feels like he’s “Detox-ing like Dr. Dre” at this point. His consistency makes Detox-like possibilities seem far from likely, but the adoring Afropunk crowd proves that he has thousands of people willing to wait until he feels ready to release this new album.