SunceBeat – Happy 10th Birthday

The SunceBeat festival is celebrating its tenth anniversary this coming July. Held in the sleepy town of Tisno, Croatia. Located some 300 clicks south of the capital, Zagreb, it’s perfectly located on the Dalmatian coast where the ocean is a stunning blue colour that you only see on travel shows. Come night time this sleepy town comes alive! A quick walk from central Tisno and you are at the festival site, there amongst hundreds of other house music fans with their dancing shoes polished and ready to go. This where the fun begins! Dance the night away to some of the biggest house deejay legends. Check out this list, it’s the “who’s who” of the house music world – I’m salivating typing their names; from Kerri Chandler to Kenny Dope to David Morales to Joey Negro to Natasha Kitty Katt, and many more.

The night doesn’t finish there as the after party kicks off at the end of each night at Barbarellas discotheque, which is only a short taxi or bus ride away. Here you dance under the stars with many friendly faces until the wee hours.

If you haven’t partied too much at night and feel like some day time action then there are boat parties. Not only do you get to listen to some amazing music, you get to witness some amazing sites as well. Here you get to sail around the Kornati Islands of the Adriatic Sea in a 100 year old schooner, and if you’re lucky, some friendly dolphins will join the party.

This is number one in a series of three Q&A’s with deejays that have graced the SunceBeat decks the most number of times. The first is with legendary soul deejay Terry Jones who has been spinning soul music for almost 50 years and has a popular radio show Access All Eras on Mi-Soul radio (

It’s the tenth anniversary of SunceBeat, what have been some personal highlights over the years?

There have certainly been many highlights, but I would say that these would probably be up there with the best:

Playing after the brilliant Gregory Porter on the main stage and being told that it will probably be a relatively short set as most people disappear after the live act has finished, so let’s say 1am. On this particular occasion, it didn’t really happen. Yes, a few started to make their way to the bars as soon as Gregory finished, but 400 to 500 stayed and began to have fun with some Soul tunes. The vibe was really good and word must have gone round because the numbers began to swell and eventually I was playing to over a 1000 enthusiastic SunceBeaters! 1am came and started getting the word to ease it down to the finish, but this crowd didn’t show any intentions of ending their night. I suddenly saw promoter Alex Lowes frantically waving from the back of the crowd telling me to carry on, so I called the sound men and showed them Alex remonstrating so they let me carry on, and carry on I did, until around 2.15am. A brilliant memory.

Another highlight would be playing the following year when they had built a dedicated Soul tent, largely due to the obvious need after seeing what happened after Gregory Porter. To make our mark at this predominantly House festival, the Soul Boys had to stand out and be heard, and that’s how it turned out. The opening night with Dean Smith, Phil Asher, Ronnie Herel and myself was incredible, it was rammed to the rafters with each deejay smashing the daylights out of it. So many of our fellow deejays were there that evening, even the legend Rich Medina, who was supposed to be playing on the Beach Stage, exclaiming, no point playing over there, everyone’s over here FFS! The following night, the rain came down in torrents and Ronnie and myself entertained the punters whose enthusiasm was not dampened by the weather, you simply couldn’t get anyone else in the tent – the nickname of the SunceBeat Soul Boys was born that night for Ronnie and myself.

Although there have been many highlights, I’ll say that playing the finale on the Beach Stage with Ronnie Herel once again, and being asked to “play until the sun comes up” – was incredible, and another magical moment for the SunceBeat Soul Boys.

You played an amazing disco set at Liverpool Disco Festival recently, thank you! Disco has never really gone out of style while other dance music styles have, what is it about disco that makes it still relevant today?

Thank you for the kind words, I must say it was one of the most enjoyable sets I have ever played in my long career, the crowd were with me every step of the way and the feedback has been truly amazing and so appreciated. Mainstream Disco obviously died a death back in the early 80’s when it became saturated with dross. The classic grooves from the time have endured and evolved into House and other waves of Soulful Dance Music. Because of the insistent beat, it’s been relatively easy to re-edit and re-mix those classics as well as unearth the more underground cuts which were not so well known at the time. This has meant that the younger audiences have jumped on it to party to, by not having to go a million miles away from House music. The new wave Disco movement has meant the return of legends of the time like John Morales to the fore, and the rise of such incredible nights such as Glitterbox, as well as creating a huge following in Europe, particularly in Paris where Dimitri From Paris has become the major player. The movement seems to have revived everywhere and I believe Australia is seeing this too, so it’s worldwide. Say what you like, it is and always was, premier party music.

There’s many classics out there but what’s you top five soul/disco/house tracks of all time? The ones that can fill a floor.

This is an incredibly difficult question to put a definitive answer to, but here’s five that spring to mind for me:

  1. Love Is The Message – MFSB – in all it’s various guises
  2. The Way You Love Me – Ron Hall & The Muthafunkers ft. Marc Evans
  3. You Can’t Hide From Yourself – Teddy Pendergrass
  4. Tears – Frankie Knuckles & Satoshie Tomiie
  5. Finally – Kings of Tomorrow

This five could easily be 500………

The soul/disco/house community in the UK is one of the friendliest and inviting communities I have been a part of having been to SunceBeat, Southport Weekender, Liverpool Disco festival and 51st State festival. Why do you think this is so?

I think dance music in all its forms in the UK has always encouraged a family kind of following, a feeling of wanting to belong to something – The Mods in the 60’s, The Northern Soul fraternity, the ravers in the late 70’s early 80’s and so on, but at the events you speak about, you have to go all the way back to the beginning to the early Southport Weekenders. This bi-annual festival brought 1000’s together to celebrate the music. Lifetime friendships were forged unlike any other musical scene, and this has endured to this day.

The Saturday afternoon Soul Sessions in particular, with first myself & Richard Searling with Max Rees opening, and then Richard departing and myself & Andy Davies with Bob Jeffries opening, was a session that really brought people together every 6 months and was a never miss for many. Everybody went, House Heads, the Jazz Boys. Etc., they all came together to reminisce and listen to wonderful soul music from back in the day. The sessions were legendary and a source of pride for myself and I know they were for Andy. I ended up playing at well over 40 of these sessions, and saw many of the same faces year in year out, it was a real meeting of the minds, coming together as one for the music – SOUL!

What can punters expect from your set at this year’s SunceBeat festival?

Whatever I end up playing at SunceBeat, you can bet it will be with one eye on the crowd, as I love to see the punters enjoying themselves. Unlike the jocks, they have paid to be there, and I firmly believe it is our responsibility to entertain them, not ourselves primarily, this should come with their enjoyment. I will play across the board as I always do, but it will always be with one word at the fore SOUL – it’s in my blood, it’s part on my DNA, I don’t know how to play any other way. The biggest compliment I have ever been paid is being known as ‘The People’s DJ’ and that is enough of an accolade for me, because along with the music, the people are the most important part of the whole thing.

Interview By Darren Leach

SunceBeat 10 is happening July 24-31. Tickets available here:

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