Rayees Rashid is one of the hardest-working figures we’ve ever come across in house music. A grafter in the very best sense of the word, he’s been hammering away at the coalface of club culture ever since he started collecting vinyl back in the mid 1990s. A lifelong fan of what we’re going to call the eclectic selection (he cites Gilles Peterson as one of his key inspirations here), he’s been listening to a disparate collection of artists since he was a nipper: everything from The Doors, Sade and the Wu Tang Clan made it onto the tapes of his Walkman at school.
Over the past decade and a half, he’s held residencies and performed at some of the finest clubs and venues in the UK, including Ministry of Sound, The Gallery at Turnmills and FAC51 The Hacienda, to name but three. It didn’t take long for the magazines of that era to take notice, and Muzik Magazine awarded him the prestigious Bedroom Bedlam accolade in 2002, an award which has also been given to other well-known DJs such as Yousef and James Zabiela. In 2004, he did it again, winning IDJ’s Raw Talent award. “If this isn’t the best mix tape of the year, we’ll go and work for Needle Craft Monthly,” wrote IDJ of his mix. But more importantly, those mixes also won him critical acclaim, with performances alongside international DJ’s such as Roger Sanchez, Mark Knight and more. He remembers the Mark Knight Ministry event well. “To play on a powerful sound system like that, it was very exciting and a spectacular evening.”
A direct result of that early eclectic inspiration, his musical collective Rumbah Tribe continue to make appearances at exclusive venues throughout the UK. The collective fuses a live DJ, a percussionist and a multi-instrumentalist playing saxophone, flute and EWI (electronic wind instrument) to devastating effect, and occasionally a guitarist and a keys player joins the jam with piano and fender Rhodes. This enables the collective to create new interpretations of tracks on the fly, through improvisation and performance. That’s worked wonders so far. The collective have performed at a variety of arts and fashion projects, including the opening/closing parties for Yves Saint Laurent’s Style Is Eternal. “We will absolutely be recording again this year,” he says.
So it’s no surprise that his record collection and mixes draw upon such an eclectic range of artists. With an instinctive ability to know what to mix, a DJ set could quite easily (and often does) include music from Carl Craig, Fela Kuti, Francois Kevorkian, Herbie Hancock, Henrik Schwarz, James Brown, Larry Heard, Matthew Herbert, Nitin Sawhney, Ron Trent, St Germain, Todd Terry and T-Connection to name just a dozen defining DJs and artists of his era (with a couple from the previous era, which is as it should be: Rayees is a sucker for classics from the house era of old.) “I was fortunate that my entry to music was high quality music from high quality artists all the way: I was a young kid who got lucky, being exposed to the right music.” The list of key house labels he loved also reads like a who’s who: Paper Recordings, Strictly Rhythm, Cajual, Guidance Recordings and Henry Street, “all had a big impact”. When he was a teenager, the plucky young DJ/producer would go and listen to some of the greatest US house DJs of the 90s perform close to home, including Frankie Knuckles, David Morales and Masters At Work.
Production wise, Rayees’s music has been featured on the BBC for film The Chimera Project, working with the internationally renowned audio-visual architects The Light Surgeons. International DJ magazine compared his studio work on the Time Out EP with that of legendary Wu-Tang Clan producer RZA; high praise indeed. I started getting into productions around 2001,” he says. “Messing about with live instrumentation and electronic music. It got some very favorable reviews too! That was a great boost: seeing my record reviewed in amongst music by Craig Richards and Deep Dish was amazing.” Rayees also completed a music production course in 2002, and John Digweed’s Bedrock imprint was suitably impressed. “Really like your productions,” they wrote. “Brought back memories of Miami in fact!”
As a qualified Youth Worker with ten years experience under his belt, Rayees’s ‘Respect’ DJ Workshops have inspired many young people in youth clubs and community projects. It’s now 2020 and Rayees realises that his time spent behind the decks and behind the scenes has been utterly invaluable: “Everything I’ve learned has given me the knowledge and confidence to move forward.” Clearly, he’s worked hard and completed his apprenticeship, inspired by some of the most talented producers in the industry.