A musical hero by Raj Desai

Written by on December 4, 2020


As part of Northbound Radio’s birth, I was asked to write a hero piece. I didn’t have to think long and hard, it had to be Gilles Peterson. Gilles has been around for such a long time and achieved so many things that a cursory web search will reveal much about him and his influences and history. I’m not here to recycle them. Instead I want to explain to you why I rate Gilles so highly.


My musical education started as a child, listening to records from my dad’s small vinyl collection. I can remember the electricity in the air and the mood shifting when he put on a record that he loved. I used to sit in front of the speaker from a young age.


As a parent myself, I have many responsibilities and one of the most important to me is providing them with an education. Their musical education. I’ve been playing music to my kids since they were babes in arms, they’ve heard some of my favourite drum and bass, hip hop, house, more organic stuff and even Slayer, once.


My son experienced Channel One when he was 3 years old and my daughter has yet to attend Notting Hill Carnival. Fingers crossed for next year. Gilles did the same for me as I want to do for my kids. He’s introduced me to so much music over the years particularly jazz, funk, soul and Brazilian. Old and new. And in particular on his Kiss FM show from the 90s. I fondly remember a shout out after writing in with my top 3 tracks of 1996.


My dance floor education started in Glasgow so mainly house and techno, with the early Moving Shadow releases affecting me in weird and wonderful ways. Once I moved back down to London Gilles’s Far East Saturday night at the Blue Note in Hoxton Square stood out, particularly as Sunday nights was Metalheadz. There was a huge amount of musical cross pollination during that time in my life with the emergent drum and bass scene and the Blue Note was the hub. It was at that time that I fell head over heels in love with drum and bass and in particular the music of Dillinja and Photek. And of course Roni Size and Reprazent.

Back to Gilles, there was a memorable night out for my friend Katy’s birthday where Gilles played the 4 Hero remix of the Nuyorican Soul cover of ‘I Am the Black Gold of the Sun’. I informed him it was my mate’s birthday and her favourite record and he very kindly signed the record and handed it over as a present.


I’m immersing myself in all things Gilles as I write this, including a recent interview between him and Sir Elton John. There’s been a couple of instances where Sir Elton has been thinking of a song and struggling and Gilles has finished Sir Elton’s sentences for him. It’s been an interesting listen as these two mega successful guys from different circumstances and generations have been riffing about a shared love of music.


And that’s why we launched Northbound Radio. We want you, our listeners, our users, our guests to unite around our love of music.


Gilles Peterson has been that unifying musical force in my life. You can hear his influence on me here:

Current track