Gilles Peterson is in town for the Red Bull Music Academy this weekend … here’s a reminder of why the UK-based DJ and record label owner is so essential…

It is fair to say that we have never had easier access to music than today. Just about everything ever committed to a physical format is available to stream, buy, download and consume. The choice, though, is often overwhelming – in fact, Spotify reports that most of its material is not listened to, and that in fact 80 per cent of people listen to the same 20 per cent of artists they already know and love. What that means is that whilst the traditional gatekeepers have been removed and music is available much more freely, never have we needed tastemakers to point us in the right direction more than we do now. Enter Gilles Peterson.

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Gilles has done it all in his glittering career: running clubs and live music events, hosting on Jazz FM  (which he also helped to launch) and KISS FM, presenting a weekly show for 13 years on the BBC, then more recently being one of the shining lights of 6 Music. As well as founding Acid Jazz and Talkin Loud (which worked with artists The Brand New Heavies and Jamiroquai, MJ Cole and Nuyorican Soul) his most recent concern has been Brownswood, named after a road he lived on in London. As you’d expect, it has a diverse output that often features artists that go on to become huge stars signed to major labels – see Ben Westbeech, Jose James, Ghostpoet and many others for proof.

He is a 360-degree mogul whose unquenchable thirst for unearthing the new – and for showcasing the old but forgotten – has now lasted 30 years. The tag on his website is “Searching for the perfect beat,” and that says it all, as does the fact his collection reaches somewhere between 50 and 60,000 units. His favourite? “One by a songwriter called Terry Callier. He made a record called What Colour Is Love? in the late-’60s. Terry gave me the original, so I have the acetate double-disc version of his legendary album.”

Although born in the South of France, Gilles is today a British national treasure. The easy way to describe him would be as the heir to John Peel’s throne as the king of radio. But Gilles has also owned several labels, mentored artists, hosts an annual ceremony that recognises those out of the mainstream spotlight, and run his own festival.

With such unrivalled knowledge, this multi-Mercury Music Award nominee is often called upon for his curatorial skills. Over the years, the lifelong music obsessive has put together more than 100 compilations and has led a number of trips to Cuba with esteemed musicians like dubstep pioneer Mala. There, he orchestrates sound clashes and recording sessions with local artists as well as continuing to dig for music himself. All this means that when someone like Gilles comes to town, as he will to play at the Red Bull event, you’re in for a rare and unpredictable musical treat.


What: Red Bull Music Academy presents Gilles Peterson

Where: Industrial Avenue, Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort, Jumeirah Beach Road

When: Friday, February 5, 9pm to 3am

Why: Industry legend Gilles Peterson will be DJing alongside MC Earl Zinger

How: Taxi to Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi

Cost: Dhs100


Heads up: Also taking to the decks at Industrial Avenue will be Weird Together and James Locksmith

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