Nestled in an arcade off Peckham’s bustling Rye Lane is Balamii, an independent broadcast platform started by South London native James Browning. Kids run down the narrow walkway, dads play dominos and customers at YAM Records flick through obscure 7”s. It’s a precious gem of a place that has escaped the clutches of gentrification - housing independent businesses devoid of exposed brickwork, bulb filaments and bottles of beer that cost more than the minimum wage.
Inspired by the capitals broadcasting stalwarts NTS and Rinse, Balamii isn’t a radio station functioning in the traditional linear sense. The shows are broadcasted ‘on demand’ via a dedicated iPhone app and, extending its availability beyond the tech pale, the recently launched web platform. Every set is individually tracklisted with links to purchase tracks when available (and not some rare groove 13” only available in the outer limits of Space).
The Balamii content base is varied and organic with 80-90% of the shows coming straight from local heads and reflect the communal nature of Peckham’s music scene. As DJs pass through the studio to record the word is naturally spread onto friends, with further DJs being introduced into the fold. Although the station output mainly skirts along the edges of electronic music with past guests such as bass-bin rattlers Chaos In The CBD, grimes figurehead producer Spooky, disco don dada Ruf Dug and nearby Lewisham’s MC Novelist; Balamii doesn’t conform to any sort of rigid music policy, even resulting in the occasional wildcard such as Dimension Dizzle’s black metal show. Inspired by the unknown, founder James explains his open door policy perfectly, “when people come with a passion and humor for something we're not sure about it makes it much easier to say yes.”
Balamii is the ‘DIY ethic’ personified. It’s honest, upfront and most importantly – open to all. Check out our conversation with James below and download Balamii via iTunes. To stay updated with Balamii's latest mixes, head to its SoundCloud.
What inspired you to start Balamii? Were you trying to fill any sort of void in the radio world?
Not necessarily trying to fill a void, it's always been an ambition to start a radio station. However, with Rinse and NTS already doing great things I thought there's no point in starting another radio station in the traditional linear sense. Therefore, we broadcast all our content on demand with every program tracklisted and links to purchase provided (if available) as standard. Listeners then know what they're hearing at any point and we support the artists as much as we can.
Does the local area around the station influence or add to it in any way? Are your values reflected in the community etc?
Absolutely. Around 80-90% of our content is coming straight from the local area. People come on and they introduce us to friends and it carries on like that.
Are you trying to specifically target a particular crowd with Balamii? Who do you envisage the listeners to be?
Not at all, I wouldn't say we're trying to target any crowd in particular. Inadvertently, our sound attract the 18-30 crowd mostly.
Is there a chosen genre at the heart of it all or are you literally open to most?
We're open to everything, but having said that sometimes things don't work/fit. I don't want to pigeon hole Balamii by saying we do / don't do certain genres of music though.
Dimension Dizzle does a death metal show with us, it's not something i'd normally listen to but he loves it and the show is one of my favourites to record. When people come with a passion and humor for something we're not sure about it makes it much easier to say yes.
What is the music community like in Peckham in general?
Communal. Everyone round here doing stuff goes out wearing the other guys T-shirts. It's really nice to see everyone supporting each other.
Any great moments for Balamii so far? Moments you've really felt you were achieving what you set out to?
Just getting it up and running was a moment itself. Building the studio with friends from scratch was pretty special though. I think building something from zero and earning everything onwards is the reward in itself i guess. Moments wise, I'd of never of thought we'd record with some of the people we have done over the past couple of months, Novelist, Max Graef, Slugabed, P Money and more, that's been really special.
The website is coming, finally. It's taken ages. It'll provide all our programs with artwork and track info to everyone rather than just iPhone users. I'm really looking forward to having that up and running.
Text by Natalie Davies