The brothers behind No Visa bring global sound to the Triangle

Co-founder Alec Lomami on the decks during No Visa’s February party at The Fruit in February. (Photo courtesy of Alec Lomami.)

Thursday, May 2, 2024

By Alan Hunt

“No immigration papers needed, just the will to dance!”

That’s the slogan on the No Visa party series Instagram bio, the dance party series curated by brothers Alec Lomami and Mike Tambashe.

Also founders of the music label and creative agency Immaculate Taste, they draw on their international heritage for their music and party curation.

Alec was born in Belgium. Mike was born in the Congo. The family then moved to the Ivory Coast when Mike was about five years old. New Orleans followed, and later Mike landed in North Carolina, joining his brother. Alec overstayed his visa in the United States while applying for asylum, inspiring the name for the party series.

“I’ve always had this idea or this perception reality that, like, I’m probably closer to a bridge than, like, the location on either end,” Mike said.

No Visa is a dance party series with events mostly in venues throughout the Triangle but also farther out in other parts of the state, with several international as well.

The brothers’ projects embody this global spirit by showcasing local DJs alongside those from abroad. No Visa has hosted events in the Triangle with headliners like Jamz Supernova, DJ and BBC1 radio host from the UK, and DJ Lag from South Africa.

“I call it jambalaya, you know, we just mix in a bunch of ingredients and whatever and at the end of the day, the taste is there,” Mike said. “It’s always kind of been not just about the product, right, but about the environment we create around this and who we are creating these environments for.”

The brothers are strong proponents of the budding electronic music scene in the Triangle and across the state. After starting No Visa events in 2019 at the now-defunct Nightlight in Chapel Hill, they have since hosted events in Durham, Raleigh and Asheville.

“I started asking the question, why is it that so many of the people from North Carolina end up in other places?” Mike said. “It was kind of this coming to an understanding of how maybe it was because there wasn’t a platform or a fully set up industry here, and that’s what the creators would want to stay here for.”

The brothers have been working to cultivate the scene ever since. Immaculate Taste’s latest record, “Globally Local, Vol. 1,” is a compilation of tracks by seven producers from across the state.

Brydecisive is an artist from Raleigh who contributed the footwork-inspired “That Track is Hot” to the album.

“As DJs we can kind of get wrapped up in playing artists from different places that are kind of big or already pretty established versus some local artists that are making just as good music,” he said. “Alec focused on that, trying to make sure we put locals in the spotlight and just kind of bringing a bigger prospect to us.”

Brydecisive first crossed paths with Alec at one of the first No Visa parties at Nightlight, and credits that space as his entry point into the local electronic music scene.

“[We’re] trying to provide different avenues to bring culture,” Mike said. “Platforms where people who want to be into these things can be like, ooh, there’s something cool here, right? And let’s participate.”

No Visa has managed to attract several notable headliners from the DJ underground, most recently Atlanta-based Nikki Nair, who played their February party at The Fruit.

“No Visa is bringing artists that are larger in different areas, you know, and they’re seeing [our scene], they’re talking about it where they’re from and getting the word out,” Brydecisive said.

Booking larger names comes with its set of challenges, Tambashe said.

“That changes the overhead, which has kind of led to like a little bit of a price increase,” he said.  “But we’ve also seen that, like, people have not been deterred from that because I think at the end of the day, the value of what they’re getting out of it, right?”

Ticket prices for the event were based on a sliding scale from 20 to 25 dollars. Tambashe said most attendees opted to pay full price, and past headliners have done a lot to expand their brand and event possibilities.

N’gamet Keïta is a recent addition to the No Visa team, taking on the role of event coordinator.

“We’re always pushing to let [artists] know that it’s actually worth it for you to come here, because this is an opportunity to build a fan base outside of the general, mass public areas,” she said. “Coming here and actually, like, killing it, I feel like as an artist, it’ll stick out to people a little bit more in like their minds, rather than like going to, like, a giant warehouse, right?”

She emphasized Tambashe and Lomami’s role in pulling lineups together through personal connections both in the local scene and abroad, mentioning Alec’s time living in South Africa. He represented No Visa at a collaboration event in Johannesburg last week.

Creating intimate shows with a passionate audience is a big part of No Visa’s appeal, she said. She recalled last August’s event featuring RP Boo, Chicago-based producer and pioneer of the footwork genre.

“I definitely danced my life away that night and it was amazing, just kind of, like, connecting naturally with the folks that were there,” she said. “I’m from Guinea, and I do remember a part of that night. I just kind of started dancing traditional dances from back home, it just naturally came out.”

No Visa has regularly collaborated with local artists such as Made of Oak, one half of the Durham-based electronic pop duo Sylvan Esso, who have achieved nationwide success.

“Like, they could go anywhere, they could be in LA, right? And yet they choose to be in Durham, North Carolina, and have a studio in the country,” he said. “That’s, like, the complete embodiment of North Carolina.”

No Visa is producing the afterparties for Sylvan Esso’s two-day Good Moon festival, taking place on the weekend of May 31. They will feature live mixing from Lomami and other local DJs, including headliners Made of Oak and Suzi Analogue.

“It’s just a huge thing, you know, to be able to have something that’s rooted in North Carolina to be global, something that’s just kind of making foreign name for North Carolina is making more of a name for us,” Brydecisive said.

The growing pains experienced by artists and other community members are not lost on Tambashe, but he hopes to make the most of the rapid development spreading across the Triangle.

“Here’s the thing though: These people are also coming from places that have culture,” he said. “We as the creators or the artists or the builders need somebody to consume the work, right?”

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