No Man Curse: the collective putting Caribbean culture centre stage

Get To Know Before Soho Desert House: No Man Curse | Soho House

The Soho Desert House performers share their group roots before heading to the Coachella Valley

Wednesday 13 April 2022    By Jauretsi Saizarbitoria    Photography by Kasia Trojak

‘You know that the diaspora is truly having a moment right now,’ music manager Damon DeGraff says about his Caribbean roots. This evening is a moment of alignment for both his heritage and global culture at large. ‘These are the records that are on the charts now, the ones Justin Bieber is sampling… or he is getting on singles of Afrobeat artists.’ It seems pop culture is moving into space. 
 
Enter No Man Curse, a collective comprised of DeGraff, and his friends Kenny Mac and Jian Allen. All three men are standing in their power tonight at Soho Warehouse, one of the members’ club’s biggest outposts on the West Coast. The double billing includes Sunset Sounds – a rooftop event held at sundown followed by a late-night performance in the Drawing Room until closing. The experience is 100% elevated Caribbean. ‘Let’s call it sexy and aspirational,’ smiles DeGraff.   

Get To Know Before Soho Desert House: No Man Curse | Soho House
Get To Know Before Soho Desert House: No Man Curse | Soho House
Get To Know Before Soho Desert House: No Man Curse | Soho House

Performing on stage are acts handpicked by him and his team. They include Jimmy October, whom The Fader have dubbed ‘Trinidad’s newest musical innovator’. There’s also Kalpee, fresh off the heels of SXSW, who is donned ‘dancehall’s next generation’ by Pitchfork, and DJ Makeda, a selector from Rwanda with Jamaican ancestry. ‘It’s all kind of rooted from Africa, right?’ asks DeGraff, who asserts the collective’s deep commitment to exploring Afro-Caribbean culture, listing everywhere from Trinidad and Jamaica to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and South Africa. ‘We play or we live in that space across the board.’ Unlike other parties that claim island themes, yet play Drake instead, DeGraff insists ‘we want to do a party for six hours and only play music that comes from the diaspora’. 
 
The group was founded in New York and is the brainchild of Mac. Raised by a father from Trinidad and a mother from Antigua, he has been throwing parties since he was 16 in Washington D.C. As a child, he hopped around the islands, including St Lucia and Barbados. Eventually, he moved to NYC and landed a gig at Vibe magazine, the epicentre of urban cool, founded by Quincy Jones. 

Get To Know Before Soho Desert House: No Man Curse | Soho House

While booking DJs, Mac met Bermuda-born DeGraff who was managing Mark Ronson under the banner Cheeba Sound, carving his own path in the advent of celebrity DJ. ‘The downtown scene had a very kind of unique bond,’ admits DeGraff, who also managed D’Angelo. Mac moved on to work at Rolling Stone, before being yanked by Puff Daddy to be head of marketing. As both men were dominating their American fields, they formed a bond. ‘Our Caribbean connection was part of that reason and we started throwing parties together in in New York,’ says Mac. 

Mac was the first to move to LA, having reinvented his career by producing his first film, Antebellum with Janelle Monáe. Fast forward and COVID-19 hits. The story goes like this. DeGraff moved back to Bermuda to recharge, rethink, and plug into family. ‘The one big thing the pandemic did was get you connected with your people again, right?’ admits Mac, while DeGraff replies, ‘That&rs