Nile Rodgers Curates Meltdown, London's Music Festival

The annual music festival at the Southbank Centre is this year curated by the seminal music producer—who tells us about his life.

Summer is here. Enter warm evenings, drinks by the River Thames and, of course, music festivals. And when it comes to curating a music festival, you’re not going to get much better than one by the iconic producer, Nile Rodgers. 

Born in 1952, the American producer has become one of the biggest names in music. If you don’t recognise his name, you’ll certainly know his guitar riffs: from the opening to "He’s the Greatest Dancer" to the refrain in "Get Lucky". Co-founder of disco band Chic, the mogul has sold more than 500 million albums and 75 million singles across the globe. Rodgers has collaborated with some of the biggest names in music, including David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Diana Ross, Luther Vandross and Daft Punk.

It was with Daft Punk who Rodgers made his comeback in 2011, after he was recovering from cancer the previous year. He described this time in his life as the jumping off point. ‘I decided to attack life with gusto I didn’t realise I’d had. We’d soon record three life-changing songs together: "Get Lucky", "Lose Yourself to Dance", and the personally prophetic "Give Life Back To Music".

Nile Rodgers, London, UK
Nile Rodgers has created some of the most memorable guitar riffs in musical history. (image courtesy of Nile Rodgers)

Curating a Festival 

Proving that disco is certainly not dead, Rodgers is joining forces with the Southbank Centre, creating this year’s Meltdown festival by calling on his favourite London artists to craft a line-up full of incredible talent. He joins a list of illustrious curators: David Bowie, Yoko Ono and Elvis Costello—each one putting their own stamp on the festival.

"It’s been a challenge," Rodgers explains. "I tend to dream big, so I’ve learnt to control myself. There were certain crazy things that I wanted to do, but I realised that most of my concepts were physically impossible." 

"The wackiest thing that I managed to pull off is the Studio 54 night at Meltdown—it’s going to be outrageous! I really wanted to bring a soulful, party atmosphere to the festival, full of dancing." A Night of Studio 54 (3 Aug) sees the original DJs from the seminal New York nightclub come to the Southbank, and is set to be one of the biggest tickets during the festival. 

Kokoroko, London, UK
Kokoroko, with their horn-filled Afrobeat, perform at Meltdown at Southbank Centre. (©Nina Manandhar)

The cool, calm and collected songwriter knows what works on stage. Blending genres and making waves in the music industry is what he’s all about. So, when we asked him about how he feels about performing on stage at the Royal Festival Hall, he’s not so animated about performing himself, but more so about playing with an ensemble created especially for the festival.

"I’m so excited to perform the Eurythmics songbook, with an all-star band put together by David A. Stewart from the British band. We will be performing the greatest hits from the 80s group—I can’t wait!”

Radiant Children, London, UK
The London trio Radiant Children are on stage at the Purcell Room. (©Chris Burnett)

A London Lover  

Rodgers seems to have adopted London as his home. So it’s no surprise to find that British music seems to electrify him and involving Londoners in his line-up has been his main objective. "I find that some of the younger artist from the capital are blowing me away. I’ve never seen so many women, in particular, develop their sound so fast."

Proving that he is indeed an honorary Londoner, he has been made chief creative advisor at Abbey Road Studios—a role created specifically for him. He can now be seen at the St. John’s Wood studio, which is where bands from The Beatles to Pink Floyd recorded. 

Abbey Road Studio, London, UK
Rodgers has recently joined forces with Abbey Road Studios and works at their venue at St. John's Wood. (©Abbey Road Studios)

"The amount of people I have coming through at Abbey Road Studios is amazing," he beams. "Since I’ve been at the studio, I’ve also worked with big names, from symphony orchestras to Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak."

The vibrant, self-proclaimed fan of London tries to get to see the capital as much as he can in between sessions at the studio, admitting to taking a run around Buckingham Palace last year. "It was to stay in shape, but getting to see the sights was an added bonus."

Rodgers is certainly making his mark here. But what does he love so much about London? "The vibe and the people are great," he says enthusiastically. "London always accepted disco, so my music has always been popular here and the people in the UK are open-minded to new music. People are better listeners in this city."