Meet Aisha Nanor Martin & Lulu Le Vay: The brains behind every banger

3rd September

Anyone who’s been to a Gymbox club will know just how important music is here. In fact, aside from getting you sweaty and keeping you safe, it’s just about the only thing we take seriously. But who are the masterminds behind every banger that helps you smash out a few extra reps? Answer: two music consultants/ravers/innovators/visonaries/Gymbox veterans, Aisha Nanor Martin and Lulu Le Vay. Now it’s probably time you get acquainted, don’t you think?

Gymbox has always been as much about the vibe as the workouts – what did you think when you first walked into one of our clubs?

Aisha: I found the nightclub aesthetic and the brand’s mission to disrupt the gym space incredibly refreshing when I was brought in to oversee the new music strategy 7 years ago. I was inspired by how Gymbox uses music as a key force to elevate the fitness experience - from the gym curation, to class concepts and in-house DJs to their warehouse parties. The brand’s on-going disruptive attitude to fitness and music gave Gymbox its cult status in London.

Lulu: I connected with the brand instantly when I first came across it 10 years ago. I started out my journey with Gymbox at this time as Head of Social Media. I practically grew up in nightclubs so the club-inspired aesthetic for a fitness brand was really exciting to discover. To be working on the music strategy a decade later is evidence that we are officially in a long-term relationship!

Where does your passion for music come from and at what point did you realise it could become your profession?

Lulu: I’ve loved music since being a little kid. I bought my first 12” when I was 11 – Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force. I grew up around older brothers who played music all the time – anything from Deep Purple to George Benson. Working in record shops for years led me to becoming a music journalist, publicist, artist manager, label-owner, club promoter and now a professional DJ… you name it, I’ve done it.

My passion progressed into a career very organically. I work as a university lecturer also, and I always tell my students to follow what they love (and work hard!) as I believe that’s how authentic and successful careers can be achieved.

Aisha: My passion comes from growing up in a diverse and musical family. My father is West African, my mother is Malaysian and there was always music and dancing at home. Miles, Hendrix, Fela, Cooke, Ebo, Coltrane, Chaka, Masekela, Funkadelic are a few artists that were often played in my family home. A lot of what I grew up listening to led to my strong interest in Black music and culture.

I studied business and later moved into a music agency role, which led me to managing and mentoring music and creative teams. I especially love working with young creatives, listening, learning and developing their skills and work ethic.

What does the average day in the life of a music consultant look like?

Aisha: I work closely to consult and support marketing teams on music strategy and all things creative, and with operations teams, athletes and trainers to shape the overall fitness experience. It’s all about working together to empower teams and amplify a brand’s music story across everything – whether that’s a website, social or advertising. That means briefing, curating, listening and sourcing music and designing concepts, while working closely with consultants and curators.

I am also a consultant for a brilliant music agency, Open Ear and work across a range of clients in retail, F&B, lifestyle…

Lulu: As a DJ I spend a lot of time looking for tunes, so I make sure I am on top of what’s new. I also keep up to date with music industry news, especially during these challenging times. Fitness is a big part of our lives (as this is our niche) so I usually fit in a workout most days – running is my fave. I’m also a writer and academic, so my days are never boring! I’m curating playlists one moment and working on a book idea the next.

What is it that the art of noise that can bring to a space?

Lulu: Each space and each brand are different. Each has its own personality and brand essence. The curation of noise IS an art, it’s not easy. It takes years of experience working in and knowing music on a deep level to craft a nuanced sound concept that works. Music can change atmospheres in spaces in an instant. Even on a subconscious level.

Aisha: It takes a deep and thoughtful understanding of how music can define a brand’s space. In terms of fitness, there’s a specific expertise that required to optimise training methods in spaces and create bespoke music identities. This overall creates functional, unique and inspiring spaces that brings open-minded fitness communities together.

How did you identify what Gymbox’s personality might sound like – and what kind of thing can we expect to hear on our playlists?

Lulu: Cool, edgy, a bit gobby, fun – and very London. A bit like us! You will hear a diverse range of tunes that reflect all that London is – UK garage, remixes of old school house classics, disco-house, afro-house…

Aisha: London’s DIY attitude is rooted in Gymbox’s music identity. We pay homage to the city and its sub-cultures, especially bass-tinged musical movements. Also, a healthy nod to music inspired from the Caribbean and African diaspora. Reinforces that London’s creative and music culture is really unique and special…

If Gymbox was a headliner, who would it be?

Lulu: It would be a new super band – a collaboration between Skream, MK and Nadia Rose. Watch the sparks fly!

Aisha: Shy One B2B Josey Rebelle - both incredible DJs and selectors, and 100% synonymous with London. Imagine in a basement club scenario. You’re welcome.

We all know how much music can keep us pumped… what’s the top three on your personal workout playlist?

Aisha: It changes all the time, but at the moment… Nubya Garcia ‘Source’. Obsessed with this album. Beautiful for mindful running in my local woods. Orange Tree EditsDorian’ (Jimmy Rouge Edit). I was tuned into this on my spin bike earlier and it immediately lifted my spirits on a very grey morning! Romaal Kultan ‘Step Inside’. I dance to this. Dancing is also a workout… right?

Lulu: I love putting together personal playlists for running. Over lockdown I have run SO MUCH, and music has been integral to keeping me going. My top tunes (which are also on the Gymbox playlist) are Silvano Del Gado Tropical Drummer’, Ossie ‘Supercali’, and Majestic & Guy ‘LDN Town’. Tried and tested bangers!

It’s been a tough old time for everyone and we’re so happy to have our clubs open again – but what can we all do to help get the music industry back on its feet?

Aisha: Yes, the music industry has been hit incredibly hard due to COVID-19. It's been interesting to see how DJs have found other creative ways to connect with their audience, but as venues are starting to reopen its been a real joy to see DJs back out doing their thing! Make sure you support them and the incredible music venues/community!

Lulu: Keep supporting your favourite artists and DJs as much as possible. Buy music, merch, listen to their online content, send them messages! And when the venues and nightclubs are back open, go out! We all have to support each other until we’re out the other side of this pandemic.

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