The world of electronica and dance-music in South Africa is pretty damn exciting at the moment. I know people have been dropping that line since SA beat-makers first started touting their drum-machine and synthesizer skills some decades back, but as 2010 thunders forward with the likes of Mujava, Die Antwoord, and Culoe De Song there are many other local wall-socket charged producers, bands and DJs playing all around the world and releasing music across the Internet right down to actual physical CDs and vinyl and it feels like the world is paying attention.
What’s more important actually is that we as South Africans are paying attention, long since having dropped that taboo chip on our shoulder of our music “not being up to scratch internationally”. The Red Bull Studio in Cape Town has been privy to the creation of some of that much beloved music over the past few years and will continue to do so as long as the music-makers are out there. So let’s take a look at some of the future-forward and downright banging beats that have been coming out of the studio speakers this year.
Machine Gun Creativity
One of the hardest working men to be burning the midnight-oil during January and February was Spoek Mathambo and his newly formed solo project Mshini Wam. A world-child, Spoek spends his time either in Europe, DJ’ing around or performing with a plethora of underground dance acts such as Djedjotronic and Evil 9 alongside his own South African electro-rap bands, Sweat X and Playdoe.
Heavily inspired by the distinct syncopated raw sound of local house-music such as DJ Clock and Cndo, Spoek aims to create something that is heavily rooted in local dance-music but which contains the vitality and energy of the modern sounds of European electronica like techno, electro and dubstep. Signed to BBE, a prolific label that has released projects by everyone from Dimitri From Paris, Osunlade, the late J Dilla to DJ Jazzy Jeff, and all the spaces in between, it will be an interesting project to see come to life when it is released toward the end of the year.
7 Foot Dub
On the up and coming are 7FT Soundsystem, a digital-dub music duo with an insatiable passion for Jamaican roots music channeled through the sound-channels of software synths, beats and effects. The end result is liquid electronic reggae, perfect for club-soundsystems and iPod headphones alike.
Their debut album which came out toward the end of last year, God Shuffled His Feet has already garnered rave reviews. A heady brew of rolling bass, skanking rhythm and sci-fi sounds, the album features collaborations with a host of like-minded musicians including the amazing Zolani Mahola from local super-group Freshly Ground. Big things agwaan for these bwoys.
License to Skill
The Skillz that Paid the Billz was a 24-hour project that aimed at recording, mixing, making a music video for and releasing an album by local hip-hop players, Ill Skillz. Ambitious, perhaps a little too so, but in the end the crew were able to produce seven, pretty incredible tracks, shoot a music video and perform twice during that time period.
What was probably more incredible about the project was the energy and atmosphere. From as early as four in the morning the studio began to fill up with creative minds: emcees, producers, singers, DJs, stylists, photographers and by the end just the hip-hop heads wanting to be around the turbine-creative output of music.
Then there were the studio workshops, info sessions as they’re called. Based on the Red Bull Music Academy lecture format, the idea is a musical luminary kicks back in front of a small audience and expounds upon his or her musical career prompted by questions from an interviewer or the audience itself.
Some sessions are full of knowledge and inspiration. Like the magnificent DJ Babu, all out hip-hop scratch legend and producer. His perspective on the current state of the music industry, his approach to new creative forms such as video and his all round openness made it a solidly informative lecture. Electro rockstar Steve Aoki was less approachable but probably far more entertaining as he regaled the antics of his seriously hectic life in a pretty self-deprecating manner.
The Red Bull Studio Sessions
The culmination of the years of creative thunder has resulted in the Red Bull Studio Sessions a mammoth mix by DJ low featuring many of the artists to have recorded and produced at the studio. To celebrate the release of the mix, the Red Bull Studio Sessions hosted by DJ low at the Assembly was an event of epic proportions featuring live performances from Soulo Starr, 7ft Soundsystem, Voicetag, Little Kings, Popskarr, Krushed & Sorted, Crosby, Spitmunky, Richard the Third and Audiophile 021.
The year has in fact been like a flash-flood of sound. From indie-synth bands like Popskarr to Dancehall guru Crosby to a gang of hip-hop acts to high-profile players like Goldfish to electronica big-wigs like Mix n Blend, nothing has been left out.
It’s time to actually hit the breaks a little and make sure that all the music is finished to push out to the world because it is certainly ready to appreciate the goodness.
Written By : Richard Rumney