“We had almost all the DJ legends going crazy over our set and at one point DJ Fresh (the Big Dawg) got on stage as we were performing and he kneeled down and started to bow down to us.”
In just two years, they have developed one of the most dynamic live performances going right now, released a debut album that has earned multiple Metro FM and Channel O Music Video award nominations, put in guest appearances at the Miami Winter Music Conference and headlined shows in London town as well as Canada, and notched up a number one single on Traxsource.
Yip, we’re talking about none other than Black Motion, the pair of gifted young lads from Pretoria that look set to shake up the global house scene with their post-modern Afrocentric style and signature sound.
IDM: So who are Thabo Smol and Rob Murda?
Smol: I was born and raised in Pretoria. My mother is a gospel singer from a traditional gospel group, so you could say I had a bit of musical influence growing up.
Murda: I was born in Potchefstroom and raised in Soshanguve. Smol and I both have a shared background because we were both dancers before we started making music.
IDM: How did you meet?
BM: We met through our manager and business partner Moses Mokgoko. When he heard what we could do in terms of music production he invested in studio equipment for us; we hooked up and started Black Motion in January 2010.
IDM: What’s your process like when putting together a track?
BM: When we get in the studio we don’t work on a track because we have to do a track, we do a track when we’re in a mood for expressing our thoughts on a beat. We pull out the drums and set up and record anything that we feeling that moment and the end results are always good, we don’t bring anything separate we just bring together out thoughts. And we never went to music schools or anything, it’s just pure talent from God.
IDM: What’s the story behind the name Black Motion?
BM: Black Motion because when we’re on stage and we’re in the zone, while we’re playing, the sound of The Drum takes our minds into a BLACK space, when Murdah plays with the knobs on the decks it causes an irresistible movement from deep inside you which is MOTION of the body… BLACK MOTION.
IDM: There’s a strong Afrocentrism in your music and overall creative expression
BM: Yeah man. We are African and we do African music because music has always been part of the African culture and roots. Take the native drums for example; whenever ancient Africans communicated with the ancestors they used drums. That’s basically the idea behind the title of our first album. That’s probably why we’re doing so well overseas, it’s because we represent our culture and our roots of Africa through music.
“We are African and we do African music because music has always been part of the African culture and roots.”
IDM: Tell us about your international gigs; lessons learnt, crazy stories, differences in house cultures?
BM: Performing in Angola taught us a lot about performing for a crowd we know nothing about; so we took it as selling something new to a stranger; we had to be convincing enough to connect with the crowd with our energy on stage. Our craziest trip and experience was in Miami at the Winter Music Conference when we played at the South African invasion party. We had almost all the DJ legends going crazy over our set and at one point DJ Fresh (the Big Dawg) got on stage as we were performing and he kneeled down and started to bow down to us. We were shocked. People don’t realise that the house scene is also big outside of S.A, and people love the sound of African drums, therefore the cultures gather and we get influences from other cultures and fuse it in our African sound. So you can say we unite cultures on the dance floor though our sound.
IDM: How did you get involved with Oskido and Kalawa?
BM: We had a big track Banane Mavoko featuring the late JAH RICH (may his soul rest in peace) which our manager Moses aka “Mosdef” Mokgoko submitted to radio stations. Oskido heard it on his HOT99 slot and then at YFM where Bobstar playlisted it. The track rocked him so hard that he decided to license it on his 10th commandment CD (2010) and it caused havoc in the house scene. We went on to get a licensing deal in October of that year with KALAWA.
IDM: Tell us a bit more about the concept for your debut album?
BM: Well the concept behind Talking to the Drums album was based on traditional healers’ ritual concept. Normally they talk to the spirits/ancestors before they embark on their healing process. So we were introducing our sound to the people, the African Ancestral House music where we used live elements and we were not afraid to explore it by using traditional languages that our people could relate to.
IDM: Set Me Free ft. Xoli has such a different sound from the rest of the album (Dimensions too, come to think of it), what inspired that particular track?
BM: With Set Me Free we wanted to go beyond our comfort zone, which is mainly African house comprising of hardcore banger beats to a raw drum, and make a musical track with emotions and warm feelings, something for the ladies… With Dimensions we worked with UHURU, fusing different styles of production and a unique vocal that fits the fusion perfectly.
IDM: What can we expect from Aquarium Drum [new Black Motion album due out soon].
BM: The Aquarium Drum album will be on another level. Simply because the sound is more musical, with live jazzy elements added to the original Black Motion signature sound. We’re bringing fresh new ideas, and working with vocalists to match the sound we’re trying to create. This should be an award winning album as much as Talking to The Drums was. We went under water for initiation just like Sangomas do, just to make sure the quality of this one tops that of our first offering. The first single, Lazy Song featuring Nape, is already receiving much love on the dance floors.
Black Motion are recommended listening for house fans looking for some deep afro styles with strong tribal influences.