Tuneraider Under The African Sky and a life of psy
I still see plenty of magic; … I still see big smiles on the dance floor, flower hippy children dancing everywhere”
Tuneraider is a veritable veteran of the Cape Town Psytrance scene who took it upon herself several years ago to produce a documentary about how psychedelic trance evolved in the mother city as well as the rest of the country. It was quite an undertaking to gather a whole lot of vintage footage which was all on tape, sift through it, create a storyboard and produce what she did – the result being Under The African Sky. She’s the first to admit though that whilst she drove the project forward, and never gave up despite some early setbacks, the documentary would not have been realised without the able editing and production by WilArtz, production assistance from Alien Safari and Vortex Productions and the sponsorship by HEMPORIUM.
November marks the 6th anniversary since the release of Under The African Sky which came out in November 2008. To commemorate the release we’ve got 5 original DVD copies to give away to readers. It is a wonderful collector’s item for anybody who was there at the time or for newbie trancers who wish to better appreciate the heritage of the psychedelic trance movement in South Africa.
We caught up with Tuneraider to chat about the documentary, her life in Psy and what drives here to keep at it…
So it’s been 6 years since you released Under The African Sky. Does it feel like just yesterday or like it all happened in a totally different era?
Tuneraider: It does feel like just yesterday, I can’t believe that it’s been 6 years this November, time flies when you’re having fun. It was a different era back then in a sense things were simpler and the parties seemed to still have a Goa feel to it; there seemed to be a sense of a tribal family that attended the parties and everyone knew everyone. I guess life moves on and change happens.
On a personal level, what’s different for you now, as Tuneraider the DJ, to what you were like back in 2008 when the documentary was released?
Tuneraider: Back then I was very busy girl. I was working and touring Madame Zingara Theatre of Dreams and DJing at parties all over SA. I was dreaming of playing overseas and getting to travel with my music, but I was still unknown so it wasn’t the right time yet. Today I fortunately have 4 overseas tours under my belt and I might be going back to Portugal early next year (fingers crossed). I always dreamed to represent my country internationally and spread the South African ‘Gees’!
And how do you think the local psy scene has changed today from when you released the movie?
Tuneraider: I have seen the psy scene go through many changes, from the aesthetics of the lay out of the party, different styles of music and its influence over the dance floor, different fashions come and go, life and death, technology development and a baby boom with the influx of the younger generation on the dance floors.
I think the main thing that has changed is the growth in the number of parties and festivals. The season wasn’t as long and full as it is nowadays and there weren’t as many DJs and producers compared to today. I often think about the size of our party scene, and since I remember it has always been bi. I remember Vortex ‘Silverstroom’ and ‘Infected Mushroom’ parties having up to 10 000 people, or the famous Apple Farm venue, not to mention Alien Safari’s ‘Rabbit Hole’ tucked away in the mountains. Aah those were the days, that dance floor was massive, or the Skazi events by Transgression, that was wild, full power rock star trance.
Asking to compare the past to now, I realise that the true essence of it all hasn’t changed, we have just grown older with it because we are directly involved, but for the younger generation they are still experiencing it as it should be; fun outdoors with your friends and like-minded people. Yeah it is more diverse now, and it seems many different styles and sub-cultures flock to our dance floors with the excuse to party, but it’s a start…. How else can we convert people…?
What prompted you to make the doccie and do you feel that you achieved what you set out to do?
Tuneraider: It was about 2004 and I was chatting to a friend on the side of a dance floor about how awesome our lives are and that we get to do this for fun and possibly build a career from Psy trance. We were also discussing that it was getting close to the 10 year anniversary of Psy trance in South Africa so I suggested we make a documentary film about the scene in Cape Town and call it “10 years of Psychedelic Freedom” (but we kinda went over 10 years in the end…) My friend thought I was crazy… but I had the idea and I was going to run with it.
I met various people along the way who helped me out and made it possible for it to come together; Dave Henning the photographer being one of them. It took me about 4 years to complete and I was 23 years old at the time I started, but I was a determined young thing. It was a super hard journey to the finish line, but the whole time all I could see in my mind, was presenting the movie on a big screen to a full cinema. After a long and painful process of putting it all together, finding old footage, begging people to help me, filming interviews and paying the video guy at UCT lab to convert the video from DV tape to VHS so I could transcribe the interviews onto paper and literally cut and paste my script together. Then I found a crazy enough character to edit for me; his name is Wilhelem Rabie (WilArtz). I was such a slave driver back then, we sat weekend after weekend and any spare time we had going through endless amounts of party footage and interviews. I was also working for the Madame Zingara tent back then and was often away on tour so we had to work long distance at times; it was tough but we managed, by courier and internet café emailing (no Smartphones back then). Then finally the date arrived, the big unveiling and by then Hemporium, Alien Safari (Afrogalactic Records) and Vortex stepped in to help make the final stages possible. But if it weren’t for the guys from Hemporium and their support and belief in me from the beginning, it wouldn’t have been possible. They were a huge support throughout the film, and Colin from Alien Safari stepped in and gave me the final push and label support. I will be forever grateful. The day of the launch I was so nervous. We managed to secure the old Labia cinema in Cape Town CBD for the viewing and we decorated the outside area in trance décor and I got Red Bull to sponsor a bar and serve complimentary drinks. It was a whole experience. I was shocked at how many people came to see the documentary. It was such an amazing moment standing in front of a full cinema and remembering that this was the image that pushed me to finish and here I was. It is an amazing feeling. I think the film has touched people, I still get compliments today about it, I feel as the years go by this film’s worth grows, and the fact that we get to look back and be reminded of the earlier years and teach the new generation where our scene came from and why we fight so hard to try and keep it real and true to the real meaning of Psytrance, and that this ‘freedom of expression’.
A lot of people complain about how things are not as magical as they were. Is this not just a part of growing up and growing with or out of the scene? Surely it is magical for those just entering into the world of outdoor parties and psytrance culture?
Tuneraider: I still see plenty of magic; I think it’s the older generation getting old and cynical if there is complaint about change… I still see big smiles on the dance floor, flower hippy children dancing everywhere, full excitement from the people, yes it seems bigger, but that’s amazing! How lucky we are. I don’t think people are aware that we have had a strong psy scene for about 20 years here in little old Cape Town and it started here and spread around South Africa shortly after 1995. It is amazing that our sub-culture has survived over 20 years in one place and still growing and going strong. It’s hard not to get complacent, I think it is a vice for all human beings, I think we should remember how lucky we truly are that we get to attend such epic festivals in beautiful outdoor venues, there are plenty of people around the world who could only dream of such freedom that we enjoy. So I think pinch yourself if you catch yourself complaining and go find the magic again.
I know you’ve been vocal about newbies playing off controllers and laptops. You’re quite adamant DJs need to be able to mix without using sync aren’t you? But don’t you think track selection and reading a dance floor are more important?
Tuneraider: I think that you can’t have one without the other. If a new DJ doesn’t learn the basics of mixing and using their ears instead of their eyes, then how do you truly learn how to feel the music? Then what happens when the laptop crashes on stage? You can’t play? I have also seen novice DJS who play on controllers and do not beach match. I watch how the dance floor gets dropped between tracks and that only popular tracks are played for crowd adoration and not about linking a set together, this is why I get so frustrated. If the new generation are not carrying the dance floor or guiding a trip space with psychedelic music that should enlighten a dancer even for just a moment, then what is the point? Our Psy –scene is at a point where it can become portentous and fake, and perhaps if we stick to the basics this might not happen. I feel that technology is growing and we should embrace it, and I do not in any way state that using this equipment is bad or wrong – if you’re an experienced DJ and you know how to manipulate the software to do crazy mixing techniques then by all means go for it! I just feel with the burst of DJ software it is taking away the hard work and levels one should reach as a growing ‘professional’ DJ. If it’s too easy then what’s the point? Then how do you grow?
What keeps you wanting to DJ each year?
Tuneraider: I Just love it! Being a part of this sub-culture, it keeps me young [laughs].
Have you ever thought about ‘hanging up your headphones?’
Tuneraider: No, perhaps when I’m older, but I don’t intend to stop this life I lead anytime soon. I have gotten a bit tired over the last few years, but it’s now or never, we only live this life once so better make the most of it.
Your DJ Highlights for the past 12 months?
Tuneraider: In South Africa I would have to say my set at Jungala Festival. I had such an epic set, I had to remind myself to take it all in and remember that moment forever; the energy from the people, we were all on fire! Groovy Troopers, this past month, was such fun; again great energy from the dance floor – it was silly and bouncy smiles all around. My two international tours to Australia and Portugal; it is so amazing to experience psytrance overseas, and see how people like to party in different countries and cultures. It is also very humbling as no one knows who you are, and you must work extra hard to prove yourself – and not fuck up! [Laughs]
Any low moments?
Tuneraider: Nothing in my DJ world, maybe a few rained out parties.
Name one international artist that an SA promoter needs to bring out here…
Tuneraider: I’m loving Plasmotek right now. I know he came here for an indoor event by Mungus Fungus but I think this guy on a big outdoor rig would blow Cape Town away.
Name one local producer that deserves more recognition overseas…
Tuneraider: Well I have to be a little biased and say [my boyfriend] Rabdom L – his new stuff is kicking it big time right now; otherwise Silo and Humerous are making some great daytime progressive psy… keep an eye on them.
Under The African Sky Trailer
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