His visuals are certainly unique and his sound follows suit. Mwami, the 22-year-old artist from Kampala, Uganda shows great and promising talent while his musical influences, are a marriage between Sampha’s experimental sonics with the harsh and maximalist grit of FlyLo’s Captain Murphy, resulting in what sounds like a more ineffable Channel Tres.
Tell us a bit about growing up.
I was born and raised in Kampala Uganda. Both my parents worked and the nature of their work required a lot of travel so they spent extended periods of time away from home. This often left my siblings and me on the farm under the supervision of our grandparents and sometimes at home with “that cool auntie”. This made for an early and (un)healthy exposure to cartoons, MTV, comic books, Def Comedy Jam and video games with plenty of space to explore nature and our own imaginations. It would be a stretch to say that it was a particularly musical household but a variety of music, both local and global was played at home. My dad would often bring back rap CDs for my older brother when returning from trips. It music he wasn’t allowed to let us listen to but would do so anyway. One of my aunts eventually gifted us with a piano that my mother had us take lessons on. It was not something I mastered but it was a pivotal moment in my relationship with music. Shortly after, we were all sent to different boarding schools, during which the piano lessons continued but more importantly, I ended up discovering a wider spectrum of music through the internet. My friends and I would spend hours downloading whole discographies from all sorts of genres that we would trade with each other. It was also through this that we discovered blogs and publications that opened the door to more obscure sounds.
When did you make the decision to pursue music?
It was never really a decision as much as it was a curiosity I never thought to question or stop investigating. The only other thing I recall being determined on doing was product design but that was quickly nipped in the bud once I learned that it would require further education in maths and physics, subjects that were far from my strong suit. Growing up I did acting in school plays and I participated in a variety of creative activities both extracurricular and otherwise. In my own time, I made music with friends and just always had an inclination, one I couldn’t really explain at the time. The creative process was something I wanted to always be around, whether it was through production, A&R or management. I just always wanted to either be a part of it or facilitate it somehow. I figured the closer I could be, the more useful my intuition would become, for myself or others.
‘While it might not seem exciting to a class of people who’ve become far too comfortable assessing a scene based on a polished, final product, I’d say that there’s a lot of potential in what’s happening right now.’
Your sound is an experimental mixture of electronic, gqom bass, tell us about the journey you went through to discover this sound.
It was through that early exposure to a variety of musical stylings that I came to appreciate sounds that might not fit a typical mould. This was before streaming and the infinite playlists it came with so this multi-directional influence happened in a bubble of sorts. Early on I was just making more palatable hip hop with some electronic elements but, after growing unsatisfied with the results, a few trusted friends and collaborators encouraged me to make music that reflected what I was actually listening to. I was further pushed into the more exciting territory after meeting some remarkable producers while at uni. Their unique influences, coupled with mine seemed to provide an interesting balance that’s been fun to watch grow. It’s for that reason that the journey in discovering this sound is something I can’t take sole credit for.
How would you describe the music scene in Uganda, more so the electronic music scene?
It’s hard to accurately do that, because I, unfortunately, spend more time away from home but, it’s a movement I’m proud to watch unravel, even from a distance. While it might not seem exciting to a class of people who’ve become far too comfortable assessing a scene based on a polished, final product, I’d say that there’s a lot of potential in what’s happening right now. You’re beginning to see a creative community build upon what is already happening by offering alternative genres and spaces. The electronic scene, in particular, is beginning to attract international attention with producers and DJ’s traveling from the world over for the now coveted Nyege Nyege festival. At the same time, you’re starting to see local talent tour beyond the region. This is still rare and not yet something that everyone can do but the start of this shows promise. Beyond that, rap and of course traditionally-inspired dance hall and local pop music are all beginning to up the production value but the industry as a whole is still a while away from being able to offer artists of any genre profitable sustainability.
Is there a reason you chose to name your EP protean?
Googling synonyms and definitions is a key part of my writing process lol. I’m constantly trying to find ways of expressing extremely acute experiences in an unexpected or more encompassing way. In my daily conversation, I often spend (too much) time stumbling through sentences, searching for the words to express a feeling or an idea as viscerally as it feels to me. I was redrafting the artwork after a previous title no longer felt right when I stumbled upon the word protean. It seemed to encapsulate almost all aspects of not just the EP but the process and experiential aspects that made the EP possible, to begin with. Even the synonyms for the word felt apt in describing the production, the style, the nature of the writing and all that had happened in between starting and finishing this body of work.
Tell us about the rektless music video, was this your first time shooting a music video and how was it?
Great times. Spacegray (co-director) and I didn’t really have a budget or a fully fleshed concept in mind. We had a couple of shots we felt we could work with but nothing beyond that. This wasn’t my first time shooting a music video but it was the first time co-directing and working in a very fluid way and I quite enjoyed it. The lack of pressure and expectations was immensely freeing. Plus I have a tendency to be extremely particular about certain details and the lack of control often brought about by too many cooks in my kitchen freaks me out. Spacegray and I trust each other. A lot of the b roll came from footage shot by friends at basement raves at uni. From there spacegray really made it what it was with the editing that spoke to the nature of the song in a way I couldn’t have planned.
Where do you find inspiration the most?
Through movies and conversations with people from different walks of life. In cinema, each frame of the film doesn’t always possess a readily discernible meaning and the work is mostly understood as a whole but, in music, there’s this unsaid expectation for each line or verse to be immediately understood reducing the whole to nothing more than a set of ideas that a keen listener can grasp with one listen leaving them little room to make it their own. The way film evokes mood and tone through colour, pace and singular one-off moments was something I felt my music could do. In conversations, sometimes the tiniest details will jump out at me when talking to someone and I’ll feel the need to investigate why and contextualise it within a string of ideas I’m working on, while retaining the unique aspects that person communicated, whether it’s a particular slang, or a new idea, or a funny, quotable concept I couldn’t have made myself.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
Growing up my older brother put us on to a lot of New York rap. Dipset, G-Unit, early 2000’s stuff and some grime music as well. At school, I developed an interest in jazz, indie and alternative rock. My mum would play us 80’s and 90’s synth disco and kwaito, like Boom Shaka, Brenda Fassie and some Hugh Masekela but I didn’t appreciate her taste until I was much older. My interest in electronic music was almost accidental and not really in direct lineage with the music I grew up listening to.
Any other Ugandan creatives we should look out for?
Definitely. Josh forehead, Lagum, ceee, Mr. Mankwa and the 4homies are all young artists carving out their own lanes and defying regional expectations with unique, authentic styles and approaches to their sound. Electronic artists specifically, no one is doing it like slikback. Pretty much everything coming off the Nyege Nyege label is worth looking into.
Where do you see your sound going or where would you like it to go?
At the moment I’m slowing the tempos down a little and exploring some harsher sonics, stripping back some layers and working with more sparse instrumentals. It’s hard to accurately describe because it’s far from finished and definitely still experimental.
“Off the Wall”, the distinguishable Vans slogan originated in the mid ’70s when skaters were landing new tricks in empty pools by literally skating off the wall. The meaning, however, has evolved in tandem with the brand’s customer base which has grown beyond just skating and into a lifestyle brand. The phrase is now synonymous with individuality and unfettered creativity. Therefore, it was to much anticipation when House of Vans announced it was heading to Johannesburg, arguably one of the most creative cities in Africa.
From the 22nd to the 25th of August, House Of Vans Johannesburg hosted a 4-day celebration of local creativity, built on the foundation of the city’s culture and inspired by the communities who call Johannesburg home. Keeping in line with the brand’s pillars, the pop-up included art exhibitions; musical performances from artists such as Ricky Rick, Morena Leraba and Rich the Kid; skating competitions and various workshops. It was perhaps one of the country’s largest pop-ups to date. AFRICA IS NOW was grateful for the opportunity to share in the experience and to document this unique celebration.
We have put together a selection of our favourite moments from the pop-up. We also caught up with DJ Wentzel of Roastin’ Records after the event for a quick chat.
Tell us more about the layers of Roastin’ Records.
We are a record label, record store, coffee shop & DJ crew. Roastin’ Records has been active for the last 7 years and the label has released almost 30 records Including Thor Rixon, Diamond Thug, Felix LaBand, Markus Wormstorm and many more! The record store focuses on South African releases but we also stock specialty imports.
Why vinyl and/or cassettes?
We love the physical formats, it looks cool, it sounds great and it’s just fun to collect cool things.
Do you perhaps remember the first vinyl you bought and how was the feeling?
I think first record I bought was Computer World by Kraftwerk at Revolution Records in Observatory. I’m still a massive Kraftwerk fan.
What did you enjoy most about performing at House of Vans 2019?
The production was next level and the crew/family was very professional and really made us feel super comfortable. The sound rig was great. I have played on similar big festival rigs many times but this was just different and to top it off, the sound crew was great.
Where can we catch you performing next?
With a Lion King soundtrack production credit in the safe, an EP released earlier this year in collaboration with Okzharp and a fiery new album out on all streaming services, among other accolades, the year is far from over for DJ LAG. Before the bass-heavy and hypnotic sound of gqom would command dancefloors across international waters, it was the innovative and unmistakable production skills possessed by Lwazi Asanda Gwala that helped propel this genre beyond the sound systems of Durban taxis to the global electronic music scene. AFRICA IS NOW caught up with DJ LAG to talk about his journey, African pride and what the rest of the year looks like.
Tell us something about yourself that your fans might not know.
I didn’t know how to DJ when I made my first gqom track. I was making beats for my cousin, doing hip hop, and then I got asked to DJ at an end-of-high-school dance. I wasn’t ready, but I didn’t want to say no, so I had to learn… Quickly! Just because you aren’t on top now, or you don’t know something now, doesn’t mean you can’t teach yourself and become great.
Do you have any other creative endeavours outside of music?
Right now, music takes up all of my time. I’m in studio, performing and travelling non-stop. I recently started a new label called Ice Drop Records, so I’m always on the search for new artists. Music is my life!
Do you perhaps remember the moment you first heard the gqom sound and knew that this was different and special?
I was in Grade 10. I was trying some things, making tracks and it clicked. I just knew I had to grow with it. Then I went to Uhuru, a club in Durban, where I played my first set. I didn’t expect people to respond in the way they did, but I knew there was something about it I had to share with everyone. I’m saying, you mustn’t fight feelings like that. You must trust them because those feelings will take you far.
When it comes to African pride, some might say that a uniquely authentic sound such as gqom does not need Western validation. What motivated your decision to join The Recording Academy?
Well, actually when this idea came up, I almost said no. My manager Sevi and I talked about how it might be too early for me. But then we figured, what could make me more ready than I am now? More rejection? I’ve been hearing ‘no, it’s not gonna work’ for years. More experience? I’ve travelled and seen a lot of things, and now I’m building Something For Clermont (an event he started for his hometown). It’s never been about the West. There’s nothing happening out there that we can’t have here. When I was in high school, I was told that shouldn’t leave because I was too young to make such serious choices about my future. And here I am, I’m OK. So maybe this is OK too. No one is ever ready nje for life. When an opportunity to grow comes, it comes, and you must get ready! Also, the category that gqom would be under would be World Music. The World Music I know doesn’t sound anything like what we are doing, so maybe it’s our job to teach people what it can be. Maybe if we think of it as music that can move the world instead, then it’s OK. Because that’s what gqom is.
The task of spreading this unique and authentic sound to the rest of the world is a colossal one. Which other musicians, aside from Rudeboyz, do you see as your fellow ambassadors for this genre?
Unticipated Soundz who used to be called Unti Chikz. Definitely. They’re on my new EP with a song called Amanikiniki. We’re trying to bring more of the uThayela style, which is quite rough, sort of like how Naked Boyz and Sbucardo and I did it at first. I don’t think spreading the music is tough. I think being authentic is tough, especially when you see other people doing it one way and you think you should do it the same to get the music out.
And speaking of ambassadors, you have mentioned before that DJ Doowap from Yfm was one of the first people to play gqom on radio. If you include the taxis on every rank that blast your music, how important do you think that early era was for gqom?
I think to be successful, the music has to become part of your everyday life. Getting on taxis is what we all do back home, to connect with each other. So it made sense to do it like that. I think Doowap got hypnotised by gqom too, it just happened in a different place in her everyday life. Back then, it was all about us and our home, without the influence of the outside world, so we could make music and share it in the way that we knew how. It was definitely important.
How is the Rinse FM residency going?
Here’s the link to the listen-back of the latest mix, which came out on 28 August. It has the new track from the EP and some of my favourite ones at the moment. I’ll be doing one every month.
Anything else in the pipeline that your fans can look forward to?
I’m re-releasing Anywhere We Go, the track with Shekhinah in the US under a label called ParaMetric this month and also going that side for Afropunk Atlanta in early October to perform with Moses Boyd. I also have a show in India with Magnetic Fields which is huge! I’ve never been there. It’s a lot, but I’ll stop there. It’s a busy time.
Back from her recent Energy tour, the 19-year-old Cape Town-based rapper, singer and song-writer sat down with AFRICA IS NOW.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m half-Congolese, half-Irish and I moved to Cape Town at the age of five, so this is now my home. My message is all about not conforming to society and breaking boundaries such as gender roles. ‘Nyota’ means star in Swahili.
When did you decide to pursue music?
I have been writing for fun since the age of 11. I recorded my first song when I was 16 (2016) and that’s when I realised that I could do this. In the same year, I participated in a competition to open for Nasty C and I won.
Tell us about your first project, The Age Of Enlightenment mixtape.
The Age of Enlightenment was my experimental phase, which is why I had 15 songs. Then I did the Purification Project EP last year (2018) in February through Redbull Studios. In the last song, Q & A, I write ‘first comes the light, then the purification’ which simply means that after enlightenment comes purification of the mindset. It’s like a sequel.
How did the Red Bull collaboration come about?
It was through someone who was recording at Red Bull Studios Cape Town and happened to like my music. They messaged me and asked me to come through, so I did and we just vibed. I developed a really good relationship with Red Bull Studios. I recorded the EP (Purification Project) there over a period of two days. They released it on their platform and wrote a few articles on me as well. I was also involved in a few of their events such as the Red Bull Surf 16 and Red Bull Lalela.
What have you been working on lately?
Tell us more about the Energy tour, held in the US.
The main motive behind the Energy tour was to branch out because Cape Town is tiny. South Africa is small and you don’t find a lot of support in Cape Town, as many people know. It’s hard to create your own platform here. It was also my mom’s (her manager) idea first. So we decided to branch out and travel because we hadn’t actually brought our music outside of the country in terms of performances and there has been a demand for it. We want to reach new audiences as well.
It was a such a great door-opener, for future events to come, especially with phase 2 of the tour happening in August/September. I really enjoyed it and I got to feel the energy that side.
How do you feel about the state of hip-hop in the US compared to South Africa?
In SA there is still a lot of unknown talent that’s not being scouted, whereas in the US they like to scout for new talent. That’s why in places like Nigeria they are moving forward – they look for new talent all the time.
Do you feel that the tour contributed to your growth as an artist?
Yes. I went to the birthplace of hip hop which was really important for me as an artist. It was also really cool to go to 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, known as Hip Hop Boulevard.
What kind of stories do you like to tell through your music?
Besides non-conformity, I don’t talk about personal stuff in my music. I would rather tell stories in the third-person. For example, in Perspective, I am talking about a girl who is being judged on things like her appearance and what she does and how that’s not her problem but rather society’s because of how we view people. It’s actually about changing our perspectives. I also speak out about not conforming to gender roles. For example, I don’t want to be labelled as a female rapper. You either have bars or you don’t. By saying ‘female rapper’ the implication is that males are the standard.
What’s your approach when it comes to picking beats and instrumentals for your projects?
I have two super loyal producers, Jay Loopz and Niner Konnekt who regularly send me beats. If I like them, I will be like ‘let’s try and do this with the beat or that’ or sometimes I just feel inspired and I write and then the beat comes afterwards. Occasionally I get beats randomly.
In one of her interviews Nina Simone says that ‘an artist’s duty is to reflect the times’. With the current political, social and economic climate in Africa in general, what are your thoughts on this?
I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s their duty. I would say for me it is. I am talking to my generation and I am responsible for spreading the right message. Music is one of the most powerful tools to reach the youth and since they are the future, it is important to spread the right message.
In SA, which producers would you like to work with?
Where do you see yourself as an artist and where do you want to take your music?
I want to take my music global. I want to inspire the masses and even inspire those who have been an inspiration to me, such as Tom Misch, Nicki Minaj, Mick Jenkins and Oshun, among others. I have actually met Niambi and the producer PRODA who did a beat for me for my song Oh My.
Which artists do you think we should be listening to right now?
Any upcoming shows?
I have one show coming up on 20 July with K.O.
We sat down with DJ InviZAble’s Earth Liaisons, Nick Matthews and Jonathan Inggs, to talk about identity, positivism, cultural appropriation, the sound of XiFi and the newly released album.
So how does this ‘Earth liaison’ gig work?
JON: We speak on behalf of InviZAble and he speaks through us…
Who is DJ inviZAble?
NICK: A mythical being who’s travelled from distant planets in the Sonarverse. He’s a refugee of Xi, who has created a new sound – XiFi.
What is the inviZAble Project?
JON: It was initially about the music and over the years, it’s morphed into a bigger creative project. So, it’s not just about the music – we have the music, the exhibition and there’s a graphic novel coming. We also built The Skorofietsie which we incorporated into the exhibition, but it’s a standalone street performance in its own right. It’s basically a sound system on a bicycle, so it looks cool.
‘We’re taking tropes of South African music and then remodelling them with a contemporary electronic style, so it’s got a unique sound to it.’
What does the project mean to DJ InviZAble?
NICK: One of the most important things that it means to me as an artist is that I get to discuss the question around identity. A masked character doesn’t exude a descriptive identity, racially, and in terms of gender and philosophical orientation, so that leaves the room wide open for interpretation, which is really important, particularly when trying to reimagine a futuristic perspective of what South African identity is.
At the moment, I see from a creative level that South Africa is dealing with an identity crisis and that’s because of its fractured past and I guess because of its diversity.
It leaves the door open for interpretation, which is really important. In a situation where a culture is trying to define itself, which is where South Africa is right now, it’s important to have that freedom of expression and to allow these new ideas to emerge. I guess that’s where I get the motivation from.
One of the biggest challenges we face in SA is still racial segregation. It also has an economic aspect to it which is one of the hardest things to overcome in order to create a more inclusive society. I guess that’s why, for example, the gig we did recently was free. I don’t want there to be any kind of price barrier for someone to experience this. I’d rather they walk away with something that they can remember, instead of trying to create an exclusive niche out of it.
JON: Just to add to DJ InviZAble’s interpretation of identity… something we all feel very strongly about is that South Africa in the last two to three years has taken massive strides. You see the rise of qgom and that kwaito and trap kind of identity. But it’s still inherently European or American in origin. It has been a case of people emulating.
Among us Africans there’s a feeling that if we create our own identity and do something ourselves, we are inherently inferior to these Western standards and styles. But South Africa is moving towards creating its own identity. You can also see that Europeans are co-opting African culture in the form of afro-house. DJs from Berlin and London are playing afro-house – and they’ve never even been to Africa! We come from Cape Town where the segregation is still very real… Joburg is a completely different story. Cape Town – which is very white, very old money and very conservative, and where the best spaces in the city are reserved for wealthy people – has now transitioned from a racial thing to an economic form of classism.
We’ve got a government at the moment that doesn’t give a damn about poor people. By engaging in this style of music and bringing the sounds of the township into the music, we are trying to make sure that we bridge that gap in some way.
The frontwoman of InviZAble, Yolanda Fyrus, comes from Khayelitsha. She’s like one of the mayors of Khayelitsha (laughs) and she’s a sangoma. When we were recording the album, we would chat about her dreams the night before and then the music came out reflecting that. So hopefully, we’ve got the backing of the ancestors.
This project and the understanding of this project and the inclusion of different elements of African culture, from beyond South Africa, has been very important. Just after the XiFi album comes out, we’ve got some of SA’s top producers remixing the album. We’re going to launch a remix album in the next two months which will include the likes of RMBO from BLK JKS, Thandi Draai, Kusasa, Jackie Queens, Kevin Ribbans, Matthew Loots and Cornelius, who’s been killing it in Berlin with the Red Bull guys. Then we’ve got some guys overseas who are going to be jumping on the project. We’re hoping to launch this album in Johannesburg. We had quite a successful exhibition at the Everard Read Gallery in Cape Town, and they’re open to us exhibiting at their Joburg gallery now.
‘XiFi is a hero’s journey. It’s about being able to overcome adversity through very normal African ingenuity.’
Can you explain what XiFi music is?
NICK: It’s based on this concept of reimagination. The impetus behind XiFi as a genre of music was to try and incorporate, let’s call it traditional music, and I mean that in the sense of folkloric narratives and stories that were put into the music. For example, iThongo Lam, which is a culturally significant traditional Xhosa song that speaks about the ancestors.
We don’t think of this as cultural appropriation and I’d really like to try and define that. We are not taking something and slapping it on something else. What we’ve done is we’ve taken that song and we’ve reworked it into a contemporary style.
We’re taking tropes of South African music and then remodelling them with a contemporary electronic style, so it’s got a unique sound to it. It’s got futurism, it’s got synthesisers and it’s dancey and uplifting, and it’s meant to move you, make you shake your booty. But at the same time, it has its roots. It’s got this story and context behind it which, for us, is very important.
JON: And it’s got respect for older traditions…
NICK: Yes, it acknowledges its roots and gives them their place. It’s not trying to do Die Antwoord; walking over a culture and pissing people off, which is their shock value. We’re not in that game, we’re in the game of positivism.
JON: XiFi is about inspiring the youth, people of colour especially. It’s about, creating your own style, being proud of your roots and where you come from. This is very much the drive for us.
PHOTOGRAPHER: CHRIS SAUNDERS
‘When I say this music is for the people, it’s not a rash statement. Most of the music that I perform is not for money, I’m playing for free.’
Tell us more about the album.
NICK: The whole XiFi album is based on a science-fiction story.
JON: Classic good versus evil…
NICK: Yes, classic good versus evil. Nothing out of the normal here (laughs). It’s pretty much in line with any alien movie you’ve ever watched. Star Wars was referenced to the ground. XiFi is a hero’s journey. It’s about being able to overcome adversity through very normal African ingenuity. For example, upcycling, repurposing, making something from nothing. Taking these things that the Western world…
JON: Ja, the throwaway society…
NICK: Yes, these things that they take for granted. Africans take those things and reimagine them. We’ll take that TV PC board and turn it into an amplifier. And we’ll be able to take that and spread our message across the continent and all over the globe. This is the kind of ethos that’s behind the album. The album is that whole story from beginning to end, so it starts with The Dream and it ends with The Celebration.
JON: We do have a meta-stab at colonialism. The main antagonist is an evil guy who’s come to conquer a rural planet and steal its resources. Obviously, you don’t have to have a massive imagination to know what we’re referring to there… the white man coming to Africa with his rifles and bibles. We portray that story in a futuristic narrative, bringing home the message that as Africans, it’s OK to stand up for yourself, it’s OK to have your own identity and it’s OK to buck the status quo in terms of imposed culture.
NICK: Moving forward from that, we now sit in a situation where we can’t avoid colonialism. It’s part of our culture. Look at all the African dictators over the past 60 years… what do they all look like? Idi Amin, who was a royalist at the end of the day. It’s not going to go away, and you can see that in terms of the aesthetic and style of InviZAble. Although it’s distinctly African, it draws from many different cultural references, not just European but also Malaysian in terms of the dress and the style and the cut. The latest outfit I wore was made by Malikah Hajee, who comes from a lineage of tailors that came to this country as slaves. We don’t have to dwell on the past, but we have to accept it.
What it comes down to is creolisation (the mixing together of different people and cultures to become one). That’s what we are going though right now. It’s a never-ending process. Even now we see that the internet has made little people all over the world think that they are massive rap stars because they have access to the internet. Likewise, we are going to have a situation on a global scale, where people will be able to identify with cultures they’ve never experienced before. Like, for example, Berlin house music.
PHOTOGRAPHER: NADEGE SANZ
What’s the significance of the colour spectrum on the cover artwork for the XiFi album?
NICK: It’s another semiotic. We went from plain primary and secondary colours to totally neon. That particular colour spectrum not only has a deeper meaning in terms of how we see the world in terms of colour, but it also has significance in a very futuristic way. When you think of neon you think of electricity, you think of Asia. It’s another one of those ways that I’ve been able to express creativity in a visual way.
JON: Stylistically, it’s been kept traditional, but it’s like the colour of the future is neon. All of these things are like adaptations of past and present and looking towards the future and what that future could be.
NICK: That’s the main focus – don’t forget where we’ve come from, don’t forget where we are, but let’s have a look where we’re going. Look behind but look ahead at the same time (laughs).
JON: I feel a Kung Fu Panda quote coming on (laughs).
NICK: We come from a post-socialist perspective. One thing that we’ve done while collaborating on this album is ensured that all the intellectual property invested belongs to the artists.
JON: We’re quite socialist in our approach, even in terms of the exhibition. Every single one of those images had been given to us by the photographers. So, we were happy to share 50:50 with them on all the sales, even though we paid for the production. It was our way of saying thank you because over the years, we’ve had photographers giving us photos because they thought our gigs were amazing. We’ve built up this incredible library of images and it’s added to the visual aesthetic of DJ InviZAble. Likewise, it’s even splits for everyone with regards to the song royalties.
NICK: Our objective is to try and uplift the people we work with – that’s our mission. At the end of the day, we’re broke musicians (laughs), but we have a sense of pride artistically. We’re doing it the right way. There’s always positive intention, despite the challenges. Even yesterday I was spitting at the windscreen because I couldn’t get something right. I had to sit back and remember that this is why I do this. For Mandela Day, we decided we were going to play music to orphans who’d probably never heard a live show. The feeling that we walk away with afterwards was just incredible.
Where are you performing next?
NICK: We’re performing on 28 October at Open Street in Observatory in Cape Town. They close off Main Road between Woodstock and Salt River. There’s a very poor community on the one side and a wealthier community on the other side. So, the idea behind this is to find a way to create a cultural intermingling; one that isn’t a capitalistic undertaking. You just come and hang out on the street and as long as you’re not riding a vehicle that’s self-powered, you can bring it along. So, I bring my Skorofietsie, I play my sound. You see these little kids staring at you as though you’ve come from another planet, man (laughs)
You’ve said that your music is for the people. Can you explain?
NICK: When I say this music is for the people, it’s not a rash statement. Most of the music that I perform is not for money, I’m playing for free. I haven’t earned any money from any of the gigs I’ve played for the last five years. As an artist, you have a massive responsibility on your shoulders which very few artists recognise. And that is the following: you are the representation of the prevailing culture of the time. You are the mirror and you have to put something out there that is going to represent that authentically. That’s what I’m doing.
An African nomad, born in South Africa and living in Berlin, DJ and producer Floyd Lavine has travelled all over the globe, but his African origins still inspire his music.
Describe your music in three words.
African. Techno. Music.
Tell us more about your music and how you decided to become a DJ and producer.
For me, music has always been a vessel to connect with people and to share experiences. I use my music to communicate and to express what I’m feeling. The reason I became a DJ is that I love dance music. I express myself better when I dance. So it was through my love for dancing that I decided to become a DJ and later a producer. It all happened organically over the years.
How would you explain African-inspired music?
When it comes to African-inspired music, firstly it’s the source (meaning its origin). Africa has a flavour and a vibe to it, it’s addictive. The groove is undeniable. And being ‘inspired by African’ means seeing Africa as a source of inspiration.
What does identifying as an African musician mean to you?
It means everything! I always viewed my self as a human before anything, but in the world that we live in we are consistently reminded by society who and what we are. I was born in South Africa and I’m proud to be African because of everything we had to overcome, just to be seen as humans. I believe being African means you should have compassion for your fellow humans. Matched with humility, strength, expressiveness, courageousness and self-worth. But you should always be open to learning.
Would you say living in Berlin has influenced your music in any way?
Living in Berlin has had a big influence on my life. I totally believe that my environment plays a huge role in my work. You are your environment and that is why it’s important to make sure that you are in a space that’s both inspiring and challenging. Berlin offers me a different viewpoint, new challenges and the opportunity to meet inspiring people.
How often do you come back to Cape Town and would you ever move back?
I come back to Cape Town once a year. Usually in December/January as this is the best time be home to visit family and see friends (and also to escape Berlin winter – I’m not built for -10°C weather!). I’m always open to the idea of coming back home, but for now, I’m still enjoying exploring the world and sharing
Tell us more about RISE.
RISE is a record label, event company and a movement. I started RISE with a collective in Berlin, our aim is to showcase quality artists that are from Africa or are influenced by Africa. We have both hosted established and emerging acts like Black Coffee, Henrik Schwarz, Black Motion and Culoe de Song. It’s a movement that’s creating a bridge between Africa and the rest of the world, showcasing interesting African electronic artists from the continent, and any act we believe is worthy or whose sound we like. We believe in releasing our music on vinyl (we are still lovers of the medium and the quality it produces) and digital. We also host events at the legendary Watergate Club, which is our home in Berlin.
What have you got planned for the rest of the year?
I had a great start to 2018 which kicked off with a mini African tour. I got to visit Angola, Mozambique and had some great shows in South Africa. In March, I started my European tour with dates in Milan and Rome in Italy, Paris in France, Berlin and Basel in Germany and in April, I did Israel and Greece as well. I have some exciting shows coming up, I have South America booked for shows and Ibiza dates. I’m also really excited that I’ll be visiting Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda for the first time. Music wise, I have new music already out this year on renowned international record labels, and I’m working on new music for RISE. It’s busy times, but exciting times. I can’t complain.
If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?
I’d have been involved in a creative field like art, fashion or film. I love creating and expressing my self.
Who are the artists you’re currently listening to?
The artists that I’m enjoying at the moment… hmmm… there are quite a few.
• Kususa, a Durban-based duo. Amazing production. Always play their stuff.
• Petite Noir is a super-talented artist.
• Nonku Phiri is class.
• BCUC – amazing band from Soweto.
• Vicmari is another Durban artist I’m impressed by.
• Jazzuelle – a top producer with an amazing work ethic.
• Super Black Tapes – Fred Buddha and t.Siza (Future Bantu Music).
• Batuk – Aero Manyelo and Spoek Mathambo’s creative collective.
• Deep Aztec is someone to watch out for. A seriously talented young man.
• Enoo Napa, just been signed to Soulistic.
• Gumz – a skilled young producer.
• Sho Madjozi is a Shangaan Rapper. Love her stuff!
Too many to mention, but I’m always on the lookout for emerging SA talent.
PHOTOGRAPH: KIKE PHOTOGRAPHY
From left: Members of RISE – Minco, Dede, Hyenah, Floyd, Walter, Griot & Jamie
PHOTOGRAPHER: FRANCOIS VISSER
STYLIST: CHRISNA DE BRUYN @ONE LEAGUE
DESIGNER: ALC MAN