Big beats: a look at SA’s electronic music scene

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With the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival around the corner it’s a good time to catch up on what’s happening with electronic music in South Africa’s cities. Spoek Mathambo and Lebogang Rasethaba’s ‘Future Sound of Mzansi,’ released in mid-2015, is a documentary film that covers the emerging genres, personalities and sounds defining the country’s urban electronic music landscape.

Broken into three sections, the film takes a look at the sounds coming out of the urban spaces in SA’s major cities.

In Durban, the RudeBoyz talk about the development of ‘Gqom,’ a raw, minimalist, beat-heavy house variant that has found fans in the U.K., while rapper Okmalumkoolkat waxes lyrical about South Africa as a party nation and the influence of radio station Ukhozi FM on the music he makes.

The Johannesburg section looks at the rise of ‘Shangaan Electro,’ with interview footage from candid producer Nozinja and shows the super agile skills of the dancers that move to his frenetic sounds.

In Cape Town we meet the electronic music pioneers at record label African Dope, and hear from major players like Sibot, Markus Wormstorm and Felix LaBand about the growth in electronic music. Hailing from Nyanaga East, rap duo Ruffest give their take on the social dynamics of electronic music and how it hasn’t yet bridged the racial and class divides in South Africa and its club scene. While electronic music has not been able to fully transcend these divides, the film’s producer Spoek Mathambo is hopeful it will.

The final section of the film features DJs and producers from Atteridgeville, a township outside Pretoria, as they discuss a style called ‘Bacardi House’ — a local house hybrid, named after the liquor brand — that keeps dance floors going til the early morning. Here, the film also takes on a more somber tone, telling the story of DJ Mujava, whose hit ‘Township Funk’ made it bigger overseas than in his own country, and his time in a mental hospital after being found with marijuana.

The ‘Future Sound of Mzansi’ points to the myriad directions electronic music is going in South Africa and offers insight into the work of the DJs and producers who are defining the scene in the country’s urban centres. Watch all three parts here.

 

Brendon Bosworth is the editor of urbanafrica.net.

 

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