Making electronic connections with Ten Cities

Club culture has not been widely researched, especially in Africa. And with electronic music taking off with increasing force in Africa from the nightclubs of Nairobi to Johannesburg, the Ten Cities project is presented as an innovative and original project on the front line of the latest urban sounds, able to locate the most groundbreaking artists of the moment and generate synergies between them.

With points in common and basic differences, the Ten-Cities team has twinned Europe and Africa in an effort to study the unique club cultures in ten different cities, drawing a sound map that reflects the creativity within the electronic music environment.

Ten Cities is a collaboration between musicians and writers to create and exchange knowledge about music and club cultures in Europe and Africa. Since 2012, about 50 DJs, producers and musicians and 23 researchers have been documenting issues like history, public spheres, dance, music and partying in five African cities and five European cities.

Ten Cities, which is organized mainly thanks to the Goethe-Institut Kenya, supported by Adaptr.org in Berlin, has chosen the cities that contribute most to modern electronic music. A broad network of collaborators will connect them during the project’s two-year span (2012-2014).

On the African side, Nairobi is the leading city of the project. Along with Cairo, Johannesburg, Lagos and Luanda, it will be connected to Europe’s electronic musical capital Berlin, and Bristol, Kiev, Lisbon and Naples.

The rationale behind Ten-Cities is the lack of information and academic research on club cultures in general, but most particularly in Africa, says Moritz Kasper, part of the Nairobian team and a German specialist in Cultural and Strategic Projects in Urban and Sub-Cultural Environments for the international cultural cooperation programs of the Goethe-Institut Kenya.

“Club culture” is “the culture connected with going out, mostly at night, and everything connected with that,” he explains. “[It] is mostly a thing of young people, always connected with drinking, often even with taking drugs, but always combined with loud music”.

“Club culture can tell a lot about societies,” he says. “Starting by the exclusivity of clubs, because it’s not a completely ‘public sphere’ — it’s always a little bit elitist when it comes to high-class clubs. You can see the segregation within a city by looking at the clubs.” Clubs can also highlight gender issues, he notes.

Soundscapes and societies differ from one country to another. In Nairobi, like in other African cities, matatus (or mini-buses) can be also be considered as part of club culture, says Kasper. Matatus, taxis and mini-buses are one of the exceptions to the “mostly-at-night culture” since loud music and even dance remain at all times of day, he says.

 

The Ten Cities project is set to conclude at the end of 2014. There will be a release of several CDs with music produced during the project’s two-year period, publication of a book, and various events to be celebrated in Berlin.

The project features prominent local musicians, including the Angolan-Portuguese Batida, Kenyan BET Awards nominee Camp Mulla, enormously popular Just A Band from Kenya, and the Lagosian Temi Oyedele. These artists represent the unique sound we can find in each of the ten cities, where scratches of Nigerian afrobeat, South African afro-house, Arabic influences from Egypt, reggae and dub from England, and Kuduro from Angola can be found.

Ten Cities preview snippet, Luanda.

By the project’s end, dozens of concerts, performances, meetings, music sessions and recordings, including hundreds of musicians and researchers, will have taken place, making Ten Cities one of the most solid projects to connect Europe and Africa through the emerging subcultures around clubs, music and dance.

While electronic music and club culture is still a tiny percentage of Africa’s urban soundscape, over the years it will probably grow, says Kasper. “The people here are extremely open and music adapts rapidly.”

 

Head image: Dokta Spizee at a Ten Cities Johannesburg Concert. Masimba Sasa.

Gemma Solés i Coll holds an M.A. in Social Science of Development South of the Sahara (URV) and graduated in Philosophy (UB). She specializes in artistic and cultural trends and urban dynamics in Africa. She serves as chief editor for the music and performing arts section of Spanish online magazine WIRIKO, of which she is the founder.

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