About ngomasound

NGOMA SOUNDSYSTEM a trio of DJ, Percussion, and Reed instruments, NGOMA Soundsystem fuses past and future, east and west, ancestral rhythms and hyper-modern sound. Ngoma Soundsystem connects the hottest dance music styles new and old from the Motherland and beyond with improvised rhythmic and melodic invention. Dynamic interplay of live instrumentation with dj and computer makes NGOMA Soundsystem a versatile and powerful musical entity operating against all fictional cultural borders and illusions of separation. ____________________________________________ DJ ZHAO DJ Zhao brings the best contemporary and classic dance music together from all five continents, with focus on Africa. With in depth selections spanning wildly different times and places, DJ Zhao’s remix and mashup work directly connects "East" and "West", acoustic and electronic, traditional and hyper-modern. Amateur ethno-musicologist and professional booty shaker, Zhao is an International Ambas...sador of BASS not only talking about, but demonstrating through raw sound experience, the underlying unity of all earth cultures. Performing solo and as part of Ngoma Sound-system with Cuban Trumpeter El Congo (Tony Allen, Jimmy Tennor) and various amazing Percussionists, DJ Zhao brings unique perspectives and vision to every event, and has performed or shared bills with artists such as Shangaan Electro, Konono No. 1 (Congo), Rhythm and Sound (DE), Cooly G (UK), Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou (Benin), Shackleton (UK), Pan Sonic (Finland), etc. Born and Raised in Beijing, China, and active as DJ and sound curator in the US since 2000, Zhao has organized critically acclaimed long running events focusing on Improvisation and Sound Art as well as Techno. After relocating to Berlin, Germany, and starting the Ngoma collective, Zhao has been performing regularly at clubs and festivals including: FESTIVALS: ____________________________________________ Fusion Festival (DE) EXIT Festival (Serbia) Incubate Festival (NL) Solar Weekend Festival (NL) Ethnoport Festival (PL) [UN]Defined Festival (Merano, Italy) AT.Tension Festival (Berlin, DE) CLUBS: ____________________________________________ Berghain (Berlin, DE) Horst (Berlin, DE) Cassiopeia (Berlin, DE) Jackie Terrasse (Berlin, DE) YAAM (Berlin, DE) Klub K (Heidelberg, DE) UT Connewitz (Leipzig, DE) Palác Akropolis (Prague, CZ) ____________________________________________ booking: ngomasound@gmail.com

Life in the Trap


Baauer and RL Grime trapping fraternity kids

On a train going through the Czech Republic, random young Swedish travelers enthusiastically told me of their love for Trap music.   Kids in Ho Chi Minh City are turning the f*** up to Trap.   Vice magazine made a documentary about Trap music and the ghetto streets from where it came.  

“Trap” used to be slang for crack-houses where dealers “trap” their clients, as well as the business of selling cocaine, as in the “trap game”.  By the mid-2000s, the word came to also refer to underground Southern Hip Hop about drug-dealing, from poverty stricken neighborhoods in cities such as Houston, Memphis, and Atlanta.  Related and often interchangeable with Crunk and Dirty South, Some of the earliest, biggest, and best proponents of this sound are Three Six Mafia, UGK, Geto Boys,  Lil Jon, and Master P.  Later came artist/dealers such as T.I., Young Jeezy, Gucci Mane, and Waka Flocka Flame, who further defined the genre, and consolidated its now classic signature elements of distinctively slowed down boom-bap, extended bass lines, frenetic 808 hi-hats, ominous synths, sluggish and menacing rap, and of course lyrics about gangsterism and thug-life. 

But the term did not gain over-ground notoriety until a new electronic offshoot came on the scene: largely instrumental, polished, beefed-up, and very bassy: an over produced and bro-ified version of ghetto music with the black voices often omitted or consigned to mere decoration, made for rich kids to blast in the new cars daddy bought them.  New EDM-Trap is entirely based on the musical structure and sound of Southern Gangsta Rap, but grafts onto this template the machine muscle of Bro-Step, stadium Electro-Rave sound effects, and often the epic emotional moments of commercial Vocal-Pop.

As i hear this cartoonishly pumped up sound of sublimated aggression quickly spread and blow up all over the world, I think of the slums in US cities where black lives are cheaper than cocaine, and don’t matter at all.  As i look at the biggest EDM-Trap Artists in the world today (nearly all white) making millions, I think of prison sentences, of broken families, of single mothers raising kids alone on minimum wage jobs.  As i watch videos of Trap parties in stadiums full of students drenched in Tequila “raging” hard, I think of the impoverishment, marginalization, and criminalization from which this music comes.

These are the thoughts on my mind as i witness the music of people neglected, robbed, tortured, and exterminated by mainstream society is stripped of its original context, reduced to meaningless swagger, and even becoming soundtrack for the corniest Disney-Pop: perfectly retrofitted for mainstream society.  Gavin Mueller in Jacobin Magazine makes a good point by calling New School EDM-Trap “adult contemporary for the prosumer age“:

By dispensing with the rapping, EDM-Trap effectively silences the black voices that kept the style connected to the stories of the American lumpenproletariat. It’s the auditory equivalent of kicking out a poor family so you can live in their classic brownstone.

But I also love Trap music, both the original Dirty South variety, and even a very discerning selection of the new school, for some of the same reasons that rich white kids do.  Here I would like to defend this vicarious consumption:

Many critical theorists have extensively described how modern society deprives citizens of both a sense of adventure, as well as of intimate social connections within closely knit communities.  To people locked into a predictable life of school, employment, and retirement, their everyday existence a dull cycle of work, consumption, and sleep, the life of the criminal is the exact opposite, and captivating in ways their own lives can never be.  This is why suburbanites mimic the style, language, attitude and posture of inner city gangsters.  Similarly, listening to Trap music reproduces a feeling of danger, of intensity, of life and death urgency, and allows people who live safe and boring lives to briefly approximate a feeling of adventure.  Hood music is also a narrative of clandestinity, of trust, of honor, of unbreakable familial bonds, of real friendship and real enmity with very, very real consequences — a sense of true community which the comfortable classes entirely lack.  When a real loss of agency and immediacy is assigned to the middle and upper classes, whose existence consists of tedious complacency and suffocating security, it of course isn’t morally wrong for them to try to fill this emptiness.  This is why in ultra-wealthy and squeaky clean Zurich, Switzerland, a city with virtually no crime, there is a popular club-night called “Trapped”, with themes such as “Prison Break”, where Djs play only Dirty South Hip Hop songs about incarceration.

Additionally, there are concrete reasons why this music has such world wide appeal in 2015, and resonates with youths everywhere.  Trap is perhaps the most direct reflection of our times, where young people face grim personal prospects in a diminishing job market, amidst escalating economic, political, and environmental crisis.  Trap music exactly mirrors the coldness, meanness, brutality, abjection, dehumanization, and desperation of late capitalism.  Extending what Young Jeezy said about the rap game being the same as the trap game: the trap game (selling drugs) is a microcosmic facsimile of macrocosmic capitalism.  Reality in the hood, a cycle of addiction, suppliers, gangs, crime, police, and prisons, all part of a system designed to sustain this process, is a perfect miniscule model of reality around the globe, where powerful states destabilize resource-rich regions, administer political and physical violence, and manufacture terrorism, while arms manufacturers make trillions, and corporations exploit the global South, devastating the natural environment.  Trap music comes from a visceral experience of survival on the love-less streets, but is a mirror image of the world at large: a neo-Darwinian nightmare in its rawest form.

Mainstream white appropriation of underground black music is nothing new, but at this historical juncture, “Trap” uniquely takes on a much bigger significance, and becomes a perfect metaphor for capitalism itself. “Trap” encapsulates both capitalisms’ ruthlessly competitive aspect, as well as its alienating effects, where consumers are completely disconnected from the context, origin, and meaning of cultural products.  From the same Jacobin piece cited earlier:

listeners… don’t always understand the history or sociology of their genres. They don’t have to: when music becomes a commodity, it can travel worldwide, as all commodities do, severed from any knowledge of the conditions of its production. Genres cease to be grassroots social worlds, and instead become something more like brands: mere sonic surfaces rather than deep historical processes.

So, we are all locked in this perverse consumer capitalist trap, where the art of society’s victims provide an outlet for the frustrations of those who benefit from, but are at the same time stifled by, the same system of victimization.  It is not necessarily a problem in itself for middle or upper class people to enjoy or take part in the culture of the disenfranchised, because both groups are caught in the same trap, only positioned at opposite ends.  But there is a certain amount of responsibility for those of us who do, to at the very least acknowledge the disenfranchisement, the inequality, and the tragic social circumstances the music came from.  Further, we should try to connect the hidden dots and gain a degree of understanding of the racist, oppressive, and exploitative realities that gave rise to Trap; and perhaps allow such knowledge and understanding to influence the life decisions we make.

Sat: Savane / Sun: Rename

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 5.06.57 PMJoin us for ECK IM SAVANE at Promenaden Eck on Saturday night for a special night of Cosmik Grooves from the Motherland and beyond. The collectiv Tropical Timewarpwith BestMate? and Bela Patrutzi will heat things up with their impressiv vinyl collection and will give service with an Afro beat – Afro funk mix then Léon Leon from FINOW ZOO and dj zhao will take us deep into the night with their multi-dimensional drum science.

8:00pm – 5:00am
Promenadeneck Schillerpromenade 11, 12049 Berlin, Germany

Mstr.RenameAnd on Sunday, we come together for Umbenennungsfestival (renaming festival),on the block where the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884 took place, to enjoy the afternoon and agitate for refugee rights, against Pegida, and the changing of the historic “Mohrenstr.” (N***er Street) to “Nelson Mandela Strasse”. There will be many speakers and artists, and like last time i will contribute with a dj set and a talk on Culture as a Global Process and Dismantling Eurocentricity.

2:00pm – 8:00pm
mohrenstr, berlin 10117 Berlin, Germany

First meme ever / Autumn in Uganda


So that’s the first meme i’ve ever made, hope it goes “viral” :)  What do you think?  GF thinks it’s too “polarizing”, but i think it’s kind of a necessary illustration of the false dichotomy.

Also, for the entirety of the month of October I will be touring in East Africa:  mostly Kampala and Nairobi, playing at festivals and clubs, and working with local musicians. Super excited!!!


Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 16.57.01

Expanding the boundaries of club music, CLUBLAB explores borderless poly-rhythms and infinite bass, and investigates the fragmented soul of the polymorphous planetary underground.

in the Function-One equipped cave of our favorite Kreuz-Koln dive we swim in the most crucial vibes of today and tomorrow: Chicago, London, Joburg, Jersey, Luanda, Berlin.

Bass, Juke, Club, Jungle, Acid, House, Kuduro, Dub.


Words (Futurisms, Berlin)
dj zhao (NgomaSound, BeiJing)
Special Guests (Surprise)

Friday // July 24 // 11:00pm
Normal Bar // Forsterstrasse 46, 10999 Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany

FREE before midnight

Working Links / Afro House Xperience / Fusion Photos

Big thanks to all who have generously donated toward getting the Soundcloud back up, but i will need a bit more time…  Soon hopefully!  In the mean time, I’ve updated all the posts with working Mixcloud streaming and download links.  Let me know if i missed any!

This Friday is the AFRO HOUSE XPERIENCE! we will bring the freshest, funkiest electronic music from the Motherland! (I don’t even like calling it “house” because in terms of form most of it doesn’t actually have much to do with Chicago at all — much more polyrhythmic and groovetastische)AfroHaus

And Fusion was as epic freaky fun as ever!  (but this year seemed to feature even more music from the global south).  P1040959 1658263_10153027829528546_3259819137898563999_oP1040962P1040979R P1040994Q P1040972

Acid Machine Temple


I’ve always loved Acid. Not only due to the squelchy palette of the misused TB303 being, for reasons i can not articulate (related to liking the smell of petroleum??), so endlessly delicious, sexy, and addictive, but also because Acid House and Acid Techno, ever since the beginning, have always been more overtly and unabashedly polyrhythmic than their bigger stylistic cousins.

Acid Machine Temple by Djzhao on Mixcloud


The 303 lines often hit the spot in the 4/4 rhythmic pattern left missing in most other House and Techno, but which is a focus point in African House: the 3.5 or thereabouts. Add to that the basslines often emphatically replicating the Clave pattern (signature of Afro-Cuban music) and hyperkinetic snares flying everywhere, we have probably the most percussively rich genre of “Western” contemporary electronic music.

African music lovers, if you doubt what i am saying, just jump to minute 22:00 mark, and if in the next 15 minutes you are not convinced, all money back guaranteed.

Techno heads, let this mix remind you that techno and house are indirect but unquestionably descendants of ancient rhythmic traditions, drawing from the bottomless well of African sciences of the drums.

01 Etcher – Pelican Nebula (Afro Augmentation)
02 Kenneth Kirschner – 070798
03 Nax Acid – Flying Higher
04 Underground Resistance – Electronic Warfare (Oz Speaks)
05 Luigi Acid Machine – Improbable Concept
06 Versatile – Before The Interrogation
07 Photodementia – Synovium
08 Emmanuel Top – Foreigner
09 Redshape – Goom (Bonus Beats)
10 Emmanuel Top – The End
11 Innume – Right Down
12 Snuff Crew – Joy of Jealousy
13 Basic Soul Unit – Rhythm No.1 (Justin Longs Acid Peel Version)
14 Jack Murphy – 4MT
15 Willis Anne – The C Track
16 Matrixxman – Stop It
17 Levon Vincent – Love Technique
18 Sendex – Just Dance
19 Mantra – What Do You Call It
20 Hieroglyphic Being – Inconsistent Measure
21 Jared Wilson – Detroit Tracks 7.5 (Polykicks Edit)
22 Close – Beam Me Up (feat. Charlene Soraia) (Scuba Hercules and Love Affair Remix)
23 Syntheme – XWC
24 Snuff Crew – Control
25 Jerome Hill – Dustbin Acid
26 Swere – Swere
27 Cassegrain – Task (TM404 Remix)
28 Alien Rain – Alienated
29 Function – Psychic Warfare
30 Donato Dozzy & Say Dj – Titto Positivo
31 Function – Variance (Ch-Signal Laboratories Edit)
32 Eomac – Yóu Hún Ye Gui

NGOMA 21: دبكة — Syria For Ever


In Gaziantep, an old Turkish city on the Eastern and Southern Most part of the country, bordering Syria, i had the fortune of meeting 2 Syrian young men who were involved in the initial student and popular uprising, part of the so-called “Arab Spring”.  They were among the most charming, intelligent, funny and friendly guys i’ve ever met, and had become wanted men and refugees, one of them with a price on his head, hiding out in Turkey.  They told inspiring and harrowing stories of the spontaneous peaceful demonstrations against the oppressive Assad regime, how it kept going in the face of brutal repression by police and military.  And of how the government, in 2011, released thousands of jihadists from prison, while the revolutionary political prisoners stayed in captivity and continued to be tortured, in order to dilute the rebellion, to brand the opposition as extremists, and create a false choice for the population, of either government or fundamentalism.  Shortly after that, the US backed jihadist group known as ISIS or ISIL infiltrated, and the country has been steadily torn apart by violence, its infrastructure crippled, its glorious ancient cities destroyed, creating multiple and massive humanitarian nightmares.

In addition to first hand accounts of these events, one of these guys also gave me a collection of amazing contemporary Syrian Debkah, a modern dance music with ancient roots, very popular in many parts of the Middle East.


In these extremely trying times, and when news media coverage of the country is filled with nothing but tragedy, let us never forget the incredible cultural wealth of Syria, and the powerful, beautiful majesty of Syrian music.


The only exposure to Dabkah in the West in recent years has been Omar Suleyman, whose popularity might be due to the rough and simplistic aspects of his music being appealing to “alternative” music fans, or maybe it’s just luck.  In Syria he is considered an unimportant and low level musician, something like an ignorant redneck.  But he not only makes sub-standard Dabke (I’ve realized after listening to the music on this mix), but has also dedicated one of his songs to the Assad regime, and never once spoke or sang about the struggles of the Syrian people, living a wealthy life in Turkey.  Even though one of his tunes appeared in NGOMA 04, I will likely not be playing much of his music in the future.

Paris and Toulouse

Friday, June 12at 11:00pm – 6:00am
Le Malibv — 44 rue Tiquetonne, 75002 Paris, France

UMOJA (INI Movement / Piri Piri Music ; Amsterdam)

Around The World (Paris)

dj zhao ( NGOMA SOUND Berlin / Berlin)


June 14 – June 15 Jun 14 at 12:00pm to Jun 15 at 12:00am

Jardin Monplaisir 1 Bd Monplaisir, 31400 Toulouse, France
☀ Dimanche 14 juin – Midi-Minuit – Jardin Monplaisir (centre ville) ☀

ZHAO – [ALL / Berlin] – (Ngoma Sound)
RAFAEL ARAGON – [FRA / Paris] – (Caballito / Latino Resiste)
DJ NO BREAKFAST – [FRA / Tlse] – (Guachafita)
YEAHMAN! – [FRA / Tlse] – (Ghetto Sonido – Muundial Mix)

par le Collectif Volubile ( Ambre Caziers / Loren Coquillat / Pauline Lavergne / Cassandre

► PONG 1D & LEVITATION ◄  http://fauxdepart.com/
►FRAGILE !◄  http://kinourendfou.wordpress.com/
► FRESQUE ◄  http://www.donoteat.fr/Munoz / Agathe Thevenot & guests)

Bayreuth (DE) Sat. 30.05.2015

Mashup, an exhibition of artworks by contem- porary artists from Africa generated during the research and exhibition project Mashup the Archive at Iwalewahaus in Bayreuth, Germany.

It’s nice to get booked for the core of what i do. Will be playing alongside many very talented artists such as Miss Eve, Otieno Gomba, Délio Jasse, Raphael Kariuki, Nita., Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi, Simon Rittmeier, Kevo Stero, Pamela Sunstrum, and Uche Uzorka.

and last weekend Karnival was fun…



DeathcloudAs I’m sure many of you have noticed, 99% of my uploads on SoundCloud have been hidden.  This is because the price of an “unlimited account” has gone back up to 89 Euros a year, and i just can’t afford it at the moment.

It is bad timing as i have many finished mashups and edits i’ve been wanting to upload for quite some time, and was about to sit down and make time to do it. There are also several big big mixes coming soon, including Syrian Debkah, Classic Colombia, Acid Techno, and a beautiful Fusion 8.

If you would like access to all the older sounds again, and hear the new ones on SoundCloud which makes download possible, feel free to make a donation via the paypal button on the home page (top right), or just click HERE.

As soon as there is enough funds i will renew the subscription.  Thanks.

Aztek Digital


Pre-Hispanic indigenous rhythm roots, influence from African sciences of the drum, Shamanic sounds from atop the Peruvian mountains and deep in the Amazonian jungle… These describe parts of this new electronic music known loosely as Tribal Guarachero. This mix comprises of mostly music from Mexico, where the original sound was born, with some tracks from Central, South, and North America, and Europe.

01 David Amram & Friends – Andes Breeze
02 Malandro – Chmuk Aak’ab
03 Elias Deepman – Vabu the Cat (Alejandro Villanueva Remix)
04 Rafael Aragon – Selvadelica (Bounce)
05 Mexicans With Guns – Cool Arrow
06 Farrapo & Yanez ft. Botecoeletro- Oliveto (Thykier Remix)
07 French Fries – Laquisha Dub
08 Antae – Alma (Freddy Da Stupid Jungle Mix)
09 Mexico Caliente – Bloodshake
10 Systema Solar – Oye
11 Joe Arroyo – La Tortuga (Jose Marquez Edit)
12 Santos – San Cristóbal
13 The Peronists – Nazca Lines (final mix)
14 Stereo Revuelta – Organ of Love (Stereo Revuelta Refix)
15 Dj Javier Estrada – Afrimaye Kuduro
16 Estrellas Del Caribe – El Yoyo X Offshore – Mintla
17 Petrona Martinez – El Critica (Maga Bo Remix)
18 Lechuga Zafiro – Isla de Flores (Rafael Aragon Remix)
19 TrikoO Dj – Danza De Los Aztecas (Prehispanic Drums)
20 Bongo Laser – Ovniton
21 Goia Tterkreis & Steve Kasper – Pull Kali (Rooted Dub)
22 Nguzunguzu – El Bebe Ambiente
23 Dj Rogelio Huerta – Espiritu Mohana (Prehipanic Rescuers)
24 Dj Rogelio Huerta – Moctezuma Xocoyotzin
25 Mixer Javier Bernal – Ezpektro
26 Javier Estrada – Prehispanic Future
27 Javier Estrada -Samba Mi Negra
28 Alan Rosales – Arremangala
29 Sharps – Lagrimas y Historias
30 Dj Javier Estrada – I Want You
31 Dj Rescate – Relax Tranquilidad