The Real Roots of Kwaito

(bigup This Is Africa for publishing this!)

The few times western publications have written about Kwaito and South African House, styles which have thrived for many decades, the story is almost always told in terms of a unidirectional migration of House Music from the United States to Africa.  This is problematic because 1 central factor is not only understated, but entirely missing, including from the South African voices sometimes interviewed.

This central factor is the wealth of Southern African musical traditions which was the real precedent, the main cultural lineage, the Mother (with Chicago perhaps being the Father, which might be an exaggeration) of Kwaito and SA House.

Mbaqanga, Township Jive, SA Jazz, music styles from Tsonga (Shangaan), Xhosa, Tswana, Zulu, Swazi, Venda, Sotho, Ndebele, etc., tribes, numerous other Southern African 20th Century and traditional styles, and influences from other parts of Africa, these are the true ancestors of contemporary urban electronic music.

In many classic, pre-80s South African jams you can hear the 4 to the floor kick, the consecutive high-hats (sometimes done with clapping), the off-beat snares (as opposed to on the 2), additional percussion, distinct baselines, driving chants — all elements which live on in today’s SA dance music.  Many older recordings sound almost exactly like Kwaito played on acoustic instruments:

modern Kwaito:

2 examples of unmistakeable precursors to SA house, 1 of traditional music, the other of classic Jive:

During the earliest days of new urban music in the townships, as a new wave of Afro-American and Afro-European imports landed in the form of disco and house, SA artists took a lot of inspiration from these refreshing electronic sounds, incorporating the influences and sometimes outright imitating.   Western sounds had the effect of an initial stimulant and inspiration, but its impact did not last, and soon after this initial phase, Kwaito, and a little later SA House, began to mature, and became its own thing, less and less influenced by outside sources, more and more taking ideas from indigenous Southern African musical heritage.  Eventually, as African musical roots fully manifested themselves, these genres took their rightful places in the history, the lineage, the continuum, of South African music.  Important was the shifting of rhythmic emphasis: as early as the 90s, Kwaito started to use more and more the homegrown “Dembow” rhythm pattern with offbeat snares, distinctly different from the mechanical Duple 1-2 beat of Western House.

Today, if one looks at canonical artists of SA House, those most emblematic of the genre, such as Dj Cleo, Dj Clock (most recent releases of these 2 artists excepting), Black Motion, or Dj Vetkuk, the music is clearly, much more than anything else, the descendent of deep African roots, with American or European characteristics largely left behind, almost as if it was never there.  Indeed, a very good case can be made, through analysis of musical form, that South African House is now a related but entirely different breed from Chicago House, with its own rhythm signature, its own palette of sounds, attributes, textures, and stylistic conventions; its own family tree, genealogy, and history.

Yet western journalism to this day nearly always focus entirely on the American Father, to the point of completely neglecting the African Mother.  Franky Knuckles was surely seminal (unlikelihood of the gay brother impregnating anything aside), but this influence needs to be seen in the context of a larger cultural womb rich with musical nutrients which nourished and gave birth to modern SA music, and its limits recognized.   Too much importance, as always, is given to Western exports, as if SA is only doing an African version of an American thing, as if Kwaito is only “Slowed Down US House” – a distorted view so common that it is on the Wikipedia page.  Even more extreme, This article absurdly compares the relationship of SA House to Chicago to that of the Rolling Stones to Muddy Waters, demonstrating plain ignorance and ethnocentricity. Grossly over-simplified, reductionist, and simply false claims such as these are made too frequently, perpetuating structurally West-centric points of view.  Even those with the best of intentions, such as Dj Lynnee Denise, often subconsciously take the hegemonic position, inadvertently denying Africans of cultural and historical agency.   And it is not surprising that South Africans themselves often reproduce these skewed perspectives, being a people recently liberated, and still largely in awe of everything from the wealthy people up north, often under valuing their own, in every way much more significant cultural heritage.

When it comes down to it, African Mother is much older and possessive of much larger bodies of deeper and more varied musical knowledge than American Father; the later being himself, of course, only one of her many children.

Exclusive Mix for Bomb Diggy

Bigup Bomb Diggy crew out in Amsterdam for inviting me to contribute to their mix series.

This one, a continuation from Northern Tropikal, takes us right up to the electro apocalyptic edge of the meaning of “tropical”; yet all selections, no matter how cold, synthetic, or mechanical, are driven by a prominent sense of polyrhythm, and use drum patterns derived from African percussive traditions. With a few Angolan tracks and a South African MC rounding off the mix with actual motherland sounds, Bombcast 19 seeks to express the musical and political feelings of this place (Europe) at this time, while pointing to a borderless bass future: at least 1 good thing we can all look forward to in the surely fucked up years to come.

01 Addison Groove – Minutes of Funk
02 Boddika, Joy Orbison & Pearson Sound – Faint
03 Hungry Man – Krang
04 Big Dope P – Let Me Flush Dat (Trrbo & Cat People Remix)
05 Chief Boima – Percolator
06 Untold – Anaconda
07 Untold – Bad Girls
08 LV – Zulu Computer ft. Okmalumkoolkat
09 UFO – Kiwi Mango
10 Late Que Eu Tô Passando feat. Gaiola Das Popozudas – Makossa Megablast
11 LV – Get a Grip feat. Mumdance
12 AJay D – Deep Magic
13 Dj Satellite – Bana Shilolo remix
14 Gazolina and Giovanni – Vou Te Insinar
15 T Williams – People’s Choice (F Dat Remix)
16 Major Notes – Ama Original
17 Salva – Yellobone
18 SMI – Not Ready (Instrumental)
19 Grenier – Vendetta
20 Martelo Vs Canblaster – Cannibal
21 Baobinga & ID feat. Shafique – Gun Talk
22 Dj Wilson – Noite Africana
23 Dj Wilson – Only The Beat
24 Dj Beleza – Lets Move Your Body
25 Buraka Som Sistema – Hangover (Swick Remix) (transition)
26 fr3e – I Got My Beads On (instrumental)
27 Green Money – Boomticka
28 Tickles – Call 4 Backup
29 Jusa Dementor – African Airhorn Dance
30 unknown – jjjjjjj
31 Cabo Snoop – Windeck (Arih Gold & Gil Perez Remix)
32 Cabo Snoop – Windeck

RADIO NGOMA 1-8

the first 8 volumes in this Reboot.fm radio series.  for tracklisting please go to the soundcloud pages for each show.  to download of course simply click the downward aarow on the right side of the player for each show.

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before you listen and download: how much are these products worth to you?  if possible, please make a donation.

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RADIO NGOMA 1 – Live from Krakow

RADIO NGOMA 2 - Mid Tempo Trip Around the World

RADIO NGOMA 3 - Moody Booty

RADIO NGOMA 4 - Righteousness and Rudeness (Reggae Special)

RADIO NGOMA 5 - Ancestral Rhythms

RADIO NGOMA 6 - Afro Futurism

RADIO NGOMA 7 - Global Dub Resistance

RADIO NGOMA 8 - Trans-Atlantic Rhythm Passage


Chop Chop Akwaaba Supermix!

The super awesome and diverse Akwaaba asked me to do a mix to represent the first 2 years of their existence, and it was a challenge. The releases cover a wide range of both classic and modern sounds — how was i going to move from Malian roots to African Salsa to Kwaito, Hiplife, Afro-pop, Jazz, Funk, House and Kuduro? This is what i came up with. enjoy!

01 Baro – Ahmed Fofana
(from AKW001 VA – Akwaaba Wo Africa)
02 Alou Sangare Buranke – Kana Mine Mogo Kan Man
(from AKW006 Alou Sangare Buranke)
03 Mamou Sidibe – Noumou
(from AKW004 Mamou Sidibe – Djougouya)
04 Just a Band – Tingiza Kichwa
(from AKW015 Just a Band – 82)
05 Skeat – Basimanyana mamela Meroapa
(from AKW018 Skeat – Basimanyana Mamela Meroapa)
06 Iba Diabate – Sow
(from AKW013 Iba Diabate – Mouna)
07 Appietus – Ma Alomo (featuring KK Fosu & Reggie Zippy)
(from AKW020 Appietus – The Revolution)
08 Killamu – Vai Con Calma
(from AKW014 Killamu – A Minha Face)
09 Killamu – Não aceito, não
(from AKW014 Killamu – A Minha Face
10 Michel Pinheiro – Femme
(from AKW007 Michel Pinheiro – Agoh)
11 Bradez – One gallon
(from AKW001 Akwaaba Wo Africa
12 Quabena Philip – Wadaade Me
(from AKW002 VA – Move It Chaleh!)
13 Appietus the Revolution – Essabel (featuring Old Sodja & Mike)
(from AKW020 Appietus – The Revolution)
14 Ruff n Smooth – Swagger (feat. Stay Jay)
(from AKW023 Ruff’n’Smooth – Life Is Rough and Smooth)
15 Iba Diabate – Iba Nana
(from AKW013 Iba Diabate – Mouna)
16 Jali Bakary – Combination
(from AKW016 Jali Bakary Konteh Konteh Kunda)
17 Rabbi – Wedding
(from AKW002 VA – Move It Chaleh!)
18 Skeat – Dumelang
(from AKW018 Skeat – Basimanyana Mamela Meroapa)
19 DJ Djeff feat Maskarado – Elegom Bounsa
(from AKW024 DJ Djeff feat Maskarado – Elegom Bounsa)
20 Ruff n Smooth – Azingele feat. S.K. Blinks
(from AKW023 Ruff’n’Smooth – Life Is Rough and Smooth)
21 Killamu – Melodia De Semba
(from AKW014 Killamu – A Minha Face)
22 Killamu – Flaminguinho
(from AKW014 Killamu – A Minha Face)
23 Killamu – Yuya
(from AKW014 Killamu – A Minha Face)24 Killamu – Tchilu
25 Noite e Dia – Tiramakossa
(from AKW010 VA – Akwaaba Sem Transporte)
26 Just a Band – Kaa Ridho
(from AKW015 Just a Band – 82)
27 Jali Bakary – Kelefa
(from AKW016 Jali Bakary Konteh Konteh Kunda)

NGOMA MIX 10 – Umlilo

Umlilo means fire in Zulu, and this mix takes us back to the Dirty South for a scorching ride through raw township sound. Exchanging smooth for ruff, Umlilo focuses on the connection between ghetto Rap and current Electro, between modern SA House and its Kwaito roots.

OR: STREAM: MIXCLOUD // DOWNLOAD SINGLE TRACK:  MEDIAFIRE

Futurism in Africa never disconnected at all from the body: sound design does not become a solipsistic end in itself (even though every timber and texture is perfection itslef); song form stays 100% intact in the electronic club music format; and the beats never bang on aimless and without purpose — robust machine groove reinterprets but absolutely incarnates the magic and essence of timeless rhythmic tradition.

regarding the first song:  what kind of church drops sick bass like this?? (sign me up!)

01 Dj Killer – Church Song feat. Chaka Chukwu
02 Big Nuz – Superman
03 Xavatha (Woza Chynaman)DJ Clock ft. Big Nuz, Tzozo & Sox
04 Big Nuz – Ungesabi (remix)
05 Zola – Khokhovula
06 Big Nuz – Izinja feat Tira and Tzozo
07 TKZee – Fella Kae
08 CNDO – Seducer feat. Tira & Big Nuz
09 Mgo – Yes
10 DJ What What – Unknown
11 Unknown – Woza Durban
12 Dj Sbu – Vuvuzela Bafana
13 Dj Vetkuk Vs Mahoota – Cina Feat. Dj Killer
14 Dj Skzi VS Big Dawg – Mbeleke
15 Dj Cleo – Egyptian Drum
16 B.O.P – Bop Killer [Featuring Zulu & Costa]
17 Dj Cleo – Akulalwa
18 Penny Penny & Joe – Nkosi
19 Mafikizolo – Sibongile
20 B.O.P. – Life’ Iskorokoro
21 Dj Cleo – Ndizayitya Lemali

NGOMA MIX 6 – Ukulwa

(as featured on Gen Bass and The Fader)

Framing house music, perhaps the most depoliticized of all urban musics, whose narrative revolve around unreflective pleasure seeking, in a political context may seem incredulous to some. Yet this incredulity would be based on a superficial reading of the essence of house music culture, despite what it has become in the commercial sphere: in its very inception, the escapism into a fantasy hedonistic world was an expression of the underprivileged and marginalized, and the creation of a sanctuary of acceptance was nothing less than a political act of the oppressed and discriminated against.

STREAM: MIXCLOUD // DOWNLOAD SINGLE TRACK: MEDIAFIRE

Perhaps even more than Chicago or Detriot 67, the political dimension is deeply interwoven into the urban musical fabric of South Africa, and has profoundly influenced its evolution. Zulu protest songs live on through Kwaito, the first musical expression of a free South Africa, and from there the current House culture developed: if less overtly rebellious, it nonetheless retains in its beats and voices the spirit of revolt: the urgent and passionate expression of a people who have been subjugated for too long.

The Zulu word Ukulwa means war and struggle. and in this context it can only mean a war against oppression and the struggle for freedom and independence. Apartheid may have officially ended, but its myriad effects can be unmistakably felt in a slew of social problems which plague the nation today, from crime to domestic violence as result of the break up of families, from poverty to various hardships which come from an entire generation having been systematically deprived of formal education. Thus even while many positive things are taking place, as South Africa is surely rising as a proud modern nation, even as we rejoice in these blissful rhythms, we must remember this war, and both continue, and continue to be inspired by, this struggle against domination, against injustice: Ukulwa.

NGOMA MIX 4

Continuing from NGOMA 1, this is an excursion into 100 BPM global urban bass music.

OR: STREAM: MIXCLOUD // SINGLE FILE: MEDIAFIRE

Heavy on both classic and modern Kwaito: Arthur Mafokate’s 1993 track Oyi Oyi,  TKZEE with their Kwaito offshoot style known as Guz, and the immense talent that was Mawillies (RIP), whose effortlessly powerful voice graces the track GaGu.

Also tunes from other parts of Africa: the AshThomas project and Marvelous Benji from Nigeria, DJ Rams from in Angola, and Emmanuel Jal, the Sudanese singer with the crazy personal history.

Always great to find one great Bhangra tune on too many an album of otherwise generic numbers and a little taste of classic cumbia gold. A few all time Dancehall bangers and reggaeton, oh how i wish they still made them like El General did in Panama back in the early 90s. (all of these sounds need their own NGOMA volume, yes i do realize.  thanks :)

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01 [Ghana/UK] Professor Stretch & African Headcharge – Brother of Reality
02 [SA] Tone Deaf Junkies – Fred is Dead
03 [Nigeria] AshThomas – Music in My System (MIMS)
04 [SA] Mapaputsi – Kufa
05 [Ghana] Bradaz – Hiplife Review
06 [SA] Suspects – Wash’uMkhuKhu
07 [SA] Brikz – Swimming Pool
08 [SA] Mapaputsi – Kas Lam Dub
09 [SA] Mawillies – GaGu
10 [SA] Arthur Mafokate – Oyi, Oyi
11 [SA] Busi Mhlongo  –  Yehlisan’Umoya Ma-Africa (Soul II Black Remix)
12 [SA] Bongomaffin – Way You Live
13 [SA] Zola – Ndodandoda Dub
14 [SA] Unknown – Unknown
15 [SA] TKZEE – Guz
16 [Angola] DJ Rams – Fire Nigth Tarracho
17 [India] Sangeeta – Multani
18 [US/Angola] Fat Joe – Lean Back (DJ Rams & DJ X Remix)
19 [Norway] Easy and the Center of Universe – Hamada
20 [Egypt/US] Psychobabble Dub Interlude
21 [US] Badawi – Jihad
22 [Syria] Omar Souleyman – La Sidounak Syyada
23 [UK] Subway — 44110
24 [Angola] Helder Rei – Instrumental
25 [NL/US] SDP vs DJ Lengua – Mi Camino
26 [Colombia] Chambacu – No Quiero Envejecer
27 [Nigeria] Marvelous Benji – Swo
28 [Panama] El General – Digame Cual
29 [Sudan] Emmanuel Jal & Abdel Gadir Salim – Elengwen (afroArabia)
30 [Jamaica] Cecile – Hot Like We
31 [Jamaica] Vybs Cartel – Mi Fi A Dweet
32 [SA] Middle Finga, Cozi G, Oracle Flow & Ben Sharpa – Move Over
33 [Jamaica/UK] Sarantis & Warrior Queen – Retaliate
34 [SA] Zola – Lord of Sound
35 [SA] Kalahari Surfers – Gangsta

NGOMA MIX 3

Dj-Zhao---NGOMA3_frontwhile staying in the same territory as 2, the journey is not the same, and many things make this one unique: the psychedelic motorik genius of Dj Clock’s “Durban Guitar”; the monolithic, earth shaking visions of Black Coffee; DJ Sdoko’s ominous Kraftwerkian phuture; Manya’s soul stirring take on traditonal Angolan melodies; a surprisingly wicked banger from the Dutch DJ Bigga (UK is not the only place currently Afro minded), and ending with a further reach of rhythmic diaspora: Sami vocal style from Mari Boine, reinterpreting the sound of indigenous Norway.

OR: STREAM: MIXCLOUD //// DOWNLOAD SINGLE TRACK: MEDIAFIRE

concerning the anti-apartheid and war samples used through out the mix: the struggle for freedom from colonialism is the context which gave rise to contemporary South African music: Kwaito was born amidst antagonism and bloodshed, and has led to the current house music scene. thus songs such as “100 Zulu Warriors” and the radio broadcast at the end should not be taken as an incitement of racial conflict (especially in light of last year’s wave of horrible xenophobia) but as a reminder of the political realities of the Apartheid era from which this music comes.

01 [SA] Andy X – Tech House
02 [SA] DJ Clock – Durban Guitar
03 [SA] Bantu Soul – Isgubhu
04 [SA] Blackcoffee / DJ Christos and Demor – Searching
05 [SA] Black Coffee – 100 Zulu Warriors
06 [SA] Black Coffee – Stimela (remix)
07 [SA] Thebe – Ugezi
08 [SA] DJ Fhiso – House Animation
09 [SA] DJ Clock – Move Your Body
10 [SA] DJ Clock – No Fear
11 [SA] DJ Sdoko – Boozoom Base
12 [SA] Double Trouble – Mamelodi Funk
13 [SA] DJ Tira and Bubzin – Beat Goes On (Iyo)
14 [UK] Don Haffer – Mad Fling
15 [ANGOLA] DJ Znobia – Afrosound
16 [UK] Ossie – Tarantula (inc Funkineven Remix)
17 [Peru] Novalima – Mayoral
18 [UK] DSD – Fruity
19 [UK] Footsteps – Baby Kinta
20 [UK] Roska – Tack Tiles
21 [UK] DJ Mystery – Changes
22 [UK] DJ Tremendous – Log 19
23 [HOLLAND] DJ BIgga – Boeke Anthem X [BRAZIL] Menor do Chapa – Familia Vida Loka
24 [UK] Unknown – Unknown
25 [SA] Unknown – Thumping
26 [SA] Mr Flip – The Wild Thing
27 [UK] Geeneus – Yellowtail
28 [UK] Headhunter – Birks Range
29 [SA] Shana – Uyangichomela
30 [SA] Bucie – Amadoda (Black Coffee remix)
31 [NORWAY/GER] Mari Boine – Vuoi Vuoi Mu (Henrik Schwarz Remix)
32 [SA] Dr Duda and Dr M-bee – The Gap Featuring Gina
33 [SA/US] Terre Thaemlitz / Radio Freedom (Anti-Apartheid Broadcast)

NGOMA MIX 2

The drum comes from Africa, and also techno. Here is an extremely simplified version of the lineage: slave songs – blues – gospel – jazz – funk – disco – house – techno —- the circle is complete. After all, the 4 on the floor hypnotic groove can be found in the myriad styles of African music from every era. House and techno grew up in the northern hemisphere, acquiring a character a bit removed from the rich rhythmic traditions of the mother continent. But in recent decades electronic dance music has been developing in Africa, and a new wave of club music is blossoming and flourishing.

OR: STREAM:  MIXCLOUD // SEPARATE TRACKS DL: MEDIAFIRE

History was made in 2008 with Warp Records’ release of DJ Mujava’s Township Funk in Europe, and the world is slowly coming to grips with the awesome power of African electronic music. Motherland house and techno is spreading far and wide, forming the rhythmic basis for urban bass music in the UK and elsewhere: Africanized Killer Beats on the swarm!

NGOMA mix 1

The positive side of globalization: irresistable 21st century urban music arise on every continent. India, Cuba, Tanzania, Egypt, Cape Town, these are just a few places where wild hybrid styles are born: futuristic, bass heavy and electronic, yet drawing from the wealth of local musical heritage. the NGOMA series bring the heat from musical hotspots across the known world — the wickedest beats and sweetest flows.

OR: STREAM:  MIXCLOUD // DL: MEDIAFIRE

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