Grounded in the rhythmic traditions and tonal language of North Africa and the Middle East*, Djinn Bass fuses Sufi Ritual Music and Club Beats, Sacred Egyptian Hymns and Abstract Dub, Classic Rai and Dubstep, Turkish Taqsim and Tech House, Moroccan Chaabi anthems and Tribal Electro. Ouds, Flutes, and Darbukas mix and blend with electronic pulse; vocal refrains underpinned by digital bass, sometimes chopped, looped, and dubbed out. Decidedly anti short-attention-span, as the FUSION series have increasingly become, the tracks are long because duration is essential for the ecstatic and immersive nature of this music.
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.
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.
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.
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!