Feature: African House
I don't really 'do' football. I mean, I love to play and run around and kick people, but not many other people like it when I try. And so, in light of the World Cup starting this week, I thought I'd do a li'l swot up on something not-really-football-related in Time Out, but definitely related to its host: South Africa. The biggest scene there are the moment is African house, which sounds happy and driving (shove that in your tech-hole Hawtin) and some of my favourite LDN DJs, Radioclit and Sinden, told me all about it. Ah, in't that nice?
The whole darn thing is right on this link. And all Secousse pics have been taken by the fabulous snapper and writer Dave Swindells.
An edited version of this article appeared in Time Out, June 10-16 (Issue 2077)
As all eyes turn to South Africa this week for the football festivities, for many it’s the continuing aural delights of its township music scenes, buzzing with vibrant urban club beats, that are the main attraction.
Countless African styles have found an adopted home in hipster Western indie bands and electro acts, but this summer some of London’s savviest DJs are looking instead to South Africa’s exploding house movement for inspiration.
The one official compilation here that represents the sound, the recently released ‘Ayobaness! The Sound of South African House’, gives an overview (in that scene-defining Soul Jazz-led tradition) of just how enormous the music is there, having soaked up the domineering township club genre of the ’90s, kwaito. ‘The local house beat is a modern symbol for a country that has reinvented itself,’ says compiler George Milz in the introduction, while further down the sleeve notes, one of the biggest SA house names, DJ Cleo, talks of how you’ll hear African house at ‘election campaigns and government functions’.
In London, the genre is nowhere near as popular – we can’t see David Cameron entering a conference to the sound of Zulu rapping just yet – but it’s there and bubbling. You may remember DJ Mujava’s kwaito-infused track, ‘Township Funk’, which became a massive club hit in 2008 and is still the only real African house track to have a widespread release in the UK (he hasn’t had another single here since).
However, DJs like French-Swedish duo Radioclit (aka Etienne Tron and Johan Karlberg) and Kiss FM host Sinden – both of whom, coincidentally, remixed ‘Township Funk’ – are certainly bringing African house music to wider attention. Radioclit have been throwing monthly club night Secousse since 2008 and it’s still one of the only places in the capital to dance to the African house beat. Since then, though, some of the other parties at its home, Notting Hill Arts Club, such as Future World Funk, have also started to welcome the sound. What’s more, a few of the more well-known African house producers, such as Cleo and Black Coffee, are now visiting London sporadically too.
[caption id="attachment_481" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="The party at Secousse © Dave Swindells"][/caption]
Likewise for Sinden, African house has been infiltrating his sets for some time and, although his latest (World Cup) mix for Nike and Fader focuses on European talent, previous efforts have seen him mash-up tracks from African house producers like DJ Sdunkero.
So, if this is your first encounter with this exciting strain of house music, here’s our (and Radioclit and Sinden’s) guide. Post-World Cup, we hope you’ll be hearing it on the dancefloor a lot more.
What it sounds like
Sinden ‘African house takes US dance music like Chicago house, but puts its own traditional African influences on it, from its rhythms to the vocals, and comes up with something quite different. It’s [mostly] about sunshine and good times and it’s very uplifting – the chords progressions can be euphoric.’
Etienne, Radioclit ‘It’s the warmest of house music – they really love deep house – and so refreshing because it’s usually quite happy, like a lot of African music. It’s interesting because, 15 years ago, African house was very influenced by European music and now the opposite is happening: European house is badly in need of new influences and they’re looking to Africa. The biggest house music scene is definitely in South Africa in terms of audience and energy, but there are lots of dance music scenes in a lot of other places: Ivory Coast, Congo and Sierra Leone are all very lively.’ How you can hear it
Etienne, Radioclit ‘I found my first DJ Cleo record in Sterns Music [which used to be on Warren Street], which is only a website now. I am quite grateful to those guys, because it’s really hard to get African house mp3s or CDs. You can find a few videos on YouTube, but that’s about it. There aren’t any proper music blogs in Africa, because they used to have a really shit internet connection. But, as I understand, that’s going to be massively improved over the next two years, which is going to help the music invade America and Europe and, for DJs like me, it will be way easier to find a lot of the music.’
Sinden ‘The best place to get these mp3s legally is from one African music site, Afrodesia, but you have to trawl through it as they have all kinds of African music styles on it.’
Where to dance to it
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZ2LoeWJPGA&feature=related Etienne, Radioclit ‘We do a party called Secousse in London, which we have also started to do in Paris. We are also doing a series of compilations called “The Sound of Secousse”, the first volume of which I’m working on right now and it’s dedicated to African dance music. As far as I know, there is no [club] properly dedicated like Secousse [in London]. We realised that if you’re African, you most likely go to an African club night in your area, so the challenge with Secousse is to try to being people together, because nobody really mixes it up anymore.’ Other places to check out include deep Afro and house night Tribe and Afro-influenced venue Passing Clouds in Dalston.
The African DJs
Etienne, Radioclit ‘DJ Cleo is the biggest; he’s very famous. But one of my favourite producers is Mujava. He’s is probably seen as a one-hit wonder, but he’s just done an amazing remix of Rye Rye’s track “Bang” for MIA’s label. I’m trying to get it for my compilation.’
Sinden ‘In the last six months I’ve really gotten into a DJ called Sdunkero, who did an amazing track called “Tops Off”. It’s very stabby, like a Euro-house track, but the video is total “cruise style”, where they are just laying by a pool with girls in bikinis.’
The London DJs
Etienne, Radioclit ‘Our newest Secousse residents, DJ Mo-Laudi and DJ Mo, are both from South Africa and they’ve been pushing those sounds to us a lot. The UK funky scene in England has a really big African sound to it too; a lot of it has the same vibe.’
Sinden ‘A lot of new underground dance music at clubs like Night Slugs, especially funky, has those African patterns. It fits in really well with the new UK funky/post-dubstep-y/garage-y stuff. There's a group called Deep Teknologi, who have tracks like “Afrik”, which are like British versions of kwaito, but on that cold, rolling, dark funky dance tip.’
Radioclit’s ‘The Sound of Secousse: African Dance Music Anthems’ is out in September on Crammed. The next Secousse is July 2 at Notting Hill Arts Club. ‘Ayobaness! The Sound of South African House’ is out now on Out Here. Sinden’s Nike x Fader mix is available now and he plays at Get Me! x Nike (RED) at The Camp on Thur June 10. The next Tribe is at Corsica Studios on June 25.