Kalahari Surfers: dub rhythms meets South African punk commentary
Kalahari Surfers have been making political and satire music in South Africa since the ’80s, with composer and producer Warrick Sony leading the group for all this time. The grooves on all the tracks sneak up on you, using well-placed repetition and sound recordings. The mixture of dub rhythms and punk commentary makes this an excellent DIY South African group.
“This was commissioned by Microdot Records for their Africa in Trance series – After working on the documentary ” Ochre and Water ” director Craig Matthew gave me permission to use some of the sound recorded during that period. These were chants of the Himba people of Northern Namibia. For further information see the impressive DOXA website: www.doxa.co.za”
Tumi Molekane (now known as Stogie T.) released “Too Long” back in January, and in the following months, one of South Africa’s most popular rappers released his self-titled debut album under his new name. Tumi is a gem and an exception in rap; he’s an acclaimed and popular rapper who’s maintained a strong 10+ year long career, which is praiseworthy for any rapper in the world. If you like what you hear, check out his work with Tumi and the Volume.
It’s October, so let’s listen to Raheem Kemet‘s new song called “September.” Kemet is an MC from Durban, a coastal South African city with a thriving hip-hop scene. Kemet’s past works include a jazzy hip-hop retelling of Markus Zusak’s literary masterpiece The Book Thief with his group Tree Houses on the Sea and last year’s The Wind collaboration with Durban producer Myndphlo. Let’s hope “September,” with its excellent bass groove, means that a new album coming out soon.
Lutendo Muthala, aka King Lutendo, is a rapper, producer, illustrator, and designer from Venda, a former republic and Bantustan and now a province located in northern South Africa. His latest release, Electric Jungle, is 10 tracks of driving rap, with a sort of production that refuses to be simple. The results are compelling, Muthala is an artist I’m excited to now follow.
“I approach the way I make music the exact same way I paint,” Lutendo tells The African Hip Hop Blog, “I like for the overall sound (and not just the lyrics) to be as expressive as possible, almost like the music version of Basquiat. If I had to put it into a word I would describe the sound as cinematic. I like to imagine I’m creating art film soundtracks when I make music, with the story already told in the lyrics.”
TCIYF is a thrash punk band from Soweto, a Johannesburg township and the largest township in South Africa that, until recently, wasn’t known for producing any punk scene worth talking about.
The name TCIYF is an acronym for “The Cum in Your Face,” so you should know what you’re getting yourself into. Fans of Bad Brains and The Circle Jerks will love that most of their songs are under a minute long and that the guitars and vocals are distorted so heavily that they almost bleed into the mix. And to drive home the Ramones influence, each musician shares a fake last name: Pule Cum (vocals), Thula Cum (guitar), Toxic Cum (bass), Jazz Cum (drums), and Sthe Cum (“metal vocals”). The music is blatantly and aggressively sexual and doesn’t go anywhere near politics. Yet at the same time, it feels that the band, regardless of its youth, is aware of the politics of being a rising punk band in a South African township; the band may only care about sex and skating, but they know what they’re doing is special.
Thula Cum described Johannesburg’s punk scene to Okayafrica: “There’s a whole lot of good bands that are kicking ass, like The Moths and Hellcats. Jozi has a lot of good hardcore bands that are straight up not messing around. Chances of you coming across an acoustic guitar from a Jozi band are very small. We don’t wear sandals. We wear sneakers. And we skate, and punch each other in the face…We’re not trying to change the world. But it is going to change. It’s changing slowly, anyway. But we’re not trying to do that.”
The band’s latest release, the 3-track The Cum EP, is out now via SoundCloud.
Johannesburg artist Michael Bopape aka Miikah produces dreamy hip-hop that appeals to all music tastes. The 17-year-old South African high schooler is likened to other eclectic alternative and hip-hop artists like Kid Cudi, Raury, and Isaiah Rashad, but Miikah’s music is not so much his focus as it is his outlet for spiritual and philosophical enlightenment through modern sounds.
The eight electronic hip-hop tracks off Miikah’s NegativeXero EP, released last month, reflect Bopape’s mindset, which is trippy, heady, and beautiful. It’s incredible how an artist this young can sound so assertive, but I have no doubt that we’ll be hearing a lot more from Bopape.
A note on the EP via African Hip Hop Blog: “‘Prelude of the Compendium’ draws inspiration from 90’s alternative free wave music and curing the concept of flying in this world, bringing to light the concept of the ‘Sypabong’, a term coined by Miikah, relating to an object, emotion or abstract that is not able to exist in the current realm of existence, being too complex to occur, fathom or vibrate… This song is a plea to God to reach the frequencies which enable the youth to find their Ikigai and seek truths beyond the simple realm humans dwell on…”
Cape Town’s OBie Mavuso is a black and queer artist making a stand against the perception of alternative (specifically non-straight or non-male) artists in South Africa, and she has the songs to back her up.
The 25-year-old songwriter, filmmaker, and curator of Jam That Session and Queers On Smash, is a self-described “hip-hop soul singer” who sings over minimalist beats that wouldn’t sound out of place on The Life Of Pablo. On “Cosmic Fire,” my favorite Mavuso track so far, she sings like a mellow Laura Mvula under a Jamie xx-like beat. But her refusal to be boxed into any one genre reflects her mission to make South Africa’s very straight and very male music scene more inclusive.
“I think it’s up to me to try and change how people view the ‘alternative’ being,” Mavuso tells Okayafrica. “Power dynamics are something that the local scene is still struggling with. Change is not easy to accept, but promoters and the media can start by including a wider range of musicians and artists in their line ups and write ups.”
Mavuso describes her latest release, the three-track EP Cosmic Fire, as “A journey through my mind and being, barely making sense of things, but so aware of things that have to change, and things I can change.”