Nihiloxica: A Darker Take on Traditional Bugandan Drumming
In the constitutional kingdom of Buganda – located in central Uganda in the heart of East Africa’s Great Lakes region – the people used to hold the drums in higher regards than the king. Drums were the most widely played instrument of the region and were a marker of one’s identity; you could tell a drummer’s clan by how he or she played a specific rhythm. A drum was used in nearly every activity, ceremony, and dance, and drums were played for every birth and funeral. The drums of the Kabaka, the Buganda king, were considered holy. And when women were finally allowed to play drums, it was the sign of a strict patriarchy loosening its grip. The kingdom has since embraced the sound of globalization, but the drums still serve as a sort of beloved mascot of its past.
Nihiloxica, an Afro-techno fusion group via Kampala’s Nyege Nyege Tapes label, celebrates the drum’s special place in Uganda, but with a twist. On their self-titled EP, Nihiloxica (Nii-lox-ee-ca) present indigenous Buganda drum patterns juxtaposed with blossoming techno synths. At first, the mix seems like a quaint showcase – something like a hip-hop artist sampling Johnny Cash as a gimmick rather than color – but these drums and electronic patterns soon grow louder with each other. They fight, bite, and blend into clouds of glitch. Eventually, there are no drums or synths; there is just the sound of frenzy, and suddenly, a Buganda village becomes a Leeds rave.
The result is dark, more human, and wonderful in an otherworldly way.
“A darker take on traditional Bugandan drumming. Comprised of seven percussionists, one kit drummer combined with an analog synth player. Recorded live in single takes at Boutiq Studios in Kampala, Uganda between the 26th and 29th of August 2017.”
Auntie Flo: for fans of Four Tet and Gorillaz
Auntie Flo is Brian d’Souza, a UK artist who’s been praised by The Guardian for his insightful and educational fusion of electronic and world influences. Check out his diverse body of work here.
I had never heard d’Souza’s music before, but after hearing “The Soniferous Garden,” it feels like I’ve been waiting for this kind of mixture ever since this website began – something that immediately hits you but then reveals more texture and color on repeated listens.
“Produced and arranged over an intense, collaborative two day session at the Santuri studio as part of the Ugandan Bayimba arts festival in Kampala in September 2015, the project draws on Senegalese Sabar drumming, the plaintive notes of the Adungu (a Ugandan 10 string harp) and the vocals of Gio Kiyingi, underpinned by d’Souza’s arrangements and drum programming for two tracks clocking in at a healthy quarter of an hour each.
The title ‘The Soniferous Garden’ is taken from the writings of Canadian composer and environmentalist R Murray Schafer, a concept he defines as ‘a garden or place of acoustic delights’ – an aural space of retreat from the oppressive overabundance of acoustic information that characterizes the modern industrial world.
The two compositions are a response to this idea – drawing the listener into meandering, ever-evolving themes that weave in and out of a rhythmic base that is equal parts traditional percussion and electronic production.
The title track showcases the virtuoso Adungu playing of erstwhile Burnt Friedman collaborator Hakim Kiwanuka, and vocals from regular Highlife World Series contributor Giovanni Kremer Kiyingi whilst Rainfall on red earth (inspired by the vivid colours of the landscape around the studio) pushes the talking drum of Mama N’Dieck Seck Thiam to the fore.”