Thanks to technology, the world of music has become borderless. Despite increased accessibility, there are still areas rich of music that are little known to ears in the United States of America. One of those areas is South Africa. I am making a safe assumption that most American’s idea of South African music is Die Antwoord. With their crazy live shows, off the wall antics, polarizing personas, hilarious and controversial music videos Die Antwoord has risen to stardom in the USA. As much as I enjoy Die Antwoord I wish other South African music would gain traction over here, too.
Does the American public not have the palate for South African music? This could not be true. The sounds coming out of South Africa are as much of a melting pot as the various musical cultures in our country. There is no lack of flair whether it’s a deep EDM joint or funk filled rock jam. There is an elevated intensity injected into their infectious pop songs and aggressive rap styling.
South Africa has a truly magnificent sonic landscape that should appeal to a wide range of folks.
Could the obscurity come from lack of distribution? This potentially could be the case but I’m not convinced it is the root of it. Spoek Mathambo had a record deal with one of the largest indie record labels in our country. Sub Pop released the excellent Father Creeper back in 2012. It was one of the most intriguing and innovative sounding records of the year but there was little to no press about it.
Do we need to be told by Pitchfork what is cool? Has success been reduced to novelty?
I think this is more the case than anything. Not trying to say that gimmicks are all bad, I enjoy the gimmick that Die Antwoord is pushing. That being said, I don’t understand why they are on first or second lines of festivals every year when Spoek Mathambo is a largely unknown entity that has been on the roster of one of the most popular trendsetting labels out there.
Luckily Spoek Mathambo is back at it. He is a busy man as he takes on the roles of producer/DJ/song writer/film maker. This time around he brings a new album called Mzansi Beat Code via Teka Records. This release is somewhat of a showcase of what South Africa’s music scene has to offer. Mzansi is slang for South Africa. Mzansi Beat Code celebrates the rich and diverse culture of electronic music that is little known to us.
It comes off like a Gorillaz album in terms of how many guests are featured here. There are collaborations with South African artists such as Kajama, Loui Lvndn, Langa Mavuso, Damao, Tamar, DJ Spoko, DJ Mujava, Mash.O and Jumping Back Slash. This serves as a launching pad for the uninitiated to explore other artists from Mathambo’s native country.
Mzansi Beat Code should be in the running for best dance record of the year.
My hope is that people will open their ears and minds to this goldmine of music to enjoy. I sincerely wish that people take their musical journeys into their own hands and decide what to like by actually listening to the music. There is something for everyone in this collection of songs. Fans of Monkeytown Records will feel right at home. Funk jam fiends will be licking their chops. If you’re into Die Antwoord you will appreciate the rap attacks here, too. It’s just with Spoek Mathambo no gimmick is needed. He is a straight up magician when it comes to creating music to make you move.
[Featured Image Photo by: Kent Andreasen]