2017 Recap: My Top 20 Underground House Music Releases
The year 2017 was yet another good year for the underground house music scene in Southern Africa. We saw the first ever Dance Music Awards South Africa (DMASA) take place and though they were received with mixed reactions, they’re a huge leap in the right direction for dance music as a whole within the region. Being an avid listener of music, especially house music, I decided to recap on some of the standout releases from the year that has dusked on us.
Myazisto – Colors Of Sound EP
Label: Get Loud
A debut release of Ta-Ice’s recently re-established label, this thumping 3 track EP by Cape Town born Yazie Kongela aka Myazisto kept me captivated throughout the first quarter of 2017. Though Lublin is my favourite, it seems the Naked Truth remains the people’s favourite as it peaked at No. 25 on Traxsource’s Deep House Top 100 chart.
Gabbana – Doves & Butterflies
Label: DeepTribe Music
When Gabbana dropped this project I was still bingeing on the Eleutheromania EP. I was thoroughly enjoying it, which is why I copped Doves & Butterflies with no hesitation. Filled with his signature sound, pulsating bass lines and dubby vocal samples, Doves & Butterflies remains one of Gabbana’s best works to date. If I had to choose, I’d pick The Sweetest Vulgar as my favourite but there’s little to separate it from Love Arp In The Ghetto in all honestly.
Sir LSG Feat. Ayanda Jiya – Sandcastle
Label: GOGO Music
What do you get when a soulful house maestro and a RnB sensation cross paths? I believe the answer to that would be Sandcastle. Released as the lead single off Sir LSG’s debut album – Moving Circles – Sandcastle classic morning jams that set the tone for a productive day. Ayanda’s vocal prowess is felt all over Sir LSG’s well orchestrated soul filled instrumental. The release is well-complimented by remixes from Grammy nominated singer/songwriter/producer/musician Josh Milan. The singles music video adds a whole lot of flavour to the release.
Eddvin – Remember EP (Incl. Remixes)
Label: Just Move Records
Formerly known as Ed Menzo, Eddvin steps up with a blissful deep slow bomb that is Remember EP. The title track – Remember – is one of those deep and dark cuts with a rhythmic vocal that echoes, “Do you remember?” The remix by Dwson offers a harder kick that gets your head bobbing immediately. Acid Trip is a self explanatory track, it sounds and feels like a trip and the remixes by Sand Isle and Shervaan Bergsteedt slowly take me into a melodic trance.
Sir Rizio – Pitch Black EP
Label : AfroMove Music
This EP marked my introduction to the talented young marvel from the Vaal, Sir Rizio – born Sizwe Masuku. A 6-track deep house EP packed with dance floor fillers, melodic upper cuts and knockout kick & bass lines. Solitude and The Other Side are my stand out picks from this release. He followed up with another ear-catching release titled Imagine EP on Gruv Manics Digital SA and I look forward to hearing more in the new year.
Kat La Kat – Strange Signals EP
Label: Swedish Brandy Productions
One of the nominees for Best Underground Record at the 2017 DMASA, Strange Signals EP is reflective of Kat La Kat’s perversely iconic deep sound when behind the decks. Arguably, one of the best underground deep house DJs in South Africa, Pretoria-born Kat La Kat made sure this 4-track EP cements his place right at the top of the underground. All 4 tracks are of top production and engineering quality, I fail to pick a favourite.
Jay Em – The September Blueprint
Label: Stay True Sounds
These two brothers – Waven and Ruwayne Sebia – from Port Elizabeth are a DJ and production duo swept my feet off when I first heard Kwibo. The single was first debuted on Kid Fonque’s Selective Styles on 5FM then dropped by Jullian Gomes on one his sets. By the time The September Blueprint came out I had back tracked to some of their previous releases. A mesmerising sound that borders house music in its 4/4 rhythm but is filled with influence from funk, soul, pop and RnB with a hint of UK garage. My favourites off this stellar release are Kwibo and Tell A Story. However, You & Me and The Beginning aren’t far behind in a race that would leave soulection fans entranced.
Secret Souls – Cryptic Clues EP
Label: Antidote Music
Listening to this EP resembles taking a journey through space and time – not that I’ve ever travelled through space and time. Filled with cosmic sounds, shuffling snares and hi-hats with jazz subtleties here and there, this 5-track deep house release has one word that can adequately describe the effect felt by the listener – cinematic. Computers Dream of Encrypted Quatisation Errors and Fresh Pick are my favourites off this release by Swazi-born group of producers – Secret Souls.
Matt Prehn & Griffin – Expressions EP
Label: Large Music
London-based Cape Town-born Matt Prehn teams up with Griffin to deliver an eargasmic two track EP titled Expressions. Do What You Want, one of the two songs on this release, is charted 53 on Traxsource’s Deep House Top 200 of 2017. Matt Prehn also grabbed the honour of being ranked 61 on Traxsource’s Top 100 Deep House artists of 2017.
Lunga SA – Azanian EP
Label: Audio Arque Records
Lunga Mamabalo aka Lunga SA is one of my favourite rising stars with the Southern African underground house music scene and it is largely because of the Azanian EP. Apart from the well-composed deep house jams rendered by Lunga SA in this EP, the definition of Azania maintains my love over and above just the music. My favourite on this one has to be Sweet Azania. For added pleasure, make sure to play Azanian EP on a super-subbed quality sound system.
Floyd Lavine – Masala EP
Label: Rise Music
A curtain-raising releasing from Floyd Lavine’s recently founded label Rise Music, the release dabbles between afro house and tech house. The Berlin-based and well-travelled South African completes this EP with thrilling remixes from David Mayer and Pablo Fierro – which went on to be charted No. 137 and No. 1 on the Afro House Top 200 of 2017 by Traxsource, respectively. A definite dance floor filler and hip mover this release has set the tone as we eagerly await what Rise Music has in store for us in 2018.
Jackie Queens & VeneiGrette – Mwanangu Vol. 1
Label: Bae Electronica
Zimbabwean born vocalist Jackie Queens teams up with South African producer VeneiGrette to render a beautiful Afro House package. Filled with the spirit of Pan-Africanism, Mwanangu features remixes from some emerging afro house talents such as Benny T (Botswana) and SURAJ (Kenya). South Africa’s Enoo Napa wins this one with a stand out remix which is charted No. 177 on Traxsource’s Afro House Top 200 of 2017. Appreciable to note that 2017 saw Jackie Queens pick up a worthy nomination at the Dance Music Awards South Africa for Best Female Artist.
Dwson – Luna EP
Label: Stay True Sounds
One of the best performers of 2017, Dwson, wrapped up an amazing year with this spellbinding release. 5 killer tracks that one can’t but repeat rather than skip any. The more I listen, I can imagine just how much of a Super Mario fan Dwson is/was. Apart from a track titled Luigi – who happens to be Mario’s brother – the EP is filled with traces of video games sounds serenaded in pounding deep house beats. My favourite is the title track Luna. This song sends me into overdrive, it gets me into video game mode ready to rhythmically shoot down any obstacle in my way.
Hyenah – Usuthu EP
Hyenah fuses his signature percussive afro house beats with B’utiza’s scathamiya-influenced vocal to give us the title track – Usuthu. Hyenah then goes on to a more laid back approach with Phases with feature the smooth and lush tones of Nonku who brings much depth to the song. Berlin-based Ivory Coast native, Mr Raoul K, completes the trinity with beautifully paced remix with vibrant strings laced on an energy-filled beat.
DJ Funky T Feat. Wanda Baloyi – Can’t Deny It
Label Funky T Music
One of my favourite local soulful house jams of 2017 from one of South Africa’s best kept musical secrets. DJ Funky T’s Can’t Deny It featuring acclaimed songstress Wanda Baloyi, a single taken off his upcoming album Reincarnation, is one of those sing along classic soulful gems with a dash of deep house. A well-timed release as it oozes spring and colours that can only be seen when one closes one’s eyes and opens one’s ears.
Zulumafia Feat. Samantha Faison – Dreams
Label: Zulumafia Digital
One of the most hardworking and the most consistent in the underground house scene, Zulumafia, shares his Dreams with the help of Samantha Faison. Zulumafia render 5 different interpretations of Dreams flexing his musical prowess by effortless gliding through soulful house and deeper afro sounds with his remixes. He also invites Essential I who also offers a wonderful remix reflective of his signature Deeptone sound.
Chujo – Scandalies EP
Label: Orbit Music
This is the kind of house music that never goes out of fashion. From the synths to the vocal samples used, Chujo’s Scandalies EP has a very nostalgic feels to it. It’s the kind of house music that one can play during sundowners’ sessions, by the poolside or even with the dance floor filled with music lovers. I’ve got favourites from this one, Scandalies and Warm Like You. Hoping to hear more from Chujo and as well the Soweto based label, Orbit Music.
!Sooks – The Kitchen Will Dub
!Sooks introduces this EP with an interlude, Asteroids, which takes you on a movie like journey, Interstellar to be precise. The cosmic sounds resemble a spaceship’s take off. The title track echoes running water, kitchen sinks and the sounds of plates and cutlery mapped over a minimal beat. Phasen and Secret Souls complete the EP with their remixes though Secret Souls flex on this one with an outstanding rendition of their compatriot’s original mix.
FKA Mash – PRJKT 3 EP
Label: Kalushi Recordings
FKA Mash had me caught between his PRJKT 2 and 3. Both, fresh and deserving of being on this list but I had to make a decision and PRJKT 3 it is. The transition from the previous release of the PRJKT series is what caught my attention the most. This release gives a mature feel to FKA Mash’s sound. He has almost perfect his emotion filled glitch theme sound, well embraced by warm bass lines. See Me remains my favourite while Take Me Back isn’t far off the mark.
Various Artists – Surreal Selections Vol 1.5 (Mixed by Kunzima Theology)
Label: Surreal Sounds
Surreal Selections 1.5 offers a majestic blend of afro, tech and deep house from local electronic music artists. It is a perfect ending to the 2017 and offers music that transitions one well into the New Year. Though mostly a collage of previous releases from the label, the emergence of talented marvels such as Vandal M add the killer punch to this lovely compilation. Velvet Orchid remains one of my favourites.