A Conversation With The Beats & Bass Movement: The Past, The Now & The Future
Dance music culture plays a very important role in the youth culture in the kingdom of eSwatini. Over the years, the culture has provided many young people from the small country avenues through which they can use to express themselves and move the world. The house music scene in the country is one of the strongest in the African continent and as small as it may be, it has a massive influence on the innovation of the scene with the talent and ideas it produces. Driven by a spirit of unity and community, the scene is shaping the sounds of tomorrow. For the scene to be where it is (a healthy space which allows for growth), it needed passionate purveyors of culture in the form of movements and collectives that all have a vision of promoting progression. The Beats & Bass Movement is one of such movement and they have a fascinating story, view of life and music, and passion. We spoke to them to find out more about what their movement is about, their plans and vision.
For those who aren’t familiar with who you are what you can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Beats & Bass is a duo consisting of Khethumenzi Mthande aka “Katz” and Banzi Kunene aka “Bsquared” who are equally responsible for managing the podcast. The two first met back in 2013/14 within the music scene in Swaziland. In 2017, Beats and Bass published its first podcast, and have done so monthly till present day. Over the few years, the pair has established a more mature following from the type of music they play. This growth has resulted in a new partnership with Jelele FM — an online radio station. The Beats & Bass Movement aims to continuously improve its branding and marketing to keep their supporters exultant. Access to the podcast is via the podcast link or streaming via www.jelele.com.
What were the events that lead up to the the establishment of The Beats & Bass Movement?
The Beats & Bass Movement was formed in 2016 by two well-known eSwatini spinners, Sphelele Mhlanga aka “Jazzinsoul” of Ol’tymers Sessions and Khethumenzi Mthande and has been active since then till to date. A popular Shisanyama around Mbabane called Solanis had started hosting strictly deep and soulful house sessions every Saturdays. With the growth of the sessions, more followers wanted to access to the recorded sets of the sessions. At the time, there were no platforms to share the live mixes/sets, so that gave us an idea to create Beats & Bass Movement.
In 2017, the live sessions come to an end and we shifted our focus to mixtapes for the podcast. The plan was to release two main mixtapes and a guest mix from spinners of our choice who relate to the kind of sound we liked. Jazzinsoul moved on and focused on Ol’tymers Sessions. Bsquared was first introduced to the movement as a guest. He made his first mixtape and with its success, we requested a second mixtape a few months later. He has since fully joined the movement as an equal partner. So working together made sense
and was seamless as we knew each other from the past and he has been active with the show from the 7th show to date.
What inspired the movement to support the fusion of all the vast genres in the music culture through your sound and mixes?
Growing up, we were both exposed to a huge variety of music from soul, jazz, gospel, kwaito and R&B, which made our musical palate more balanced. As we got older and started playing, we fell in love with the deep and soulful house sound. Our musical influence also came from DJs who got invited to play in eSwatini for festivals, to name a few, the likes of Vinny da Vinci, Christos, Rocco, Fresh etc. As the internet became more accessible, we got the opportunity to listen to other podcasts like the Deeper Shades of House by Lars Behrenroth. It therefore became easier to start a podcast after we had seen others successfully doing it.
Eswatini has a small deep house community, and in it, people have different tastes. Our podcast has therefore been structured in a way to cover the diverse music culture. B’squared believed that by giving the masses mixtapes with music people are yet to know will help us became the go to podcast for listeners who want to enjoy upcoming deep house music. So every month, we record mixtapes with new music that we found interesting and that people will start enjoying in a month or two in the club scene. This also give us enough time to compile more good music to put out there to the people.
Tell us a bit about the selection process for deciding on what your artistic approach is in pursuing new ideas and concepts especially with regards to having guest mixes?
Well, we don’t have a solid rigid selection process on guests but the sound is our main basic influence. Our aim is to stay true to ourselves as well as the movements tradition of being a strictly deep and soulful house publisher. But now and then we accommodate sub genres like bossa nova, neo soul, trip hop and electronica thus the guest DJs’ style of play is the first most important factor in the guest mix selection process. We also have a platform where music lovers can make submissions for their mixtapes. This platform is via an open email address which is firstname.lastname@example.org. So far, we have published a few mistapes coming from this platform, mostly we approach the DJs ourselves. These are individuals who inspire us with the type of sound they play and is also a great way for us to learn from them. We recently started to exploring the idea of working with other podcasters. By doing so, this allows us to extend our brand as we also do guest mixes for other shows. The most recent relationship was with a duo based in Pretoria by the name Lovesouldeep Experience.
Who would you love to collaborate with on future projects both nationally and internationally?
The Antidote Music would be our nationally selection. This music label has produced amazing talent, the likes of !Sooks, Mzwaa, Secret Souls who are doing well locally and across the borders. Working with them would be a blessing as we can learn a thing or two from their experience. They have been to more gigs and made good networks with other people we would love to work with in the near future. For now, our international selection is too colourful to mention, we would like to work with a lot of guys. But our main concentration for now is us. We still want to keep working hard, learn to stay consistent and creative, and with that, see where the growth process leads us. Maybe we might stand a chance to penetrate the industry and present our music taste to the world. For a mid-term milestone, a feature on BestBeats.tv would hurt. And yes off course, other radio stations in South Africa to play some of our mixtapes. Maybe one day we would host our own radio programme as part of the growth process.
What do you feel is unknown to the general public about the music industry and culture of Swaziland? What do you want to make people aware of in relation to the spaces you are moving in?
Eswatini is a very small nation. In saying so, the number of places where one can go out for fun are a handful, thus making the deep house community small. We do not have a lot of joints that are strictly for deep house, as a result, getting paying gigs is a hustle as most of these establishments opt for resident DJs. We believe the country has a great potential, music wise. We need to broaden our creativity to come up with crazy ideas and new concepts that can benefit both the artists and fans. We have started collaborating with other fellow DJs. This idea behind that is to create unity and the support structure when each of us host events. The unity amongst ourselves will be very vital in order for us to grow the following of the genre. With time, our network will be massive and we can expand and venture into other concepts.
Could you briefly describe your DJing process and how your music evolved since you first started playing together?
[Katz]: As Katz, I fully began playing in 2014 after learning to use CDJs. From there on, I started playing in various clubs within the kingdom with other fellow DJs. I used to play dance music at the time. With time, I eventually found a music genre I felt comfortable listening and playing which is deep and soulful house. A few years later, I became a resident DJ at Solanis Shisanyama for 3 years playing strictly deep and soulful house. This is the very same place I met Bsquared for the first time, as previously mention. At the time he was based in Pretoria.
[B’Squared]: My journey began back in 2008 when I went to varsity in Jozi. I had a few friends who loved house, and so I started my house collection. At the time I wasn’t playing, just a few indoor parties with friends, nothing major. Fast track to 2010, I moved back to Eswatini, bought my first PA system and that’s where it all began. Back then where I came from, a DJ would play the whole night. I used to play deep house, commercial house, old school house, kwaito etc. A few years later I moved back to GP, that’s when I decided to only focus on soulful and deep house. As and when I visit home, I would get a chance to play. This is how
Katz and I met. Ever since we’ve know each other, we have always kept it true and loyal to deep house.
We believe in taking time to do anything really. We spend days buying new music online and listening to it. Tracks selection for any mixtape plays an import role when making your final recording. More time is spent on creating combinations of tracks that work together to produce the kind of sound you hope to achieve. It’s like telling a story, your selecting needs to project the way you feel and how you want your audience to feel when they listen to your mixtape and live sets. Therefore, having sufficient music helps ease the job of selecting what to play.
What are the dynamics of your relationship and how does this influence your art?
We are friends first, who respect each other as individuals and so happen to love the sound we both play. To maintain the balance, we believe in being open minded and having proper communication with no filters and if the situation allows so that we can move on to our shared vision. What keeps us grounded is always reminding each other of the fact that music is greater than both of us combined. So we try to be as humble and dedicated to being better than the previous day. This helps us to focus on the music and keeping our followers pleased. Happy followers give us confidence to explore more and keep us excited to want to
present the next sound.
Has branching out into clothing impacted your brand, if so in what way?
Yes, branching out into clothing has been a positive impact. This marketing tool has helped us positively reach more people who are interested in the Beats & Bass Movement. Their continued support has pushed us into broadening the merchandise designs for people to choose from. To help spread the word to other people, our latest designs incorporates our podcast link at the back of the t-shirts. Curious people not familiar with the movement will use that as an opportunity to check us out.
What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
To keep our Podcast going and keep working with many DJs who offer us guest mixtapes. We are also working towards doing a minor tour in Durban in Aug/September. From there, we join our musical brothers Lovesouldeep for their anniversary at House 22 in October. The biggest thing we looking forward to is hosting our second event for the year in November with a few international guests.
Follow the Beats & Bass Movement on Facebook.