First Third Review 2018: A look at some of best Southern African underground house releases of 2018

The increase in high quality releases has been one of the most notable highlights within the underground house music scene so far in the region. In return, the consumption of the music has gone up as well, not only locally but also internationally. Locally produced house music has reached a level where it easily matches it’s internationally produced counterpart. In a more holistic scene, this has seen a significant paradigm shift towards electronic music. Mainstream music platforms such as radio has noted the focus on electronic music and has weighed in by increased shows that focus on the scene, as underground as it is. As the first third of 2018 sets on the horizon, allow me to take you on a tour of my standout underground house music releases of 2018 thus far, within a Southern African perspective.

Kunzima Theology – Thula

Label: Dopewax Records
Release Date: 05-01-2018

Thula is a thrilling and percussion driven 3-track EP by one of South Africa’s best Afro House producers, Kunzima Theology. Filled with spellbinding beats and rhythm that are so close to home that one literally envisions dancers around a fire dancing in a ritualistic manner. This instrumental EP is a definite dance floor filler. Theology and the title track – Thula – are my favourites.

Gabbana – The Lonely Orchestra (Part 2)

Label: Deeptribe Music/Fluxtuations Recordings
Release Date: 14-01-2018

Without a doubt, Gabbana is one of my favourite producers/electronic music artists in Mzansi right now. The Synth Master! Perfect for long drives, early morning jogs, dancing up a storm and, well, basically everything, each track delivers its own ambience and caters for almost every mood. I’m a bit mad at him though because he promised us The Lonely Orchestra Part 3 a while ago but is yet to deliver. I guess good things come to those who wait, right? Lerokolo captures my emotion and is my absolute favourite on this EP.

DJ Funky T (feat. Fil Straughan) – I Am Blessed

Label: Purple Music
Release Date: 02-02-2018

This gospel infused house music jam is a groovy reminder of how blessed we are. I suppose the blessing is not in what one has but in the gift of life itself. The amalgamation of Fil Straughan vocals and DJ Funky T’s garage inspired instrumental has a classic house feel to it – a blast from the past if you must.

Various Artists – Music In A Nutshell

Label: Murmur MusiQ
Release Date: 05-02-2018

Released on DJ Fortee’s Murmur MusiQ this lovely digital compilation is a celebration of not only some of Pretoria’s best talents in 60 Hertz, Ta-Ice and TekniQ but more so a celebration of the growth of South Africa’s house music arena. How fitting that in accordance with its title, Music In A Nutshell, the compilation blends, into one,  the different facets of house that represent the authenticity of South Africa within the genre. Ta-Ice’s Fantasy and De Mogul SA’s remix of Dvine Brothers & Lady Zamar’s Dancing are my go-to favourites.

Kamanda (feat. Inathi) – Andik’funi (Incl. Remixes)

Label: Multi-Racial Records
Release Date: 10-02-2018

Andik’funi! Inathi makes it clear that she doesn’t want you as translated from isiXhosa. She touches on something rather sensitive right now. How in as much as men are allowed to propose love to women, the later are allowed to say “I don’t want you.” Avi Subban’s remix is an absolute gem, a deep house marvel ready to set any dance floor alight. In similar fashion, Tahir Jones rises to the occasion with his remix that can get any head bobbing.

Fka Mash & Tahir Jones – Letting You Go

Label: Fka Mash
Release Date: 14-02-2018

They dropped this on Valentine’s Day and the message is well-laced in Tahir Jones’ vocals. Speaking of which, this took me by surprise because I never knew the brother could hold his own behind the mic. Fka Mash aka the Midtempo Badman’s signature sound is effortlessly audible to avid listener’s of his music. Overall, a great collaboration from two of Mzansi rising electronic music stars.

Ta-Ice – Bele Nele

Label: Get Loud
Release Date: 16-02-2018

As most would associate him with Afro-Tech and Deep House, Ta-Ice shows off his versatility on Bele Nele – a soulful house beauty infused with subtle Afro-Latin percussions. Hearing such from Ta-Ice makes one look forward to his next album, should be eclectic.

Sir LSG (feat. Kafele & Jaidene Veda) – Memories (Incl. Remixes)

Label: GOGO Music
Release Date: 23-02-2018

After the successful release of his debut album Moving Circles, Sir LSG continues to roll-out singles coupled with remixes that add an extra dimension to his already blissful offerings. This time it’s the mellow Memories featuring Kafele and Jaidene Veda that gets a majestic retouch from the legendary Osunlade through his Yoruba Soul visionary production.

Neww Black – Twice Hi EP

Label: +268 Recordings
Release Date: 23-02-2018

Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, has really stepped it up in terms of her presence within the deep house scene in the region. Neww Black, a Manzini based duo of Martin Dexo & Xero come at us with a UK garage inspired 4-track EP titled Twice Hi. Man, oh man! Built To Burn is definitely meant to burn the speakers or at least the decks. Music is Dangerous is another banger, looking forward to hear more from these guys.

Dark Art (feat. Rai Knight) – Stay

Label: Black Medallion
Release Date: 01-03-2018

A debut release by Dark Art on his newly formed label Black Medallion and what an introduction it is. Rai Knight’s luscious voice captivates while the vibey beat keeps one in that melodic trance. Forteba adds his own flavour to the mix with his own rendition of Stay, though the original still wins it for me.

Pierre Johnson – Movin’ On

Label: Pierre Johnson
Release Date: 02-03-2018

In less than a year, Pierre Johnson has shot up to the top of South Africa’s deep house scene. He is the perfect representation of Cape Town’s resurgence with the electronic music arena in Mzansi. This single – Movin’ On – is definitely in contention for Best House Record of the Year at this year’s South African Dance Music Awards, in my view. Filled with emotion and a pounding kick intertwined with a melody that sticks. The message in the song is the cherry on top, “We’ve got to keep moving!”.

Various Artists – House Afrika Pres. Mzansi House Vol. 7

Label: House Afrika
Release Date: 16-03-2018

At a time when deep house heads were begging for representation and the musicians themselves deserving of the recognition, House Afrika stood up and answered the call. One of the most exciting bumper multi-CD compilations to be released by the record label in the longest of times, in my opinion. The compilation brings together the views and taste of Kid Fonque, Kat La Kat, Jazzuelle and Mid Madiq & Nuno Estevez as they meticulously blend the perfect representation of the present and the future of not just deep house but electronic music in South Africa. My current favourites are Uyaganga by Think Twice, Vega  by Jazzuelle featuring Dwson, Strange Frequencies by Rephlex and Got Ur Number by Kat La Kat & Aquatone, these change weekly though.

PK Vibe – Reverse Biased EP

Label: AfroMove Music
Release Date: 23-03-2018

When voltage is applied across a diode in such a way that the diode prohibits current, the diode is said to be Reverse-Baised. This may mean nothing to you but it forms the foundation of the Limpopo-born producer’s state of mind while creating this 4-track EP. PK Vibe starts of this sublime EP with a midtempo feel and slowly begins to move up the tempo and he moves through the terminals. Terminal 1 (Output) and Terminal 3 (Output) carry the highest charge for me and remain right at the top of my playlist.

Sean Munnick – Revelation EP

Label: Stay True Sounds
Release Date: 23-03-2018

It seems that everything that Sean Munnick touches turns to gold, musically speaking. His latest EP, Revelation, blazes a trail for South Africa’s soon-to-be saturated deep house scene. Actually, it is an injustice to confine his music to deep house. Week N Chill featuring Daev Martian seems to be a fan favourite, understandably so but Should Have Known is my jam – a funk-filled boogified deep house banger. What a breath of fresh air, thanks for this beauty Sean!

Those Boys – A Breath of Fresh Air

Label: Deep Fusion Records
Release Date: 30-03-2018

 

Speaking of a breath of fresh air, Those Boys seem to be on the same mission haha! Released on their own label, Deep Fusion Records, A Breath of Fresh Air is a conjuncture of soulful and deep house where the trumpet and lead guitar are the thread that keet the blend together. I’m a fan of these guys, or Those Boys rather, and I wish to see them leaving behind the events of the past and focusing on taking their rightful place at the summit of Mzansi’s soulful house scene.

BillowJazz – Parental Anniversary EP

Label: Just Move Records
Release Date: 02-04-2018

Billowjazz you naughty naughty boy! Hahaha! Though some may argue that the use of sexual suggestive sounds on the title track – Parental Anniversary – is rather unorthodox, I believe this is the epitome of creativity. How better to capture one’s audience, which is predominantly male by the way, than the use of such. He then goes on to deliver a dance-floor-assassin of a track in Mumbai Gate.

Benny T – Tswana Perspectives Pt. 4

Label: Open Bar Music
Release Date: 03-04-2018

The pride of Botswana’s underground house music scene, Benny T delivers the 4th instalment of his EP series titled Tswana Perspective. This exhilarating Afro House EP will have you dancing non-stop. I would have loved, though, if Benny T could have incorporated more vocals in this package and share with us some of that rich Tswana culture. Nonetheless, this EP is bliss. Unearthing Berlin and Wobbling In My Mind are favourites of mine.

Stevaan – Inside Out Vol. 2

Label: Lilac Jeans Records
Release Date: 10-04-2018

Stevaan makes his return on Lilac Jeans Records with the sequel release to his Inside Out EP. He certainly packs a meaner punch on this one. Overall, the EP dabbles between Afro House and Deep House and all tracks are worthy of the being termed dance-floor-fillers. Deeper is the most exciting of them all and Ain’t Nothing’s Change isn’t so far behind it.

Various Artists – Get Stitched Vol. 2 (Selected by Sam Haskins)

Label: Deepstitched Records
Release Date: 17-04-2018

One of South Africa’s leading deep house labels brings together some of their most sought after artists for the 2nd instalment of Get Stitched, a compilation series. The likes of Avi Subban, Troyder, Keegs, !Sooks, Arty Party & Sand Isle all step up to the plate with a variety of minimal to uptempo deep house. Sam Haskins did an exceptional job of selecting these tunes. We must agree though that 1962 by !Sooks is a cut above the rest, as phenomenal as its counterpart Hattisn. Ta!-Dah! by Arty Party, also known as Tahir Jones, remains one of my top tunes on this baby.

Vanco – Reflection EP

Label: Afrocentric Records
Release Date: 20-04-2018

Reflection EP consists of two singles Lutho & Walls which are well complimented by remixes by international heavyweights John Tejada and Pablo Martinez. Lutho, featuring Njabulo Seh, is as afro-centric in its vocal delivery as is Vanco’s energetic instrumental which keep transcending as the cow bell subtly rings in the background.

Within Da Beats Pres. Vandal M – Paranoia EP

Label: Surreal Sounds Music
Release Date: 20-04-2018

After a brief hiatus, Vandal M re-emerges with Paranoia – a 6 track EP which marks his debut on the Within Da Beats series. With this release Vandal M put forward his name to be counted among the best in the land. He hasn’t lost his signature dubby sound but a significant amount of growth can be heard in his arrangement. Figures and Paranoia are solid bangers but Secret Door takes the cup for me.

DJ Bullet & Dvine Brothers (feat. Narno Tarne) – Beautiful Dreamer

Label: 0152 Records
Release Date: 27-04-2018

One of Pretoria’s veterans within house music, DJ Bullet, teams up with Dvine Brothers and songstress from the kingdom of eSwatini, Narno tarne, to give us a vibrant and uplifting song titled Beautiful Dreamer. The guitar touches me in all the right places in what is a wonderful fusion of soulful and afro house.

Kojo Akusa – iFreq EP

Label: Wholegrain Digital SA
Release Date: 29-04-2018

Described as an outer body experience, the proof is in the cover art as much as the music. Kojo Akusa blesses us with a 3-track EP titled iFreq, a continuation to his Deep Space House story. The EP is as much a blend of various facets of house as he is of the world – born in Russia of Ghanaian descent and based in South Africa. Krasnodar is a beast of a jam and my favourite on the package but take nothing away from I Believe which features Solitari, an English vocalist living in Berlin.

Whew! That was a mouthful. Amazing how the Mzansi underground house scene has picked up though, right? I know I may be leaving out some notable releases but I’m human too and this is just a reflection of the music I’m following and listening to. Feel free to hit me up on the socials and introduce me to some music that I may be missing out on. A young disclaimer before I depart, only music released between January and April of this year is considered. Please support the artists and buy the music, these artists and labels work hard to give us this kind of quality.

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About Author

Mmeli Hlanze An appreciator of all art forms especially that of music, Mmeli is a founding remember of a house music collective, The Antidotes, and co-owner of Antidote Music - an electronic music record label with a special focus on house music. Hailing from the kingdom of Swaziland, he is a convergent thinker who is passionate about Pan-Africanism. Through his interactions and experience gained within music and entertainment, Mmeli has become an avid talent spotter. Talent development and management has become a new addition in his ever-growing basket of expertise.


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