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Culture Music Op-ed

The rise and prominence of Hipster culture in South African townships

In a time where trap music & gqom waves are taking over townships all over Mzansi, there’s a certain niche that has developed its own way of living, dressing and consumption of music. Some call them cool kids, punks, hippies, fashionistas or even nerds to some extent, but hipster culture in South Africa has taken up a life of its own and has a strong grips on South African street culture.

Hipsters in the hood have been somewhat of a niche market for the longest time, that is until the birth of sub-cultures such as, thrifting, street culture entrepreneurship, markets and unplugged sessions with DJs (yes with DJs). One of the biggest influences in hipster culture is the music. With the game seeing new producers of eclectic soul, hi-tech & lo-fi beats take centre stage without having to be backed by artist. This has not only revolutionised the bedroom studio CEO’s but has connected young producers with the rest of the world creating a global culture exchange.

With the game changing every year and hipster lifestyle seeping in from Braamfontein (Johannesburg) or Long street (Cape Town) all the way to hoods like Ghomora, K1, Mambisa or Sotra, the youth has embraced being different, stylish and woke. And as more and more music festivals play host to these KasiPunk hipsters, we could see a whole new era in kasi youth expression on a global scale. So next time you think you are different, take a look at the kids brave enough to embrace and eat off being a hipster in the hood. Let’s just coin it #KASIPUNK.

Image credit: Mduduzi Meth Mahlangu
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Featured Music Reviews

#TheForeground: BRYAN THE MENSAH is one of the best exports from Ghana

For our new feature, #TheForeground, we feature BRYAN THE MENSAH. The young Ghanaian talent has a unique sound that is a blend of traditional West African music, electronic music and Hip Hop. Traces of RnB can also be heard in the music which adds another interesting dynamic. BRYAN THE MENSAH is part of the new crop of African artists that are defining the new sound coming out of Africa. For his feature, we spotlight his song titled ‘Show You Signs’.

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Featured Music Reviews

A review: Anthony Mea’s Don’t Stop Amore

Release Date: 01-02-2018

One of South Africa’s premium deep house labels kicked off 2018 with a banger of a release. Deepstitched team up with their Italian connect Anthony Mea to bring you Don’t Stop Amore – A mellow deep house jam with jazz inspired drum work and soul driven vocals. Upon its first week of release the single was featured in both Traxsource’s Weekend Weapons along with the Deep Essentials, charted at No. 84 and 17 respectively. Deepkeen and Robert Es step up for remix duty and man do they step it up! Deepkeen’s hypnotic bassline catches my attention at first listen and it’s the same bass line that bobbed the remix all the way to the head of Traxsource’s Deep House Top 100, climaxing at No. 3 within the first two weeks of release. My favourite though has to be the Robert Es remix with the up-tempo racing pads and thumping bass. It’s a banger for sure, set to make even the unwilling dance. A top release overall from the Deepstitched team and hats off to them for the outstanding art cover as well. The release is currently available on Traxsource as a promo but soon to be available on all major digital stores.

Listen/Buy:

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Featured Music Reviews

Pick of the Month: The Lonely Orchestra Part 2 by Gabbana

Release Date: 14-01-2018

Following the release of The Lonely Orchestra last year November, Gabbana delivers another stellar EP – a sequel to the aforementioned release. Released under his own label DeepTribe Music and created at the Fluxtuations Studios (I stand to be corrected), The Lonely Orchestra Part 2 cements the Pretoria based Producer/DJ/Musician among the top electronic music artists in Mzansi. Filled with his signature synth amplified pads and basslines, each track on this 4-track EP is a journey of its own, independent of the other yet they seamlessly amalgamate into one spellbinding harmony.

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. Trying to pick a favourite is one of the hardest tasks I’ve had to do since the year started because if I may reiterate, each track delivers its own ambience.

I’ve really got my fingers crossed that Gabbana drops an LP or full on album this year, the underground needs it. I would, however, love to hear the rising star use more vocals on his jams not only to give the songs a lasting sensation but as well to add that extra dimension to his music but that’s just my humble opinion. So, Gabbana if you’re reading this, it’s not too late. South Africa has an infinite pool of talented vocalists, dive in. And to you the reader, spare a moment to listen and some money to support the brother’s hustle.

Listen/Buy:

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Featured Music Reviews

Pain, loss & success: A story of how Pietermaritzburg-born artist, Xenlaii, used creativity to overcome loss

We all love art, the role it plays in our lives, how it makes us feel and most importantly the creators. The creative ones, who are gifted people who see life differently, can connect the spiritual and physical to help us make sense of the human journey. Many of them are right-brained, the ones society can’t help but celebrate and cherish. But how often do we stop in our tracks while celebrating the creators, and ask ourselves about the well-being of the creators and conditions in which they create. The art that we grow to love so dearly often comes as a result of struggle, pain and loss.

Pietermaritzburg-born and Joburg-based artist, Xenlaii (real name Xolani Thabani Mchunu), carries a story of pain, loss and eventual breakthrough. Having grown up as a bright spark, excelling in school and sports, Xenlaii had a relatively normal upbringing and like most South African men, he was raised by the hands of a strong black queen. Values, discipline and respect were things that were imparted on him by his elders and he took those very virtues and used them in how he conducted which allowed him to be very successful in youth basketball. As much as sport was an integral part of his life, creativity was a part of his life he could not ignore or fight. Creativity was gifted to him, not only as an avenue to express how he feels or thinks, but also as a tool to make a living as young adult.

After receiving a basketball scholarship at the University of Johannesburg, he then went on to take up graphic design. Time went by and his innate creative nature was now seeping out of his being and he could not ignore his calling any longer. Tough decisions had to be made and he chose creativity. Around the time that this was happening he was met with an unfortunate happening in his life – the loss of his mom, who was his pillar of strength and inspiration. He had no choice but to turn to creativity to cope, and music was the perfect avenue to vent and express himself. Music became somewhat of a healer for Xenlaii, which was something he definitely needed.

Xenlaii was able to use loss and pain as a springboards for success. For someone who has had to lose the most important person in his life, Xenlaii makes music that is far from depressing. The music is happy, packed with life lessons he has earned and the experiences that he is creating for himself. A remarkable story of how an artist rose up from an unfortunate situation and triumphed. We could all learn a thing or two from Xenlaii and he is undoubtedly an artist you should keep on your radar because his music is heartfelt, real and sincere.

Get a taste of surf-rap, a wave he is creating and promoting. Stream How To Play featuring the beautiful songstress, Amarafleur, below:

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Music Reviews

PREMIERE: Vibe out to KaeB’s latest #CozyFriday release

This #CozyFriday release is special. It comes on KaeB’s birthday, who turns 25 today, and also serves as a treat to his supporters. The track, with its modern trap and future bass undertones, is an absolute banger and a great way for the 25-year-old producer to kick off 2018. We cannot wait for what the producer has in store for us this year. Peep the work.

Stream YOUTH below:

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Featured Music Reviews

A review: Sir Rizio’s Walk With Me EP

Johannesburg based indie record label, Bodikela Recordings, puts their best foot forward with their first release of 2018. A scintillating three track EP from Vaal based marvel, Sir Rizio. The EP captures the essence of the current state of South Africa’s underground deep house scene – raw, pulsating and vibrant.

The EP earned a spot on Traxsource’s Weekend Weapons as Roses was charted No. 96 for the weekend of the 12th January. Sir Rizio adequately manages to entrance the listener on a journey through his well blended and progressive sounds. Though the title track’s sharp curved climax steals the show, Warmth remains my stand out favourite and is sure to be a dance floor filler.

Listen/Buy:

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Culture Featured Music Reviews

Building from the ground-up: Parley Wang’s love for his community is a stepping stone for his success in the music game

Artists that have the backing of their community always have the upper-hand when it comes to breaking into the industry. Having people that selflessly champion your brand, brand-ambassador-style, is a great way to build a legacy that will allow you to live off your dream. In many cases, creatives who are born and raised in the township are tasked with a difficult task of becoming the voice of the voiceless, a medium through which stories of the hood can be captured and told. And for the township creatives that are privileged enough to venture into urban areas where their careers can be taken to greater heights, the task of pulling their own into these spaces is a responsibility.

Much of what we deem “culture” comes from the township: the style, the language and the essence of cool are by-products of township living. When a people is oppressed, closed off from opportunities for the betterment of life and limited in accessing resources, creativity becomes second nature. The quest and struggle to survive prompts one to find creative ways to make ends meet, and that alone becomes a seed for creativity that trickles down into other aspects of one’s life. Sure, we cannot limit one with terms like “township creative”, but the word township is a key identifier that affords and gifts anyone that interacts with that particular creative or their work, some perspective.

In the rap world, competition and “who is the best” quarrels are synonymous with the culture, feats of the culture that people outside of the culture would regard as negatives. In the case of Parley Wang, the negatives found in the culture are ignored as he has adopted a “let’s all build and pick each other up” approach which helps him build clout and a support culture where he comes from – Tembisa. Known for being one of the instrumental members of the Dapper Gang collective, Parley Wang’s work has always carried stories of his upbringing, his love for his people and the challenges that he faces as a young artist trying to make it in the cutthroat entertainment industry in Johannesburg. A talent on the come-up running with one of Joburg’s top emerging crews that has morphed into a record label – one that has been at the helm of the launching of the successful rap careers of acts like Frank Casino.

Parley is aware, observant and more than just an artist that just makes music. He can be regarded as a scholar of culture, people and the socio-economic conditions of his people. Being stationed in Braamfontein, a youth culture hub, gifts Parley with perspective and cultural context which he can use to create for the youth that lives in the inner-city. The experiences he gains, the people meets and the things he sees in the inner-city coupled with his upbringing in Tembisa, adds layers to his creativity. When speaking of language, he can easily switch between Joburg Zulu, Sotho (which is his mother tongue) and English. The different languages that he can speak add another interesting dynamic to his artistry, and not only that, it also maps out the cultural landscape and diversity of Tembisa.

The music is where he unfolds the details of his being, unpacks the stories of the hood and invites the listener into his life as he journeys on his quest for success. With every step he takes, he has Tembisa and his people on his mind and by doing so he creates from a genuine and sincere place. He selflessly pulls younger artists from his hood with him as he breaks down the industry walls, and this is seen in how he has collaborated with artists like SnazZy B and J-Hack. Parley Wang’s love for his community is his ticket to success in the game.

Stream “4our 7even”,  the latest release by Parley below:

 

 

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Culture Featured Music Reviews

Introducing Xander McFierceon: A young musician from Lebowakgomo who champions and creates New Age Soul

South Africans generally have a great affinity for Soul music, music with a feeling, music rich in emotion. As much as the country may be known for being one of the world’s dance music capitals, the country churns out some of the best Soul and R&B artists. Real music as some may call it, means a lot to South Africa. For one, most South Africans know that Sundays are reserved for soulful music as many of the big time radio stations in the country, be it Metro FM, uKhozi FM, Ligwalagwala FM, Lesedi FM, Kaya FM and even iKwekwezi FM – reserve their afternoon slots for R&B, Soul and Jazz. Radio legends like Eddie Zondi, Bob Mabena and Wilson B. Nkosi have been immortalized, given a pedestal as seasoned tastemakers within this section of music.

Much of the soulful music that is prominent in the country and has won over the hearts of South Africans, was released in the 80s, 90s and early 00s from the West. Barry White, Lionel Ritchie, Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass and Roy Ayers are some of the stand out names who reigned supreme in the 80s, who have enjoyed love from South Africa fans. Then we get to the 90s, groups like SWV, KCI & Jo Jo, Boys to Men and artists like Brian McKnight and Keith Sweat enjoyed the same love that their 80s predecessors enjoyed. These artists have had a massive influence on South African R&B and Soul.

South African pioneers like the Soul Brothers, Miriam Makeba, Caiphus Semenya and his wife Letta Mbulu, have laid the foundation for the new generation when it comes to music that is more soul-focused. The birth of Afro-soul is the result of their efforts and the genre has since grown beyond the borders of South Africa. You find artists making this type of music everywhere in the country, even in the least expected places like small towns that many never pay attention to.

You’re probably asking yourself this: “But where is the new generation, what are they doing?” Hold your horses, we’re getting there. The new generation of South African artists have their own interpretation of Afro-soul and R&B which is more influenced by the more dominant electronic soundscapes, which is a standard of the time we’re in. Artists like Bryson Tiller, PARTYNEXTDOOR and Frank Ocean are the gods of modern R&B and Soul – at least in the more mainstream space. And their influence is felt, and felt hard as upcoming artists like Kliye, Zooci Coke Dope and Bigstar Johnson play in a similar realm. In the more alternative arena, a young artist from Limpopo is slowly carving his way into the hearts of people that come across his music online.

Xander McFierceon (real name Xander Phenyo), a Lebowakgomo based artist, is a breath of fresh air that is the result of the heavy lifting and grafting done by the ones that came before him, your Ringo Madlingo’s, your Joe Nina’s and your Robbie Malinga’s. In his case, he makes music that speaks to his peers, is heavily influenced by his immediate surroundings and his own personal experiences. A dynamic artist that teeters between the rap, R&B and Afrobeat world, he is undoubtedly a talent that needs to be paid attention to. The songwriting in his songs is reflective of his reality and the times we’re in. His recently released FRUITLOUNGE EP, is a journey into a new but familiar place. An exploration of sound accompanied by impeccable songwriting, the project is a gem. Check this kid out, you will not regret it as he is the future.

Stream the FRUITLOUNGE EP below:

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Culture Featured Music

Dusty beats in Sotra: Seja is undoubtedly Soweto’s best kept secret with his innovative lo-fi production style

Producers have risen. Producers are not complacent. Producers, be it a trap producers or lo-fi beats producers, are no longer waiting for rappers or any other vocalists to get a break or a shot at success in the music and entertainment industry. It is like a revolution of sorts, a necessary resurgence that has been a long time coming. Producers are taking to the internet in hopes to own their destiny and get the recognition that they deserve. The cry from all corners of the world is the same: we make the music that forms part of the soundtrack of your life, without us music cannot move.

A lane has been created, platforms have been created and the producer culture is growing and getting stronger. South Africa is no stranger to these developments, particularly with the issue of producers not receiving the recognition they deserve. Talented kids from different backgrounds are fearlessly sharing their art with world using music as a medium that affords them a sense of creative freedom. Electronic music is now one of reigning genres in South Africa and the influence is seen in other popular genres in the country, like Hip Hop and Rhythm & Blues. But with that being said, there are smaller scenes bubbling under in the producer space. One of them being, the lo-fi and dusty breaks scene. A small community, mostly internet-based, that is going against the grain with how they choose to produce. The production often sounds hazy, dusty and old-school and is perfect for a lazy day, great as study music and just vibes. The scene is often closely linked to the Anime culture, which often attracts young, often introverted and reclusive youth.

READ: The rise of the lo-fi beats movement and the resurrection of casette tape culture.

The lo-fi scene has the seen a tremendous amount of growth over the last few years and this is due to the re-introduction of physical formats of music – cassette and vinyl. Nowadays digital audio workstations allow producers to create beats that one could make using analogue equipment. This is what 19-year-old Soweto-based producer, Seja, uses to create his beats. You could easily mistake his music for music made by seasoned producers like Knxwledge, Ohbliv, Budamunk and Dibiase. Heavily influenced by underground Hip Hop, with a foundation in House music, Seja creates groundbreaking lo-fi beats. This is seen in his recently dropped project titled fade in.outs, an exploration of sounds ranging from jazz, soul and funk. The sampling on this project is world-class and probably the best we’ve heard from a South Africa producer.

                                                    

 

Stream the project below: