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Featured Music Reviews

Premiere: Atlanta-based Nigerian artist, Zarion Uti, releases #AYE featuring UK-based rapper, PsychoYP

Atlanta-based Nigerian artist, Zarion Uti, is doing a lot of heavy-lifting for young African artists living abroad and those who are trying to break through, and make it. Tasked with introducing the African sound in the West, he keeps dropping banger after banger and building a solid fan base. Zarion Uti has an impressive work ethic which has earned him the right connections and support from some of the biggest media platforms in Nigeria, the US and the UK.

He comes back swinging hard with the release of his second official single of the year. For his second title titled AYE, he calls on UK-based rapper, PsychoYP, to assist him with creating an afro-influenced trap number that speaks about real life struggles that young artist face in the industry, their aspirations and the importance of celebrating their achievements. AYE is a perfect record to end the first half of the year well and it is also a great record to kick off the second half of the year. Stream AYE below.

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Featured Music Reviews

A protest of love & representation: Gyre’s Quarantine music video is a celebration of Queer love & its many shades

South African multi-talented and queer entertainer, Gyre, is a force to be reckoned with. From our knowledge, he’s South Africa’s first openly queer rapper who is working tirelessly to change perspectives in the South African entertainment industry. Being a rapper means that he has to play in a culture that is often blatantly homophobic, but he follows queer revolutionaries such as Mykki Blanco, Young M.A, Cakes De Killa and Jay Boogie who have gone on to break global stereotypes about queer people in the entertainment space.

In celebration of Pride Month, Gyre releases his first music video for one of his best songs on his Queernomics project.

The song speaks about how, even though queer love is demonized in cis-heteronormative society, it is within that dystopian realm that true love is found. The song celebrates queer love for it’s imperfections and alludes to how these imperfections are what actually make queer love that much more special.

The music video was styled and directed by the talented Tutu Zondo who has worked with some of the best up and coming South African musicians like Langa Mavuso and SAFTA awarding actor, Niza Jay Ncoyini. The music video has cameos from young prominent queer and allied personalities in the entertainment industry from Mr Allofit, LeloWhatsGood, iindirhe, Rhea Blek and many more.

The Quarantine music is a protest of love and representation, and it is important. Gyre’s work should be celebrated for its groundbreaking nature.

Watch the Quarantine music video below.

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Featured Music Reviews Videos

WATCH Closer / Apart by OKZharp & Manthe Ribane: Manthe Ribane showcases different embodiments of her being in the new Chris Saunders directed short film

Manthe Ribane and OKZharp are back. Their return as a groundbreaking creative duo follows their culture-shifting releases, Dumela 113 and Tell Your Vision, two projects that positioned them as global innovators in the performance arts world. Moving more purposefully after releasing two solid EPs, they move to shift culture again with the release of the Chris Saunders directed short film titled Closer / Apart. The short film serves a visual representation of Closer Apart, an album Okzharp and Manthe Ribane are set to release through UK-based label, Hyperdub. The album is to be released on the 6th July.

In the film, Manthe Ribane taps into ancient she-warrior narratives drawn from ancient African and Far-Eastern cultures. Through this artistic display, Manthe showcases different embodiments of herself and she does this by using movement. The movements describe a horizon-less, time-less night, a wild nature, a parched pre-apocalyptic river bed and divine redemptive inner-space.

Further explaining the concept and the message being communicated, the following can be said:

As Manthe moves through these four locations her form and movement manifest the emotional arc of her journey. She is ‘La Loba’ – the she-wolf. She is the Akai Tori – ‘the red bird’, a keeper of the light, and possessing the wisdom of ages. She is the maternal Sentinel – chaotic nature, the weather, the elements. Finally, she is the Senri Yokai, attaining divine spiritual power over her own destiny.

 

The short film is described as a visual exploration of the album ‘Closer Apart’ by Okzharp and Manthe Ribane directed by Chris Saunders.

Watch the film below.

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Featured Music Reviews

Emotive & spiritual Swazi grooves: Mr. FreDdy is a duo built on improvisation, experimentation & unhindered musical expression

The Southern African alternative music is one of the most progressive scenes in the world. Without fail, the scene unearths some groundbreaking talent time and time again, an amazing gift for the adventurous music lover that seeks music that will challenge and stretch the ear. While the mainstream music scene may be focused on all things that shine, smoke and mirrors and fame, the alternative music scene on the other hand focuses on sheer musical mastery and pushing the barriers and limits of sound.

Each country in Southern Africa offers something different musically. The music represents the people, the energy of the country and the country itself. In the case of eSwatini (formerly known as Swaziland), a musical duo called Mr. FreDdy is pushing boundaries of convention in the Swazi music industry. With a style that is rooted in improvisation and experimentation, they skillfully fuse genres like world music, break beats, jazz and traditional music from eSwatini, to create a breathtaking experience. Blending acoustic sounds with electronic ones is no small or easy feat, but Ralph Smit the multi-instrumentalist and Mwesigwa Kisaakye the drummer masterfully merges the two. Both artists are key musical figures of eSwatini and they are at the forefront of the next African sound.

2018 proves to be the year where the duo exports their music and wins fans, and the release of their EP, Lay of The Land, they are right on track with capturing adventurous music lovers. The six track EP is an experience like no other, a project that was mostly recorded in eSwatini and released through UK-based label, Stay Put, it serves as a strong introduction for the duo.

People are catching on to the work of the duo as they recently performed at one of Africa’s best music and culture festivals – the MTN Bushfire Festival. The duo deserves all the acclaim, love and praise they’re getting. Stream/Buy Stay Put by Mr.FreDdy below.

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Featured Interviews Music Reviews

The makings of a creative man: eSwatini’s Ohpis speaks life, influences, inspirations and shares gems on why following your dreams is the best gift creatives can give themselves

Ohpis is more than just a DJ. You cannot afford to limit him to one field of creativity, speak of him as a one-dimensional creative and box in him as a creative. He’s more than that, he’s a trail-blazer of note and a symbol of hope for the creative community in eSwatini. A forward-thinking creative, with great visions and plans for Africa and its people. His tools? The arts. With the arts as his main tool of ushering change and shifting perspectives and culture, he is hell-bent on building a legacy that will be remembered forever in Southern Africa and the world.

eSwatini’s creative revolution is led by people like Ohpis, who want to show the world that Africa is where true innovation lives. Call him an entrepreneur, a visionary and a pioneer, but don’t ever limit him to one sphere of business or creativity – his capabilities far exceed any convention. We got the opportunity to speak with the talented creative about his life, inspirations, influences and business features. Peep the interview below.

First things first, we’d like to thank you for your time. It’s an honor to have you on our platform as a longtime friend and frequent collaborator. We know quite a bit about you, but some of our supporters may not know who you are. Please introduce yourself.

Thank you for having me, I am truly honored to be featured on “Nusoulove”. I am Ohpis, a Swazi based DJ/music curator that got his start in the city of Chicago, USA. I’m a part of this really cool collective from eSwatini that spans the world, MotherLand X.

You’re from eSwatini (formerly known as Swaziland), a country small in size but a huge role player in advancing creativity in Southern Africa. From literature, music, clothing and fashion, eSwatini is respected and celebrated for its creativity. Tell us about your upbringing and how it continually influences you as a DJ?

Growing up in eSwatini as a kid I was all about doing exceptionally well in my academics (of which I was for the most part). Before jetting off to college, man was dead set on going into the world of financial accounting (BREH!) and leading a life I thought would be best for me. To be very honest it was only after leaving the country did I realize what I wanted and dreamed of doing with my life. The main reason behind this discrepancy is because in Swaziland, as a kid you’re only expected to go into “safe” career fields such as being a doctor, or a lawyer, or the financial world in my case. You already know the spiel. Kids who entertain the “crazy” idea of going into a creative field as a career choice are discouraged by their parents and society. So a good part of my youth in school was me doing good by those expectations. During college, I was miles away from these “pressures” and could actually dedicate some of my time towards music.
Long story short, in 2015 my mates and I decided that we needed to put in a decent effort into our “creative” sides, whilst collectively building this baby of ours we call MotherLand X. With the parents we have, we have really had to put in a good enough amount to show them how much this all means to us, and why it is so important that we continue doing so. As a DJ, I try to bring in music the crowd might not be quite familiar with but still not lose them; so I guess this goes in hand with my life long yearning to do different and not just blend in and play what all the other DJs are playing or expected to play. So far it’s been working out fine.

image of dj ohpis playing a set at the mtn bushfire festival 2018
DJ Ohpis playing at the MTN Bushfire Festival 2018. Photography credit: Daniel Toro

Electronic music is an undeniable force in Southern Africa and a lot of acts in the region are breaking into the international space and succeeding. As much as that sounds amazing, the industry knows that there is still a lot groundwork required to build a solid industry where artists can eat. What’s your take on the landscape of electronic music industry in Southern Africa and what role do you play in it?

I am huge fan of the genre and culture. I was really immersed into the scene during my time in the US, from attending those larger-than-life festivals, to following my favorite DJs/producers every move in the game.

Returning home to a sea of so much talent in electronic music made me feel excited, not only for my return to a vibrant scene, but how I would try to get involved with every single one of them, whether it was through creative collaboration, or even if it were just a friendly “dap”. The landscape of electronic music in Southern Africa is strong and is in safe hands, basing it off of the few incredible producers I know well enough or have spent time following.

In Botswana as far as future bass electronic music is concerned, you guys beat me to it and rightly hailed Flex Tha Ninja as a hidden gem in Gaborone; again, I couldn’t agree anymore. Amobeatz, is another dope future beat producer to really look out for from that region as well. In South Africa’s Johannesburg, KaeB to me is unmatched in his production prowess (yes!). eThekwini, there’s Muzi and he’s really got something revolutionary going on with his sound; I am huge fan of his “Muzi Monday” remixes and DJ edits. [eSwatini] Vuma, as my MLX compadre and one of my longest friendships, it’s been incredible witnessing the man’s progression in creating his own unique soundscapes within the electronic music scene. A close mutual friend of ours once described his music as sounding like “hope”. Rendition, my other MLX compadre, blends hip hop, electronic dance, and soul to create his own unique soundscapes. From record producer, to sound designer, to ad/film scorer and now recording artist, what I find most inspiring about man is his unwavering ability to just create. Devin Dee and Wordsmith Felix I like to refer to as the kids; are not afraid to experiment with production and this is primarily why I regard them so highly in the burgeoning Southern African beat scene. !Sooks has his own unique soundscape that balances Tech, Afro Deep and Deep House, all the while making you wonder how he did that. Tendaness’ singles JIKA and Love Me alone are two incredible examples of his work, that combine electronic dance elements with a texture reminiscent of eSwatini’s urban vibe. He’s not only playing an important role in reinforcing the quality of music coming out of the country, but also how the outside world perceives it. This is by no means a complete list of who to look out for! But do yourselves all a favor and spend some of your time scoring their Soundcloud pages, to get a good head start!

My role would be to shed as much light as I possibly can on these guys and their dope music. And also help in sharing their music to the rest of the world because of how good I feel some of it is.

You’ve lived in the US for a few years, which must have been a life-changing experience that broadened your horizon. Tell us about your time spent in the States and how it ultimately influenced your taste in music and your DJing?

Studying and living in the US really opened me up to some amazing people, cultures and experiences. It was the life changing experience that gave me enough insight and curiosity to at least give DJing and a purpose in music a try, I kid you not.

First two years in college, I would always be the guy picking what music would be played at our little dorm-room parties with my host of international friends. Third year in college, I started playing relatively bigger crowds, so that would be fraternity/sorority formal after parties; playing at the local bars (shout out to the Wooden Nickel and Gabe’s bar). First time playing a club in Chicago was in the spring of 2015 and that single moment was important in propelling me into doing more gigs publicly.

In between all of this and college, a group of my closest buddies we called “the fam” would try to attend these larger-than-life electronic dance music festivals with what little money we had saved up. I remember my first big concert experience was the DJ Carnage tour stop in Chicago. It was at this show I fell in love with how big and remarkable the production of it all was. It was an audio-visual experience on steroids. I was hooked. Festival tickets were always more than what your average college student could handle, but you definitely got your money’s worth after it all. And so whenever a DJ/producer we really liked came to the city, we would make it a mission to get “the fam” there. More so, it made me think about how there were little to no shows back home remotely close to that level (thank God for Bushfire man).

That strong initial support system I had, coupled with playing at a couple Chicago clubs AND my festival experiences really influenced how (and what) I play today.

MotherLand X is also one of your babies, a label you co-founded with some of your closest friends. Why did you see the need of building your own label and what keeps your team unified under one banner or mission?

At the time we were all in our college years, thinking about how cool things (such as creative opportunities, festivals, and general support for the arts) were States’ side, and how far things back home still were relatively speaking. More specifically, for the beat maker/music producer in eSwatini it can be really hard to grow and progress in the scene, let alone stay afloat in life. So first and foremost we felt like there had to be a change in how the producer was placed in importance. We came together in aims of first looking out for one another then spreading that gospel to whomever vibes and generally understands what we are about. Starting out we wanted to curate our own shows to also put producers on, but that has had to take a chill pill for the time being. What keeps us going is the support we have for one another, within and outside of the camp. MLX has now grown in its reach around the continent, and we couldn’t be any more happy and proud with our baby.

image of dj ohpis playing a set at the mtn bushfire festival 2018
DJ Ohpis playing a set at the MTN Bushfire Festival 2018. Photography credit: Daniel Toro

As a DJ, you’re introducing people to new sounds in eSwatini and you’re also slowly breaking into South Africa. How do crowds respond to what you play?

Man, the crowd reception at gigs is what also really keeps me moving with digging and sharing new sounds. I’ll be honest, sometimes I am met by a crowd that might not vibe with some of the new sounds I try to share, which is cool, and it is a part of the learning and understanding process. However, when a crowd understands and responds to the music and vibes I’m sharing, that to me is some of the most fulfilling experiences in this journey. So I could say it depends on the type of event and the type of crowd it attracts. I recall playing a KOP x HABITAT warehouse-type block party in Maboneng for all the cool eccentric kids out there, and it was probably one of my personal favs as far as crowd reception is concerned. A lot of the kids there listen to a lot of different music because they were vibing throughout my set. On the flip side, some of my least receptive crowds have been at lowkey bar type venues here in little eSwatini. The crowds there just want their house, GQOM and/or deep house through and through. A couple of the times I’ve been booked to play there, it’s been tricky to say the least lol. But hey, guess it’s my job to sway them into trying out other stuff, because there’s so much music out there.

Who are some of your influences in the DJ world?

DJ Doowap for her colorful, eclectic vibe and her energy filled sets. Joe Kay for his groove and track selection powers. Zeds Dead for their out of this world production and live performances. RL Grime and Lunice for their pivotal influences in the trap EDM subgenre. DJ Lag for pioneering GQOM to the world. Diplo for his role in pushing so many vibes in his career, and how that also opened so many doors for other talented DJs/producers in the game. Skrillex for his ability to collaborate with so many other artists both in and outside of EDM. OkZharp for his sound and how futuristic it still sounds to this day. Flat White because Flat White. There are a lot of DJs and producers around the world I draw inspiration from.

You recently played at one of the biggest music and culture festivals in Africa – the MTN Bushfire Festival. How does that make you feel? It’s no small feat and is something that you’ll surely remember forever.

It makes me feel like I am doing what I should be doing with my life, which makes me feel really good. Playing at Bush was the highlight of my career so far and that has shown me I can do more. It really makes me feel like I have what I like to call Super Powers!

What do you think of the African festival culture? Now that you have performed at one of the biggest festivals in Africa, what more do you want to see in festivals in the continent?

I think it is amazing that we can even talk about an African festival culture. There is a quite a lot of diverse options to choose from (granted you can afford to attend), a lot I am still to learn about. Southern Africa alone has quite the vibrant festival scene, from Bushfire and Hipnotik festivals in eSwatini, to Ultra Music Festival in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, to the Azgo Festival in Mozambique to Rocking the Daisies again in SA. Not to forget Oppikoppi! It is pretty cool that there are festivals in our own backyards, festivals that are not only comparable to ones abroad, but also offer more in the way of a vibe we as Africans can relate to. I personally find that incredible, and proud to actually be able to invite my international homies to festivals this side. My very close friend and longtime manager Meaghan Burns came down from Chicago for the Bushfire Festival and to say she was impressed is an understatement. I would like to send a huge shout out to the brilliant minds, creatives and corporations behind these big music and arts festivals in the Motherland.

I can’t really say what more I would want to see in festivals in the continent as a consumer. However, as an artist, I would like to see more efforts to include more up-n-coming lesser known acts. Bushfire for example has this really cool initiative that basically does this in a nutshell; every year local artists are given the opportunity to compete for the shot to perform at Bushfire. Three of the most promising acts are given a slot at the festival which to me is incredible. That’s what I would probably want to see more in African festivals.

What more can we expect from you as the year goes?

More gigs hopefully outside of eSwatini, more dope progressive content from the team, more music to share with you all and definitely doing a lot more of what I love.

In closing, where can people find and support you online?

On the socials mainly,
Facebook – @ohpis.mlx
Twitter – @ohpis.mlx
Instagram – @ohpis_mlx
SoundCloud – @ohpis
Mixcloud – @ohpis

Thank you so much guys, genuinely love what you guys do and what you stand for. Thank you so much for the feature.

image of mkay & dj ohpis at the mtn bushfire festival 2018
DJ Ohpis & MKay at the MTN Bushfire Festival 2018. Photography credit: Daniel Toro
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Featured Music Reviews

Unpacking #MandelaPop: South African band, Radio 123, is breaking new ground with their unique Afro-funk sound

The spirits of the some of the greatest South African musicians who have sadly passed on, live on to inspire the youth. These greats that we speak of include musical geniuses such as Hugh Masikela, Zim Ngqawana, Brenda Fassie, Jabu Khanyile, Miriam Makeba and Ray Phiri just name a few. Artist that rose in an era characterized by the struggle for freedom, when the circumstance forced most young black South Africans to desperately cling on their identities, fight for their right to be and change the narrative. During these times, art was undoubtedly the most effective tool to usher in change, and the artists carried the messages of the times and made consciousness accessible to all.

The energies, purposes and visions of these fallen icons in the South African arts and culture community have not died off, they are now championed by younger acts who exist to authentically depict South African life. These artists are brave, brave because they live in a time where mimicry prevails, and they passionately refuse to represent something that does speak to who they are and what they stand for. Johannesburg-based four-piece band, Radio 123, embody the same ideals as some of the greatest South African musicians from yesteryear. The band was started by Simangaliso Mfula the vocalist and Nyameko Sipho Nkondlwane the trumpeter, with a goal of telling real township stories and artistically reflecting the ‘rainbow nation’ idea that the political powers that be tried to market to the nation.

Simangaliso with his raspy, distinct voice easily reminds you of Brown Motsime who was once the host of Selimanthunzi and the ever-so-bubbly M.X.O. He intelligently takes full advantage of the Jozi dialect, merging pop and kasi slang to create a language of his own. With this language as a tool, he becomes the voice of the township. Nyameko follows Simangaliso with his trumpet as he confidently floats through tracks. The trumpet is Nyameko’s avenue of expression, he captures the essence and the energy of the kasi, and beautifully blows out breathtaking melodies. The sound they produce is funky, fun and energy-filled. Mandela Pop they call it, a sound that places the kasi at the forefront of South African creativity and celebrates black excellence in a unique way.

Manga Manga, their first release of 2018 is a funky, Mzansi experience that draws inspiration from Kwaito, Jazz, 80s Bubblegum music and House music. The four-track project is an experience like no other, a project that can only be made by South African creative maestros like Radio 123. Radio 123 has been taking their sound overseas as they have played a few shows in a few European countries. They are progressive and important documenters of South African culture.

Stream their project ‘Manga Manga’ on Spotify.

Stream their project ‘Manga Manga’ on Apple Music.

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Featured Music Reviews

Listen to Darkie Fiction’s first single, Bhoza, off their upcoming debut EP

Johannesburg-based duo, Darkie Fiction, has been the talk of the city in the last two months. Capturing the attention of music and art lovers with their eye-pleasing aesthetic and their authentically South African music. Their creative allure has won them fans across South Africa and they are sure to gain more supporters with their new single titled Bhoza. A pro-youth, celebratory song which will surely lift your mood and get you dancing. The song was produced by Swiss producer, Maloon TheBoom, and mastered by the very dope Cape Town based producer, Kay Faith. Start your week with dope kwaito-influenced vibes.

Stream Bhoza on Spotify.

Stream Bhoza on Apple Music.

Stream Bhoza on SoundCloud.

You can also download the song here.

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Featured Music Reviews

Listen to the Stay True Sounds released Plutonix Dreams EP by KVRVBO

KVRVBO, a Duduza-born producer, is an underground force. Respected and celebrated in the deep house scene in Johannesburg, he has built a solid name for himself through his musical talent. It is not a surprise to see Stay True Sounds pick him up and provide him a platform to showcase his production talent. He drops a 4 track banger of an EP called the Plutonix Dreams EP through Stay True Sounds. The EP is an electronic, musical journey which depicts the level at which South African producers are producing at.

Stream the Plutonix Dreams EP.

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Featured Music Reviews

Listen to the new #WavyBaby EP by South Africa’s very own Venda Pop star, Una Rams

Venda-born and Pretoria-based artist, Una Rams,  finally releases his long-awaited Wavy Baby EP. A six track follow-up to his 2015 release Pink Moon EP – a project that catapulted him into the South African music industry. The new EP features C-Tea, Seyi Shay, Misa Narrates and Thabsie.

image of una rams wavy baby ep artwork
Image credit: Una Rams, Soulistic Music

Stream the Wavy Baby EP on Spotify.

Check back for a full review.

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Featured Music Reviews

Gully, street & focused: Get a glimpse of the inventive world of rising Mzansi rap phenomenon, Nash

In a heavily globalized world where technology makes the world feel smaller, people are not only limited to being loyal to their people, culture or country, they can re-imagine their identities on a more global platform. We live in times of mass participation, participation on a global scale, and this mass participation is facilitated by the technology. A particular culture can be perceived as niche and alternative today, and drastically be seen as pop and accessible tomorrow. We live in interesting times.

Hip Hop, a culture created in America by young people of colour in the hoods of New York , is now the most popular music genre in the world. Hip Hop is not just a genre of music, but a culture that has connected millions of people from different parts of the world. Each country in the world has its own interpretation of the culture. In South Africa, the youth have completely owned the Hip Hop culture and they take part in it, not only as South Africans, but as global citizens. Hip Hop as a culture and music genre in Mzansi is slowly maturing and the listeners’ musical palettes at a rapid pace. Listeners these days are spoilt for choice and young South African rappers are serving quality music that can go toe to toe with the toughest acts from abroad.

Young rappers like the innanetwav affiliated rapper, Nash, are a perfect example of talent that could fare well if pit against acts from overseas. His newly released Skrilla EP is gully, street and details how focused the young rapper on his quest to break into the game. The EP details where the young rapper is in life, how he views the world, how he interacts with the world and provides the listener with a glimpse of his life. He speaks on how he views money, women and the pursuit of the good life. The EP also boats song strong features like Ginger Trill, MyKey, The Big Hash and ABD. The Mpumalanga-born rapper effortlessly floats on the production on the EP, introducing new ideas in South African Hip Hop. Like a true innanetwav release, the beats are banging and the raps are world-class.