Review : Various Artists - Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dance Music From South Africa
PitchforkSpeed in music can be strange. Sometimes songs that are fast, technically speaking, don't sound fast in effect. Maybe they don't move, or don't prove fleet in any way. Whereas sometimes a slow song, with the right lean, can seem to take off, to zoom toward some distant horizon. But however the finer points play out, speed in music can be misleading-- and wondrously disorienting. Case in point is the compilation Shangaan Electro-- pretty much every track on it is ruthlessly, breathlessly, ridiculously fast. Yet the effect of so much speed is to make everything, paradoxically and more than a little psychedelically, slow down.
Opening track "Ngunyuta Dance", by an act called BBC, makes for a good primer. After beginning with a weightless drop of chintzy-sounding keyboard tones and spritzy digital drums, it eventually has like 10 different patterns running through it, each at a manic pace. And something in the ceaselessness of them all makes the rhythm seem to just keep getting faster and faster as it transpires-- until a disembodying sense of overload washes over and starts, kind of magically, to pull everything apart.
There's a lot to pull apart. Shangaan Electro collects 12 extremely dense and startling tracks of contemporary Shangaan dance music from Africa, specifically a few southern parts near Johannesburg and Mozambique. Evidently, the scene grew out of the mind of one man, named Nozinja, who works as a producer and sells music on his own, on DVDs and cassettes that fan out for use at insane dance parties. Footage from these village parties has gotten around via popular YouTube clips full of sick dance moves, which feature lots of heavily torqued wiggling and actions that look like something a man might do after just discovering a leech on his balls. (Another way to describe them, this a choice quote from the liner notes: "When you see them dance you feel like they have got no bones.")...full text
EmusicEven the most ardent African music aficionado might wonder what, precisely, "shangaan" is. So first things first: Shangaan is a hyper-localized music, made primarily in one studio catering to fans and dancers in the townships between Johannesburg, Limpopo, and Mozambique in South Africa. ...full text
BoomkatAsk us about Shangaan Electro a week ago and we'd ask you to speak slower. Ask us this week and we'll rave about one of the most astounding records we've heard this year. The erstwhile and intrepid ears of Honest Jon's Mark Ainley and Hardwax/Basic Channel legend Mark Ernestus have been following this niche style from Soweto, SA, for a hot minute, long enough anyway to pick out twelve extraordinary examples of 180bpm, marimba-laden, afro-dance diamonds hewn from rickety drum machines and keyboards shaped into dazzling fillips of pure dance energy. We almost couldn't believe our ears on first listen, or the tenth. It was perhaps only when we witnessed the accompanying videos on youtube that it started to settle into place, watching liquid hipped Shangaan dancers scuttle and stomp like folk possessed by something untold but completely comprehendible. It's not a large punt to draw distinctions between this and Chicago footwurk or Caribbean Soca styles, from the high tempo velocity to use of basic equipment all deployed with the intention of eliciting faster and more furious dance moves from the participants. Essentially this is a continuation of traditional styles, only plugged in at the studio of Nozinja Music Productions to become utterly electrified and electrifying. But these aren't simply instrumental rhythms, they're also songs with passionate, soul wrenching vocals and head-rushingly sweet synth melodies. Four exemplary contributions from the scene's lynchpin Zinja Hlungwani are worth the entry price alone; from the gripping hypertension of 'Ntombi Ya Mugaza' to the warbling duet of synthesized and human soul in 'Nwa Gezani My Love', or the alien harmonics of 'Nwa Gezani', you're paying to experience a mesmerizing sound that you simply can't hear anywhere outside of Limpopo or low-res youtube clips. Nozinja is responsible for the breakneck speed of Shangaan Electro, responding to public demand for faster rhythms since opening his studio in 2005, even creating "boy bands" like the boiler-suited and clown mask-wearing Tshetsha Boys and producing for the rest of the artists included here. To be fair, this music is still a totally niche prospect, but initial reactions from friends we would never expect to like it have been as immediate as the music itself and there's no denying this will be one of the years most lauded albums among adventurous listeners. This is genuinely some of the most exciting music you'll hear this year, and alongside the Footwork/Juke craze currently taking hold, you'll have heard little like it before. ESSENTIAL PURCHASE!...full text
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