Photo: Axel Joseph.
5 African Acts to Check Out at Sónar 2022
The Barcelona-based festival returns with a fresh slate of African electronic music.
After a pandemic two-year hiatus, the Sónar music festival gets back to life in Barcelona. This is a unique year for the Catalan festival, which has stood for almost two decades as a spearhead in the electronic music landscape, whether in club music-oriented sounds or extreme breakbeat noise.
Not only is the festival making its comeback edition, but it also features a number of African artists and African-related performances that have never been seen before. From Pongo's neo-kuduro to the Nyege Nyege-signed genre-bending trio Scotch Rolex, MC Yallah and Lord Spikeheart, don't sleep on these five acts—they're just the tip of the iceberg of an African take on global dance floors.
Feverish thumps, squelchy noises and slippery textures. Blend all of that into a techno maelstrom and you'll start to get close to Ehua's work. The Italian-Ivorian producer made her first appearance in the electronic music world in 2018 with the EP Diplozoon. The compact displayed a young producer craving a dance floor filled with uncanny rhythms and unconventional drums. Since then, Ehua has garnered a couple of lifetime achievements for club music producers, from the conceptual 2021 EP Aquamarine to a residency at Rinse FM and a remix to the trance-like music of Nicola Cruz. Her DJ set will most probably open up a plethora of genre-busting tracks, from watery jams to fast-paced, otherworldly techno.
Kabza De Small & DJ Maphorisa
Amapiano, the low-slung-yet-energetic South-African genre has taken the world by storm. Truth be told, there are few DJs who master the flaring buzzes, the bouncy kicks and rounded frequencies that make this music so unique. Kabza De Small andDJ Maphorisa are two of them, and they will be at Sónar in a singular six-hour-long performance. Under the moniker Scorpion Kings, the duo has already bestowed us with a handful of lives filled with sultry grooves and slick bass lines. In Barcelona, they will most probably surpass themselves.
Maguette Dieng is one of the founders of the Pan-Africa-through-Barcelona collective Jokko. Ahead of a needed Afro-centered turn on Catalunya dance floors, Dieng has developed her DJing style jaunting across left-field sounds blooming across the African continent. Dark gqom melded together with IDM, noisy breakbeat with anti-pop afrobeats and loads of heavy percussions are the substances that make her all-embracing sets so compelling. Coming from a Senegalese upbringing, Dieng is also a fan of unconventional rhythms. Maybe this is a hint of Senegal's frantic mbalax inhabiting her music.
Maybe her name is not familiar, but chances are you have already listened to her voice. Pongo is the singer behind "Kalemba," the blasting 2000s track that showed to the world the buoyant scene beaming out of a creative African Portuguese-speaking community in Lisbon. Years later, the streets of Portugal's capital are still a place to have in mind when it comes to Afro-diasporic sounds, and Pongo is one of this movement's spearheads. Praised by critics and the public, her last album (Sakidila) displays an artist conscious of the different dancing vectors crossing her path. A good example is her 2021 single: "Bruxos" an ear-tingling, baile funk-slash-kuduro born from a serendipitous collab between Pongo and the French producer King Doudou—a song that slaps from the first to the last second.
Scotch Rolex ft MC Yallah & Lord Spikeheart
A music wonder team for a dystopian world. That's the most suitable description for the trio formed by Japanese DJ and producer Scotch Rolex, Ugandan MC Yallah and Kenyan metal vocalist Lord Spikeheart. The group met in 2019, as the result of a residency promoted by the Nyege Nyege hub in the surroundings of Kampala. Their 2021 debut album, TEWARI, is a reckless catalog of extreme music that ranges from grindcore atmospheres to overlayed fuzzy and nosey synths. More than bringing harsh textures and anti-dancefloor tracks to the stage, their performance is proof that rawness is not an exclusivity of a unique music genre—it hops from club music to rap to rock and so on.
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