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Thandi Ntuli.

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10 South African Artists & Labels to Support on Bandcamp

As Bandcamp waives its share of revenue, here are 10 South African artists and labels to consider supporting.

Since March of 2020, the first Friday of every month, Bandcamp has been waving its revenue share to assist artists during the Covid-19 pandemic. It's a great gesture from a platform that's a haven for independent musicians and one that has seen fans spend millions of dollars that go directly to artists.

Bandcamp Co-Founder and CEO Ethan Diamond said in a statement released in July 2020: "It may sound simple, but the best way to help artists is with your direct financial support, and we hope you'll join us as we work to support artists in this challenging time."

With hordes of artists on Bandcamp, we highlight 10 among many we feel are worth your hard-earned money. This list includes a diverse lineup of artists from multiple genres and corners of South Africa's vast music scene.

NB: This list is in no particular order.


Skinniez

One of the country's most productive and talented producers, SKinniez's production is deeply rooted in jazz and hip-hop with touches of modern electronic music. SKinniez has produced for rappers such as Uno July and Jitsvinger, and releases music frequently, so as a shopper, you'll be spoiled for choice.


Essential album: Happy Birthday Hotep

Buli

It makes sense why Buli calls himself Buli From Space. Ethereal pads and strong kicks and snares that tap gently define the texture of the electronic music producer's sound. Buli's music feels otherworldly and, just like space which it seems to be modelled after, is calmingly minimal. It does, however, consist of layers that contribute to the overall mysterious feel of the music.

Recommended album:

Blue

Teka Records

Spoek Mathambo's label is home to Spoek himself, Batuk, Laliboi, Vukazithathe, Blacswet, Kitsuko and Fantasma. The label's roster consists of progressive artists whose music is the result of sonic experiments with electronic dance music and all its strains—be it techno, kwaito, house, hip-hop and… it could be anything that Spoek and his acolytes are feeling at the time. Teka Records's Bandcamp page is home to classics such as Spoek Mathambo's Mzansi Beat Code, LaliBoi's Siyangaphi, Batuk's Kasi Royalty, Spoek Mathambo's Tales from the Lost Cities and many other exciting albums and EPs.

Recommended album: Spoek Mathambo Tales from the Lost Cities

Iapetus Records

One of South Africa's longest-standing independent hip-hop labels, Iapetus has been churning out quality albums for more than a decade, all of which can be found on their Bandcamp page. From classics such as Hymphatic Thabs' The Age of Horus, Gin-I-Grindith's Iron Tooth Monsters, Yugen Blakrok's Return of the Astro-Goth, to newer releases such as Yugen's Amina Mysterium and Hymphatic Thabs' Centre of the Universe. If you are into alternative conceptual music, cop the whole catalogue.

Recommended album: Yugen Blakrok Anima Mysterium

Arsenic

The boom-bap head will feel like a kid in a candy store on Arsenic Beats's Bandcamp page. Be it on the veteran producer's ongoing series of EPs/mixtapes Hidden Formulas (currently on Volume 5) or sporadic single releases and projects, Arsenic's page showcases some of Cape Town's best rap talent as they interpret his soulful production. And there are plenty of instrumentals for the beat heads, too. The cult classic Deurie Naai Alliance, a collaborative album between Arsenic and YoungstaCPT from 2013 is a cult classic that played its role in laying the foundation for one of the country's most important emcees.

Recommended album: Arsenic and YoungstaCPT Deuri Naai Alliance (DNA)

Thandi Ntuli

One of modern South African jazz's most respected figures, composer, writer and arranger, Thandi Ntuli's catalogue chronicles her growth musically, spiritually and emotionally. Her catalogue meanders between different influences and a range of themes with the care and mastery of a musician who was born for their chosen career path.

Recommended album: Exiled

BCUC

Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness's long-form music pieces are a conduit between the physical realm and the ancestral spiritual world. Chants and vocals co-exist with hypnotic percussion and drums in their growing discography—Our Truth (2016), Emakhosini (2018) and The Healing (2019).

Recommended album: Emakhosini

Subterranean Wavelength

Helmed by the producer Micr.Pluto, Subterranean Wavelength is a label that showcases the different shades of electronic music that exist in South Africa. As a producer and overseer for most of the work released by the label, the music is shaped by Micr.Pluto's influences—hip-hop-based production decorated with different textures of electronic music. Subterranean Wavelength is also a platform for other producers and artists to showcase their takes of the broad genre that is electronic music.


Recommended album: Kajama Polarity Prism

Afrosynth Records

Founded by DJ Okapi, first as a record shop based in downtown Joburg, Afrosynth has transformed into a label that focuses on reissues of South Africa's bubblegum pop music. The genre, which was popular in the '80s, is hard to get ahold of online as most bubblegum albums and singles aren't on any streaming platforms or digital stores. One reissue at the time, Afrosynth is exposing the genre to new audiences and old fans are indulging in the nostalgia.


Recommended album: Chicco Twala I Need Some Money (single)

SPAZA

SPAZA, a collective with a revolving membership base, has released two projects so far. Both their self-titled 2019 debut album and 2020's UPRIZE! are gatherings of some of the country's most progressive musicians, from Siya Makhuzeni to Nonku Phiri, for open-ended songs that aren't out of the box, as in their world, there simply is no box that exists.


Recommended album: UPRIZE!


Interview
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Interview: How Stogie T’s ‘Freestyle Friday’ Became a TV Show

Freestyle Friday started as lockdown content but is now a fully-fledged TV show on Channel O. In this interview, Stogie T breaks down why the show is revolutionary and talks about venturing into media.

When South Africa was put under a hard lockdown in 2020, Stogie T started Freestyle Friday to "make SA rap again." Freestyle Friday, hosted on Instagram, saw a different cohort of rappers each rap over the same beat picked by the veteran rapper. From niche and emerging rappers to some of the most notable names in South African hip-hop—the likes of AKA, Focalistic, Ginger Trill and several others all participated.

In the last few weeks, however, Freestyle Friday has found its way to cable TV. The show airs every Friday on Channel O, one of the continent's longest-running music TV channels. Freestyle Friday as a TV programme isn't just about freestyles, it's about the art of rapping and the music business, particularly SA hip-hop. Guests range from lyricists to record executives and other personalities aligned with the scene—Ninel Musson and Ms Cosmo for instance.

But Freestyle Friday is only the first media product Stogie T is working on as he is in the process of starting a podcast network, a venture in which he is collaborating with Culture Capital. In the Q&A below, Stogie T breaks down the relationship with Culture Capital, how the show moved from the internet to TV, why it's a revolutionary idea, touches on his venture into media and his future plans.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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