Featured

Johannesburg's Experimental Music Finds a New Home

South African experimental music imprint Mushroom Hour Half Hour launches online with a sea of vinyl mixes and auditory experiments.

It’s one of the warmest days in autumn of 2015. Typical mid-year Joburg weather where standing in the shadows is hellishly cold, so we thaw in the direct sunlight. Picnicked in the garden of a makeshift art gallery in the bohemian part of the city, a group of people mainly from Jozi’s artsy scene sit about waiting for the show. Unsure of what to expect, we find reassurance looking at the unlikely band of mismatched musicians and artists gathered in front of a downing sun.


On stage at Spaza Art Gallery in Troyeville, sound artist João Orecchia plays with synthesizers, vocalists Nosisi Ngakane and Siya Makuzeni––who is also a trombonist and this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year for Jazz––experiment with their ranges, while bassist Ariel Zamonsky and graffiti artist/beatboxer Breeze Yoko provide the bassline and flare. Other musicians like violinist Waldo Alexander, percussionist Gontse Makhene and Nonku Phiri add to the day’s musical genius.

Nothing is rehearsed as the sounds come together perfectly. And sometimes not so perfect. But this gathering, presented by Joburg-based audiophiles Nhlanhla Mngadi and Andrew Curnow, is a celebration of the collective and the arts, underpinned by Mngadi and Curnow’s love for music.

This Lab Session at Spaza Gallery was one of many improvised jams that popped up across South Africa––and in Ghana––bringing together notable artists, from musicians to poets, to create original recordings of genre-bending beats.

Mngadi and Curnow run an experimental music imprint, known as Mushroom Hour Half Hour, which came to be following an inspiring psychedelic trip and their pirate radio show at Invisible Cities Radio (ICR) coming to a close as Jeppestown underwent gentrification. The building housing ICR was getting sold as part of the now shiny Maboneng precinct and the two found themselves without a base, later deciding to set up a mobile recording studio.

Since 2014, they've taken these curated sessions to the homes of poets, streets of ikasi and venues such as galleries around Joburg. Recording and documenting some of the country’s most renowned poets, such as Lesego Rampolokeng and Bra Ike, and musicians like João and Nosisi, Mushroom Hour have presented soundscapes created from scratch, while also digging into the archives (musical and video footage) to create postmodernist mashups that border on avant garde and straight-up funk.

With the launch of the official Mushroom Hour website last week, experimental music in South Africa has a new home.

In a sea of vinyl mixes and auditory experiments on the platform, one of the sessions that stands out from their Word on Wax series is a live recording of Joburg wordsmith Makhafula Vilakazi whose poetry is blended with vinyl-based music. Taking place under a gazebo at the Votos Logos Car Wash in Spruitview, a favourite hangout of Vilakazi, the almost two-hour long session is laced with his fiery-tongued raps and Curnow’s selection of musical gems.

“Your children are drowning with guilt in an ocean of our black mothers’ sweat/ They are drowning with guilt in an ocean of African tears,” Vilakazi rhymes in De La Rey, his poem named after Second Boer War general Koos De La Rey. In a video edited by Mngadi, which takes archival black and white footage from events at the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria, Vilakazi speaks to the descendants of De La Rey. He calls on the general, a “Jesus with a gun,” to “Come take your children back to the sea” and “free their conscious from the silent graves of the children of 1976” and other events that led to the bloodshed of black people during South Africa’s colonial past.

Timeously launched on the 40th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising, Mushroom Hour also commemorates the students of 1976 with a compilation titled 40 Years | June 16.

Looking to the future, Mngadi and Curnow say they’ll release the Spaza Gallery installment and other sessions like these, plus curate more Lab Sessions in the form of album recordings.

Keep up with Mushroom Hour Half Hour on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and head to their website for a full catalogue of recordings, videos, photos and more.

***

Stefanie Jason is a South African-based writer.

popular

Introducing OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 List

Celebrating African Women Laying the Groundwork for the Future

It would not be hyperbole to consider the individuals we're honoring for OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 list as architects of the future.

This is to say that these women are building infrastructure, both literally and metaphorically, for future generations in Africa and in the Diaspora. And they are doing so intentionally, reaching back, laterally, and forward to bridge gaps and make sure the steps they built—and not without hard work, mines of microaggressions, and challenges—are sturdy enough for the next ascent.

In short, the women on this year's list are laying the groundwork for other women to follow. It's what late author and American novelist Toni Morrison would call your "real job."

"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else."

And that's what inspired us in the curation of this year's list. Our honorees use various mediums to get the job done—DJ's, fashion designers, historians, anthropologists, and even venture capitalists—but each with the mission to clear the road ahead for generations to come. Incredible African women like Eden Ghebreselassie, a marketing lead at ESPN who created a non-profit to fight energy poverty in Eritrea; or Baratang Miya, who is quite literally building technology clubs for disadvantaged youth in South Africa.

There are the builds that aren't physically tangible—movements that inspire women to show up confidently in their skin, like Enam Asiama's quest to normalize plus-sized bodies and Frédérique (Freddie) Harrel's push for Black and African women to embrace the kink and curl of their hair.

And then there are those who use their words to build power, to take control of the narrative, and to usher in true inclusion and equity. Journalists, (sisters Nikki and Lola Ogunnaike), a novelist (Oyinkan Braithwaite), a media maven (Yolisa Phahle), and a number of historians (Nana Oforiatta Ayim, Leïla Sy) to name a few.

In a time of uncertainty in the world, there's assuredness in the mission to bring up our people. We know this moment of global challenge won't last. It is why we are moving forward to share this labor of love with you, our trusted and loyal audience. We hope that this list serves as a beacon for you during this moment—insurance that future generations will be alright. And we have our honorees to thank for securing that future.

EXPERIENCE 100 WOMEN 2020

The annual OkayAfrica 100 Women List is our effort to acknowledge and uplift African women, not only as a resource that has and will continue to enrich the world we live in, but as a group that deserves to be recognized, reinforced and treasured on a global scale. In the spirit of building infrastructure, this year's list will go beyond the month of March (Women's History Month in America) and close in September during Women's Month in South Africa.

100 women 2020

Audio
Burna Boy 'African Giant' money cover art by Sajjad.

The 20 Essential Burna Boy Songs

We comb through the Nigerian star's hit-filled discography to select 20 essential songs from the African Giant.

Since bursting onto the scene in 2012 with his chart-topping single, "Like to Party," and the subsequent release of his debut album, L.I.F.E - Leaving an Impact for eternity, Burna Boy has continued to prove time and again that he is a force to be reckoned with.

The African Giant has, over the years, built a remarkable musical identity around the ardent blend of dancehall, hip-hop, reggae, R&B, and afropop to create a game-changing genre he calls afro-fusion. The result has been top tier singles, phenomenal collaborations, and global stardom—with several accolades under his belt which include a Grammy nomination and African Giant earning a spot on many publications' best albums of 2019.

We thought to delve into his hit-filled discography to bring you The 20 Essential Burna Boy Songs.

This list is in no particular order.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Image courtesy of Lula Ali Ismaïl

'Dhalinyaro' Is the Female Coming-of-Age Story Bringing Djibouti's Film Industry to Life

The must-watch film, from Lula Ali Ismaïl, paints a novel picture of Djibouti's capital city through the story of three friends.

If you're having a tough time recalling the last movie you watched from Djibouti, it's likely because you have never watched one before. With an almost non-existent film industry in the country, Lula Ali Ismaïl, tells a beautiful coming of age story of three young female Djiboutian teenagers at the cusp of womanhood. Dhalinyaro offers a never-before-seen view of Djibouti City as a stunning, dynamic city that blends modernity and tradition—a city in which the youth, like all youth everywhere, struggle to decide what their futures will look like. It's a beautiful story of friendship, family, dreams and love from a female filmmaker who wants to tell a "universal story of youth," but set in the country she loves—Djibouti.

The story revolves around the lives of three young friends from different socio-economic backgrounds, with completely varied attitudes towards life, but bound by a deep friendship. There is Asma, the conservative academic genius who dreams of going to medical school and hails from a modest family. Hibo, a rebellious, liberal, spoiled girl from a very wealthy family who learns to be a better friend as the film evolves and finally Deka. Deka is the binding force in the friendship, a brilliant though sometimes naïve teen who finds herself torn between her divorced mother's ambitions to give her a better life having saved up all her life for her to go to university abroad, and her own conviction that she wants to study and succeed in her own country.

Okayafrica contributor, Ciku Kimeria speaks to Ismaïl on her groundbreaking film, her hopes for the filmmaking industry and the universality of stories.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

Stogie T Enlists Nasty C, Boity, Nadia Nakai and More, for ‘The Empire of Sheep’ Deluxe Edition

Stream the deluxe version of Stogie T's EP 'The Empire of Sheep' featuring Nasty C, Boity, Nadia Nakai and more.

Stogie T just shared a deluxe version of his 2019 EP The Empire of Sheep titled EP The Empire of Sheep (Deluxe Unmasked). The project comes with three new songs. "All You Do Is Talk" features fellow South African rappers Nasty C, Boity and Nadia Nakai. New York lyricist appears on "Bad Luck" while one of Stogie T's favorite collaborators Ziyon appears on "The Making."

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.