Fe

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.

News Brief

Samthing Soweto and Makhafula Vilakazi’s New Song ‘Omama Bomthandazo’ is a Need

Samthing Soweto and Makhafula Vilakazi's latest song is a Women's Month special.

"Abamama Bomthandazo" is a song by Samthing Soweto and poet Makhafula Vilakazi, which the artists released to commemorate Women's Day (August 9) and Women's Month (August) in South Africa.

Keep reading...
Featured
Sjava. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

The 14 Best South African Songs of the Month

Heaters from Sjava, Nonku Phiri, Nasty C, J Smash, and Umaah, among others.

Our list of the best South African songs of the month includes new singles that dropped in July alongside those that were highlighted by getting the visual treatment.

Check out our selections below, which feature Nasty C, Nonku Phiri, PH, J Smash and more.

The list is in no particular order.

Keep reading...
popular
Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Keep reading...
popular

University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

Keep reading...

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.