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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.

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Artwork: Barthélémy Toguo Lockdown Selfportrait 10, 2020. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Goes to Paris in 2021

The longstanding celebration of African art will be hosted by Parisian hot spot Christie's for the first time ever.

In admittedly unideal circumstances, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be touching French soil in 2021. The internationally celebrated art fair devoted to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora will be hosted in Paris, France from January 20 - 23. With COVID-19 still having its way around the globe, finding new ways to connect is what it's all about and 1-54 is certainly taking the innovative steps to keep African art alive and well.
In partnership with Christie's, the in-person exhibits will take place at the auction house's city HQ at Avenue Matignon, while 20 international exhibitors will be featured online at Christies.com. And the fun doesn't stop there as the collaboration has brought in new ways to admire the talent from participating galleries from across Africa and Europe. The fair's multi-disciplinary program of talks, screenings, performances, workshops, and readings are set to excite and entice revelers.

Artwork: Delphine Desane Deep Sorrow, 2020. Courtesy Luce Gallery


The tech dependant program, curated by Le 18, a multi-disciplinary art space in Marrakech medina, will see events take place during the Parisian run fair, followed by more throughout February.
This year's 1-54 online will be accessible to global visitors virtually, following the success of the 2019's fair in New York City and London in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19 related regulations and public guidelines, 1-54 in collaboration with Christie's Paris is in compliance with all national regulations, strict sanitary measures, and security.

Artwork: Cristiano Mongovo Murmurantes Acrilico Sobre Tela 190x200cm 2019


1-54 founding director Touria El Glaoui commented, "Whilst we're sad not to be able to go ahead with the fourth edition of 1-54 Marrakech in February as hoped, we are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be in Paris this January with our first-ever fair on French soil thanks to our dedicated partners Christie's. 1-54's vision has always been to promote vibrant and dynamic contemporary art from a diverse set of African perspectives and bring it to new audiences, and what better way of doing so than to launch an edition somewhere completely new. Thanks to the special Season of African Culture in France, 2021 is already set to be a great year for African art in the country so we are excited to be playing our part and look forward, all being well, to welcoming our French friends to Christie's and many more from around the world to our online fair in January."

Julien Pradels, General Director of Christie's France, said, "Christie's is delighted to announce our second collaboration with 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, following a successful edition in London this October. Paris, with its strong links to the continent, is a perfect place for such a project and the additional context of the delayed Saison Africa 2020 makes this partnership all the more special. We hope this collaboration will prove a meaningful platform for the vibrant African art scene and we are confident that collectors will be as enthusiastic to see the works presented, as we are."


Artwork: Kwesi Botchway Metamorphose in July, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957


Here's a list of participating galleries to be on the lookout for:

Galleries

31 PROJECT (Paris, France)
50 Golborne (London, United Kingdom)
Dominique Fiat (Paris, France)
Galerie 127 (Marrakech, Morocco)
Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris, France)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire/ Dakar, Senegal)
Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris, France)
Galerie Lelong & Co. (Paris, France / New York, USA)
Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)
Galleria Continua (Beijing, China / Havana, Cuba / Les Moulins, France / San Gimignano, Italy / Rome, Italy)
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana / London, United Kingdom)
Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca, Morocco)

Luce Gallery (Turin, Italy)
MAGNIN-A (Paris, France)
Nil Gallery (Paris, France)
POLARTICS (Lagos, Nigeria)
SEPTIEME Gallery (Paris, France)
This is Not a White Cube (Luanda, Angola) THK Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa) Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland)

For more info visit 1-54

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