Okmalumkoolkat 'iJusi' [Video Premiere]

Okayafrica premieres Okmalumkoolkat's video for 'iJusi,' off his debut EP 'Holy Oxygen I' via Affine Records.

Okmalumkoolkat has consistently come through with some of our favorite collaborations, including our 2013 Song of the Year "Gusheshe" with Cassper Nyovest. Last week the Durban-born/JHB-based rapper (aka Simiso Zwane) made his solo debut with Holy Oxygen I, a four-track EP produced by his Affine Records labelmates in Vienna Cid Rim and The Clonious. The release marks a proper introduction to the world of Future Mfana, Okmalumkoolkat's persona who does "future concepts in the now," he tells Okayafrica. "Like Zulu sci-fi but it's also all about highlights. Most things that are edited out of our known history, from his point of view of course."

On the EP closer, the non-linear wordsmith deems "iJusi" a special edition of Future Mfana. "iJusi means juice in Zulu," Okmalumkoolkat explains, "As in I got the shining, I am the blessed one." He also mentions that the song's intent was "to show flair like Basquiat's brushstrokes, every bar is a stroke of genius. The poems are informative if you really listen. Just so you all know who has the shining. I feel like in terms of being one with oneself, I am the closest in the continent and in the world's amongst spoken word messengers." The "iJusi" video, a film by Gregor Lehrl which we're excited to premiere here today, is a warped look inside the mind of Future Mfana. Shot in Vienna and Johannesburg, the footage was exported and looped onto a VHS tape and then pushed back digitally with thick and distorted layering (at the encouragement of LuckyMe's creative director Dominic Flannigan to underline the song's twisted layers. Lehrl discussed some of the video's effects with us:

"Especially for the static shots, the idea was to have backdrops that allow Simiso to perform in front of different subjects, resulting in images reminiscent of paintings or framed stills; juxtaposed with takes using a handheld cam, symbolising the wide spectrum in which Simiso’s mind and body are travelling. We wanted to concentrate on historic subjects in Vienna, combined with settings in Johannesburg, emphasizing the two worlds, in which the project is situated, coming together."

James Swift also had some thoughts to share on the video's triangulation effect:

"The triangulation effect is achieved by using a computationally intense evolutionary technique called simulated annealing where random changes to a limited set of triangles are selected based on their similarity to a target image. The resulting aesthetic is a unique abstract of the original image. The code was initially written by me in partnership with the artist Phelim McConigly. It was used for various works he created in the past three years. This is definitely the first time the technique has been used in a music video."

The next video off the EP, for "Allblackblackkat," was directed by Chris Saunders, the prolific Johannesburg-based photographer/director behind Nozinja's "Tsekeleke" (an early frontrunner for video of this year), LV and Okmalumkoolkat's 2012 video of the year "Sebenza," and more recently the SA-NYC fashion/photography exhibition NOT x Chris Saunders. Holy Oxygen I is out now via Affine Records. Watch the first video off the release below.


6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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