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Electro-Rap Trio PHFat Are South Africa's 'Happiness Machines'

'Happiness Machines' is the debut full length from Cape Town's PHFat.


The final week of July saw South African PHFat’s Smooth Mike, Disco Izrael and Narch release their very first 17 track full length entitled Happiness Machines-- a perfect amalgamation of rumbling bass, laser-like sounds and sparks-flying, metal grinding intensity that is true PHfashion. Here are just a few tips that might warm you to PHFat’s endeavors if you happen to have somehow failed to notice the country’s ever expanding reach in electronic music.

Best Enjoyed Loud, Hard, & Live:

*Cape Town Album Launch at The Assembly (Image by Silas Lekgoathi)

As part of their “coming of age” album’s launch, the guys have organised a number of events over the coming months, two of which have already happened in Cape Town and Pretoria. The Assembly saw Cape Town douse last Friday night in a lot of complimentary Jagermeister, acquiring the Happiness Machines merch and anchoring ourselves to the nearest pillars, as the sweaty moving masses left little room for much more. You see, PHFat live, as opposed to PHFat via those cheap headphones that came with your smartphone are two completely different creatures, and should be treated as such-- Cape Town knows this, with the queue snaking around the corner as the litmus test to their success. The launches included the best in local electronic beat freaks, such as Felix Laband, Seafood (Card on Spokes and Dank) as well as Damascus and Wildebeats on one of the most crisp of sound rigs available, thanks to Golden Circle. This is music that is best enjoyed loud, hard, and live.

Official Jozi Launch: Grietfest - 31 August

Official East Coast Launch: Port Alfred Boat Races - 7 September

Official Durban Launch: Durban Electronic Festival & Music Conference - 21 September

See Their Visuals:

Travys Owen, video director of the first single “House of Clashes” captures the trio’s sentiments perfectly. Also having leant his high quality ingenuity to Petite Noir’s “Disappear”, Owen is humble guy with a healthy creative appetite. In an eery, death stained feel at the helm of what is yet to be seen from the album, Travys shared his thoughts with us on the video itself and what’s to come... “I have been looking to do something like this for quite some time... This track let me explore this way of filming, and I think overall we are very happy with how it looks. There is talk of a sequel but let's wait and see!” The CD available for purchase and the illustrations on the site are fantastic contribution by illustrative designer Jason De Villiers. who has worked on everything from Poppa Trunks to the Sunday Times. Words would not do the man justice, so download yourself a wallpaper while you’re at it.

DIY Electro-Rap:

What Disco, Mike and Narch have managed to accomplish is the ability to use hip hop devices without letting the spring-to-mind nature of the genre define their sound. With a well curated collection of tracks that go from dark, cantankerous and sexy "House of Clashes," to the tasty "Snacks," to a playful collab with Christian Tiger School’s Luc Vermeer under the moniker Desert Head, to the musical palate cleansers like "Butterfly Stroke" and "Junios," this album is an all-round winner. After scouring the country for the analogue synths that would give the album the edge it needed, the boys have truly outdone themselves on this one; the self-manufactured sounds lend to their need to be completely independent of the outside influence of a record label, into which Disco and (the aptly named) Smooth Mike plant their rhymes with deliberation and unmistakable flow. Having maintained their quirk but seasoned their skill, the DIY nature of this album (available for free on the website) is stellar. Buy the album and you’ll be treated to a limited edition 17 page booklet of badass design also tended to by Mr Izrael himself.

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Photo courtesy of CNOA

These Colombian Civil Rights Activists Are Fighting to Make Sure Afro-Colombians are Counted in the Census

When 30 percent of Colombia's Black citizens disappeared from the data overnight, a group of Afro-Colombian activists demanded an explanation.

It was the end of 2019 when various Black organizations protested in front of the census bureau—The National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (DANE)—in Bogotá, Colombia to show their dissatisfaction about what they called a "statistical genocide" of the black population. The census data, published that year, showed 2.9 million people, only 6 percent of the total population of the country, was counted as "Afro-Colombian," "Raizal," and "Palenquero"—the various terms identifying black Colombians.

For many years, Afro-Colombians have been considered the second largest ethno-racial group in the country. Regionally, Colombia has long been considered the country with the second highest number of Afro-descendants after Brazil, according to a civil society report.

Why did the population of Afro-Colombians drop so drastically?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists protesting erasure of Afro-descendants in front of the census bureau.

Last year, a crowd of activists gathered in Bogota to protest what they saw as erasure of Black communities in the Colombian census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

In the latest national census report from 2018/2019, there appeared to be a 30.8 percent reduction of the overall group of people that identified as Black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquero, as compared to the 2005. After this controversial report, an Afro-Colombian civil rights organization known as the National Conference of Afro Colombian Organizations (CNOA), officially urged DANE to explain the big undercounting of the black population.

This wasn't a small fight. Representatives who hold the special seats of Afro-Colombians in Colombia's congress asked the census bureau to attend a political control debate at the House of Representatives in November 2019 to deliver an accountability report. "The main goal of doing a political debate was to demand DANE to give us a strong reason about the mistaken data in the last census in regard to the Afro population," said Ariel Palacios, an activist and a member of CNOA.

At the debate, the state released an updated census data report saying that, almost 10 percent of the Colombian population—4.6 million people out of 50.3 million—considers themselves Afro-Colombians or other ethnicities (like Raizal, and Palenquero). But despite DANE trying to confirm the accuracy and reliability on the latest census report it was clear that, for a variety of reasons, Black people were missed by the census. The state argued that their main obstacles with data collection were related to the difficulties of the self-recognition question, as well as security reasons that didn't allow them to access certain regions. They also admitted to a lack of training, logistics and an overall lack of success in the way the data collectors conducted the census.

How could they have counted Black populations better?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists playing drums in front of the census bureau.

Drummers performing during a protest against the Colombian census bureau's erasure of Afro-Colombians from the 2018 census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

These arguments were not reasonable for the civil rights activists, partially because the state failed to properly partner with Afro-organizations like CNOA to conduct or facilitate extensive informational campaigns about the self-identification questions.

"CNOA has worked on self-recognition and visibility campaigns among the Afro community and this census ignored our work," says priest Emigdio Cuesta-Pino, the executive secretary of CNOA. Palacios also thinks that the majority of Afro-Colombians are aware of their identity "we self-identify because we know there is a public political debate and we know that there is a lack of investment on public policies."

That's why it is not enough to leave the statistical data to the official census bureau to ensure that Afro-Colombian communities are fully counted in the country. And the civil rights activists knows that. They made a big splash in the national media and achieved visibility in the international community.

Thanks to The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights organization, Palacios traveled to D.C to meet with Race and Equality institution and a Democratic Congressman. "We called for a meeting with representative Hank Johnson to talk about the implementation of Colombia's peace accords from an Afro-Colombian perspective but also to address the gross undercounts of its black population," says Palacios.

For the activists at CNOA, the statistical visibility of the Black population is one of their battles. They have fought for Afro population recognition for almost two decades. "Since the very beginning CNOA has worked on the census issue as one of our main commitments within the statistical visibility of the Afro-Colombian people," says priest Cuesta-Pina. Behind this civil organization are 270 local associations, who work for their rights and collective interests.

The activists want to raise awareness on identity. Because according to Palacios, "In Colombia, there is missing an identity debate—we don't know what we are. They [the census bureau] ask if we are black, or if we are Afro-Colombians. But what are the others being asked? If they are white, mestizo or indigenous?" Palacios believes that for "CNOA this debate is pending, and also it is relevant to know which is the character of this nation."

Afro-Colombian Populations and the Coronavirus

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists use mock coffins and statistics to protest erasure of Afro-descendants

Colombian civil-rights activist insist that undercounting Afro-descendants can have a real impact on the health of Afro-Colombian communities, especially during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

Even though the state recently "agreed with to give us a detailed census report" and make a different projection with the micro data, says Palacios, now with the Covid-19 emergency, CNOA and the government has suspended all meetings with them, including cancelling a second congressional debate and the expert round table meeting to analyze the data.

Unfortunately, it is exactly in situations like the Covid-19 emergency where data analysis and an accurate census report would have been useful. According to the professor and PhD in Sociology Edgar Benítez from Center for Afro Diasporic Studies—CEAF, "Now it is required to provide a reliable and timely information on how the contagion pattern will spread in those predominantly Afro regions in the country and what is the institutional capacity in those places to face it," says Benítez.

He adds that this information is "critical at the moment because the institutional capacity is not up to provide it at the current situation". That's why the Center for Afro Diasporic Studies plans to work with DANE information from the last census. According to Benítez, "We are thinking of making comparisons at the municipal level with the information reported in the 2018 Quality of Life Survey, in order to have a robust and extensive database as possible on the demographic, economic and social conditions of the black, afro, Raizal and Palenquera population in Colombia."









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