Interview: Durban MC Raheem Kemet On 'The Fire' & His New EP

South African MC Raheem Kemet talks about the Durban scene and the genesis of his jaunty "The Fire" video.

Raheem Kemet is a long time fixture on the Durban b-boy, graffiti and conscious hip-hop scene, but not in ways that you would expect. As part of the hip-hop, jazz, rock fusion outfit Tree Houses On The Sea, he released 2009's The Book Thief LP, an homage and unauthorized retelling of Markus Zusak’s book of the same name that dealt with the Holocaust, which was only recently turned into a film. The Book Thief is a criminally under-appreciated work, as is most of Kemet’s sporadic output — this could be partially due to Kemet's shape-shifting nature or the fact that he just seems to be doing things for a whole different set of reasons. His new track "The Fire" is a funky, jaunty groove that sounds like summer in a million ways and is indebted to Outkast, the Durban bass scene, and plays like a celebration of New York street corner conscious hip-hop. We spoke to him about the track, the Durban scene, the genesis of his "The Fire" video and his new The Wind EP.

Roger Young for Okayafrica: The rest of Durban is deep in the gqom but this EP sounds like you dropped MDMA and mainlined the entire Outkast back catalogue, what's up with that, why you gotta be so left field?

Raheem Kemet: We didn't plan to sound different, we just wanted to create something that resonates within us, and in turn those who are on the similar wavelength would find lines of identification. I gotta say that I'm humbled by the Outkast reference because I'm a loyal fan of Andre 3 Stacks. I'm a child of the late 90s early 2000s so the style on The Wind EP came naturally. I was fortunate enough to tie up with a producer who could assist me with translating the perfect soundscape so to speak. Even though the flow and words are nostalgic there's a hint of future in 'em. I'm trynna bend time with my music.

It’s always been about feeling rather than jumping on to the latest fad. I adapted a more spiritual (not religious) approach on creativity, which orientates around gratitude and acceptance, so I often get surprised as to how perfectly things tie up at the end. This attitude also helps keep those perfectionist tendencies at bay that often disrupt the process and hinder a lot of artists from putting stuff out. I see what's happening around me in terms of the latest trends but I'm wired different, I gotta be true to my shit. If you fake it they'll hear it. I'm reppin my gully. There's life beyond the taxis but also keep in mind that there's different taxis for every gully.

OKA: In the video you’re dressed like some kind of 70s Black Panther revolutionary, and there’s a lot of graffiti going on, but the song is really happy, what’s that all about?

RK: Well if you listen closely the song is about rising against the grain, revolutionary in some way indeed. More like a warning saying 'We Occupy Here!'  "TV don't know us/ we've been on the underground/now we getting dappa with the get up flip it around" as said on "The Fire." Fashion trends can't silence us, we wear our hearts on our sleeves but they stay buggin on fabricated reality. With the graf, I just wanted to showcase different forms of expression. For many years graffiti has been my muse and still is. There's scrolls on these city walls.

OKA: You’ve been pretty quiet since Tree Houses On The Sea folded a few years ago, what you been up to?

RK: Yeah man, life happened. S/O to THOTS though! I've stayed writing and reciting at certain venues around Durban, experimenting with artists that inspire me. I had to get back to me, and to my essence. I've started a family of my own so I had to concentrate on that for a while, still am. Soul searching to find my purpose and what not. I've been doing a lot of collabs with artists like Veranda Panda, Icarus, Rain, The Nutscratchers and Mickey Madlove from the EDM bass circuits as well as getting into the underground hip-hop/soul scene for a bit and working with producers such as Dave Audinary, Myndphlo, Damascvs, Johnny Filter just to name a few. In 2014 I finally got an opportunity to feature on a production that orientated around the works of Sufi poet Rumi. I also did some activist work with my brother Ewok in solidarity with Palestinians who are victim to apartheid in Israel. Later in the year I was selected as one of the final 10 artists in the country for the Converse Get Out The Garage competition. It was a bit tricky because the performance part of the competition fell on Ramadan, so I had to sacrifice my performance for the greater good. Nonetheless a lot of positive came out of that.

OKA: Who is Myndphlo? "The Fire" isn’t on The Wind EP, what are your release plans for it?

RK: Myndphlo is one of those humble producers who stays chopping up soulful classics, boom-bap extraordinaire. We got together last year and just clicked, one of those God incidents. He was actually trynna get my wife on some of his beats at first but we eventually linked in the studio and the rest was history. I released extracts of The Fire EP earlier in the year, with the main single "The Fire" receiving a lot of love from the streets. I’m planning a succession of 4 EP's named after the 4 elements (Fire, Wind, Water and Earth). I will re-release The Fire EP in a month or so with 2 additional tracks to add to the arsenal. I wanted to work with different producers for each element giving the specific project a distinct feel to the next. I'm an eclectic and my wolf pack exerts similar energies.

OKA: How’d you put this track together?

RK: Well I got the beat from Dave Audinary a week before I left for one of my spiritual trips to Cape Town in December 2013. While I was away I started writing for it and recorded melodies on my blackberry as I came up with them. Then, as soon as I landed back in Durbs I vyed to his studio on the Nims and laced it in a couple of hours.

OKA: What’s the track about? 

RK: The track is about keeping on and staying in the fight. There are so many musicians and artists alike in Durban and neighboring that the rest of SA has not seen yet, but in my books they have already made it by just staying true and evolving with their artistry. Then you also have the few who give up because they need a proper support structure in their lives...its hard out here bruv.

OKA: Is it as happy as it seems?

RK: Yeah it is, but listen while you move your feet, there's more to it.

OKA: Tell me about the video, who made it? 

RK: The video was directed and filmed by Durban based director Mark Edwards, founder of Ilifindo. Yeah man, we wanted a performance based vid that also had the different elements which make up the urban street scene.

OKA: And how does it conceptually fit with the song? How do they mesh?

RK: It’s about art, yo. We just had to get the fam involved and just let everybody be.

OKA: Who styled the video?

RK: Haha, shiiiit we dressed ourselves hey. We got some help with gear from Converse, Starter, Blacksheep Clan, Rock Paper Scissors and I designed my own outfit for the performance scene inspired by eastern Bedouin culture with them harem pants. Everyone had a hand in dressing the scenes though, I gotta give a S/O to DJ Mickey Madlove for letting us jack his warehouse and showroom furniture for the day. There are similar spaces like this in Durban but most of the time we have to create it ourselves. I love what's been happening around the city lately with regards to bringing out the aesthetics in random spaces.

OKA: Who’s the afrofuturist lady on the car?

RK: Oh yeah that's Ummah Screaming Sun a.k.a. Apple. She's like a sister to me, my kindred spirit. She's inspired by Native American Indian culture; I had to have her dancing around "The Fire," meditating on our reign dance [laughs]. Good vibrations.

Photo: Ben Depp.

Watch Yilian Canizares & Paul Beaubrun's Beautiful Video For 'Noyé'

"Cuba and Haiti come together to share the love and heritage of our deep rooted culture and spirituality."

Yilian Canizares and Paul Beaubrun connect for the serene "Noyé," one of the highlights from Canizares' latest album, Erzulie.

The Cuban singer and Haitian artist are now sharing the new Arnaud Robert-directed music video for the single, which we're premiering here today.

"Noyé is a song that comes from our roots," Yilian Canizares tells OkayAfrica. "Inspired by the energy of love. The same love that kept Africa's legacy alive in the hearts of Haiti and Cuba. We wanted to do a stripped down version of only the essential pieces from a musical point of view. Something raw and beautiful where our souls would be naked."

The striking music video follows Canizares and Beaubrun to the waters of New Orleans, the universal Creole capital, where they sing and float until meeting on the Mississippi River.

"Noyé is a cry of love from children of African descent," says Paul Beaubrun. "Cuba and Haiti come together to share the love and heritage of our deep rooted culture and spirituality."

Watch the new music video for "Noyé" below.

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Juba. Image courtesy of the artist.

The New 'Assurance' Documentary Follows the Experiences of Female DJs in Nigeria

"Assurance was conceived out of my desire to find new perspectives in the music industry's gender imbalance debate," says DJ Juba.

Juba is a British-Nigerian DJ based in Berlin. She's also the co-founder of Boko! Boko!, a collective that works towards increased female representation in DJ booths and show lineups.

Juba is now sharing the 35-minute long documentary Assurance, which takes an in-depth look at the experiences of three Lagos-based DJs: Sensei Lo, DJ Yin and DJ Ayizan.

Through raw and personal footage, the documentary paints a full picture of the obstacles each DJ faces as they navigate Nigeria's societal expectations and the gender issues within the Lagos music scene.

"Assurance was conceived out of my desire to find new perspectives in the music industry's gender imbalance debate," Juba tells OkayAfrica. "Since I started DJing in 2016, I've only been able to look at the topic through the European lens and the discourse in general is overwhelmingly dominated by voices from the Global North."

"Going to Lagos and immersing myself in conversation with the three DJs exposed me to a different set of narratives in a totally new, often ignored context. Stories like theirs are necessary for enriching and broadening the conversation around women in music and prove the importance of wider representation when discussing issues that are relevant to people all over the world."

Watch Assurance below.

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Still from YouTube.

Watch the Hazy Music Video for Burna Boy's 'Secret' Featuring Jeremih and Serani

Burna Boy drops a new music video for a fan favorite from his Grammy-nominated album 'African Giant.'

Grammy-nominated Burna Boy shares the music for the latest single "Secret," a fan favorite from his seminal album African Giant.

The track, which features American singer Jeremih and Jamaican dancehall artist Serani, is arguably one of the album's most fun and memorable tracks. The song gets a hazy music video starring the three artists in various dimly-lit, monochromatic settings. The video was directed by David Camarena.

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Listen to J Hus' New Album 'Big Conspiracy'

The artist's highly-anticipated sophomore album features Burna Boy, Koffee and more.

J Hus is back. The heavyweight British-Gambian artist returns with his highly-anticipated sophomore album Big Conspiracy.

The 13-track album features the likes of Burna Boy, who joins the artist on the upbeat track "Play Play," as well as buzzing Jamaican artist Koffee who appears on the track "Repeat," one of the album's clear standouts.

It also features a new artist by the name of iceè tgm on three tracks. Some fans have speculated that the mysterious artist is J Hus' sister. The album includes the previously released single 'Must Be,' which he dropped in November of last year.

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