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Kasi Kassette: Soshanguve's Elite Production Duo Black Motion

In the second installment of SA house column Kasi Kassette we focus on elite South African House Music duo Black Motion.


In our monthly column Kasi Kassette, Johannesburg based contributor Heather Mennell deconstructs the inner workings and sounds of South African house music. In this second installment, she focuses on Soshanguve's highly-buzzing duo Black Motion.

Arguably the hottest act in South African House Music right now Black Motion have, in three short years, gone from bedroom producers hustling independently to headlining festivals and events all over Africa and Europe. Their fresh take on drum-driven house music is a collision of timeless, hypnotic rhythms and the dynamism and electricity of South Africa’s burgeoning house movement.

“We aren’t doing this for fashion and we aren’t doing this for money,” says group percussionist Thabo “Smol” Mabogwane, “We drum to communicate with our ancestors and we have been doing it since we were small children. We live this.” He and Robert ‘DJ Murdah’ Mahosana grew up in Shoshanguve, a township about 20 kilometres north of South Africa’s capital city — and so-called capital city of house music — Pretoria. I ask about their musical backgrounds and Thabo answers “We had no choice but to be self-taught.”

Although they’d both been active in the music industry for a few years neither were seeing the fruits of their labours. “People were taking their music – and they weren’t being rewarded for it” says their manager and partner, Moses Mokgoko. Sensing talent he bought studio equipment: a crucial investment.

Black Motion’s big break came when Mokgoko approached influential youth station YFM with their single, ‘Banene Mavoko’ (‘Clap Your Hands’) [above]. The track immediately soared up the charts catching the attention of industry icon Oscar “Oskido” Mdlongwa, who licensed the track for his 10th Commandant compilation. Later, Tribe Records UK signed the track for international digital release. A string of strong releases followed and, quicker than a kick-and-snare, Black Motion were heralded as 'the next big thing.'

The group released a collaboration with UPZ (Avi Elman) in September '12 titled "Afrika Wo-Man" [above] —  where the word 'Wo-man' means ‘Nation’ in Ga, one of many Ghanaian dialects. Recorded partly in Israel and in South Africa, the song brought together Theo Lawson (lead vocals) from Ghana and Nigerian singer Delight (backing vocals) — both of whom emigrated to Israel from their respective countries several years back. Black Motion's followed with their debut Talking To The Drums with Aquarian Drums in December '12, which includes their current single "That Lazy Song" featuring Nape . [below]

Black Motion shimmer on stage. Both Robert and Thabo used to take part in local dance competitions ,which accounts for their infectious & frenetic on-stage antics. “We understand both sides of the stage... our priority is to make the whole audience feel what we feel.” says Robert.

Recently the pair made their second trip to the Winter Music Conference as part of the South African Invasion. “We love going to Miami,” says Thabo “we had a great response to our new tracks.” Their music has taken them all over the globe – highlights being Spring Explosion in Botswana, multiple trips to Angola, Portugal, London, Manchester, Lesotho, Canada and supporting Black Coffee’s game-changing Africa Rising concert. For now their focus is on crafting material for their third album and on their record label Spiritmotion, a platform from which they hope to “pay it forward” by empowering young artists.

Black Motion in three words? Raw percussive artistry.

Previously on Kasi Kassette: MI CASA

Interview

A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

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