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Subterranean Wavelength: The Key Players In Joburg’s Beat Scene + Mixtape Premiere

A look at the key players in Joburg's beat scene (Escapism Refuge, Hlasko, Hawkword, Micr.pluto, The Watermark High) + Subterranean Wavelength premiere.


Suburbia! The hive-like humming of SUV’s and lawnmowers; the overdressed dogs attached to underdressed joggers. There seems to be more houses than people here. The silence is almost sinister, the tranquilized mood evocative of its community’s balanced blends of apathy and politeness, privacy and loneliness, detachment and fixation. It is more than a coincidence that the coolest art tends to emerge from the most morally repressed environments. The most pious and pretentious societies symptomatically breed the most leftfield and subversive subcultures as belligerent bi-products of their hypocrisy. In this way, the Catholic Church was partially responsible for the Renaissance and Reaganomics was a major catalyst for the spawn of hip-hop and punk rock cultures in the eighties. The Johannesburg suburbs are the epitome of this phenomenon. Pristine artificial oases strategically positioned as far as possible from the depths of the socio-economic desert. It is here where we find the new wave of future beats producers reshaping the landscape of South African electronica. They stand as the harbingers of the not-so-sudden death of boom-bap in this city; a death which brings along with it the birth of a new breed of beatmaker: one concerned with making bobbing heads think. Their beats are rich tapestries of warped samples, shimmery synths and explosive drum patterns. If robots could dream, this music would be the soundtrack to those dreams. As we begin to witness African music take exhilarating new forms we have a fortuitous vantage point to be able to meet the masters of its evolution before their peak, experiencing our music’s future history in the present. This is one such opportunity: the next five names should be asterisked as the key players to be on the lookout for in this captivating new scene.

But first, Okayafrica presents the exclusive worldwide premiere of Subterranean Wavelength: Johannesburg Experimental Beat Collection, a groundbreaking compilation arranged and mixed by Micr.pluto featuring mint condition unreleased material from the aforementioned five producers. Stream/download the full tape below and click through for our look at the key players of the Joburg beat explosion featuring Escapism Refuge, Hlasko, Hawkword, Micr.pluto, and The Watermark High.

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Here's a Playlist of Chill Songs to Relax to at Home

Keep calm with this playlist afro-jazz, funk, alternative, and R&B tracks from Nigeria, South Africa and more.

It's a time of uncertainty and stress right now for people all over the world. As we socially distance and quarantine ourselves, it's expected that we deal with feelings of anxiety and loneliness. But it's also good to remember that we're all in this together and music can certainly help with that.

For that, we've curated a playlist of Chill Songs to Relax to at Home with music ranging from afro-jazz, funk, alternative, and R&B that can help you relax but also maintain perspective during these days.

Listen to this playlist on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning & Gavin Rodgers

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Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our best music of the week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

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Image by Sabelo Mkhabela.

This Is What It Takes for South African Musicians to Succeed Abroad

Jeremy Loops, Shimza, Moonchild Sanelly and GoodLuck discuss what it took to build their names overseas.

Disclaimer: The conversation which this piece makes reference to took place before the COVID-19 pandemic hit South Africa.

"I said it for 10 years that I'm going to work with Beyoncé, and everybody laughed for those 10 years. And I said it with conviction. Today, I'm on a Grammy-nominated album [on a song] with Beyoncé right now," says Moonchild Sanelly referring to the song "MY POWER" in which she's featured in alongside Busiswa, Nija, Yemi Alade, Tierra Whack and of course Queen B herself. The track is a fan-favorite from the Lion King: The Gift soundtrack album curated by Beyoncé. Moonchild is pulling out these receipts to elaborate a point she just made about self-belief which helped her build a career that's recognized globally, a feat very few South African artists have achieved.

A few of those artists— Jeremy Loops, Shimza and Juliet Harding (a member of the versatile electronic band GoodLuck)—are on the podium alongside Moonchild during the Midem Africa Conference in Langa, Cape Town towards the end of February. The four musicians are in conversation with Trenton Birch, musician and founder of Bridges for Music Academy, sharing their secrets to breaking into the highly competitive and advanced music markets of mainly Europe and the US.

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Interview: Buju Is the Blooming Afro-Fusion Artist You Should Know

Over the last year, Buju has gone from a viral sensation to one of Nigeria's young music stars pushing afro-fusion to new heights.

When chasing a dream from Nigeria, one needs a surplus of that secret sauce called belief. Young Nigerians in the music space have always forced the issue of their recognition as new viral sensations coming out with fresh, innovative styles are delimiting the shine of the limelight.

Late last year, "Spiritual," was the new record on everybody's lips. While hip-hop sensation Zlatan served as the poster boy for the single, the voice of a new melody twister carried most of the track. 22-year-old Daniel Benson, popularly known as Buju or BujuToyourEars in full, piqued the interest of industry giants and has been on an upward trajectory since then.

Around four million streams later, a handful of major performances, Headies nominations, and a remix of his hit single "L'Enu" featuring his idol Burna Boy on the way, the stars don't seem to be the limit for Buju.

Meet Buju, the latest addition to the list of young Nigerian stars pushing the new generation into the conversation.

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