Audio

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.


Escapism Refuge

Escapism Refuge’s dreamy galactic bass ballads have an atmospheric luminescence about them. Their distilled liquid basslines dripping with crisp mid-tempo kicks and laser bright synthesizers interlock to form decadent metaphysical dance music ideal for tantric sex with alien life-forms. The sheer depth and elemental vastness of his melodic sequences is supernatural. His explorative cache of references and outstanding knack for arrangement and composition make him a one-of-a-kind specimen in his league. At barely 20 years old, he’s already a formidable global contender for the Rookie MVP of the beat game. We are salivating with anticipation for what’s to come from this dynamic young virtuoso.

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Music

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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