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Subterranean Wavelength Vol. 2: A Further Exploration Of The Gauteng Beat Movement

The second volume of the 'Subterranean Wavelength' beat compilation features rising experimental producers in Johannesburg and Pretoria.


Subterranean Wavelength is a series of beat compilations which aim to expose the burgeoning African experimental electronica movement one city/region/state/province at a time. It’s a collaborative project between South African beat maestro Micr.Pluto, as a curator/executive producer, and myself [Edward Kgosidintsi] as a writer. We both saw so much suppressed beauty in the local beat scene in Johannesburg. It's full of artists trapped behind a smog of inconspicuousness without access to their intended audience. Their music reaches only as far as their peripheral networks of friends because it doesn’t suit the mould of local media, and at the same time it clashes with foreign preconceived notions of what African music should sound like. And so it remains marooned in the wilderness of the internet, enjoyed as an endangered delicacy for those in the know. We hope that Subterranean Wavelength can become the mantelpiece on which this extraordinary isolated talent can be displayed to a wider interested audience. The concept we envisioned was a compilation to reveal the lesser known dimensions of African electronic music– a meticulously selected bouquet of the most imaginative electronic compositions: No club music; no cheese; no accidental simplicity. Just pure leftfield content cultivated from the inexhaustible pastures of the contemporary African music landscape.

The first installment in the series, which premiered in May on Okayafrica, was set in Johannesburg, and featured exclusive contributions from Micr.Pluto, Hlasko, The Watermark High, Escapism Refuge and Hawkword. Though the project received an overwhelmingly positive reception, we couldn't help but notice how many Joburg and Pretoria-based producers we had missed the opportunity to include. And so we set about compiling a second installment with a fresh batch of producers from the same region. The process was more than fruitful, and it crystallized into the Subterranean Wavelength 2: A Further Exploration of The Gauteng Beat Movement, which premieres today on Okayafrica.

The compilation is stuffed with cloudy pools of plug-in chiselled soundscapes and surgically-peeled samples. It features eight producers (split from each city). The producers featured are: Buli, Metal Messiah and 88 Fingers from Pretoria; and Vox Portent, 0_0_0_0, FRQNT, Eye on Feather and Illa N from Joburg. The tempos range from droopy soul bopping lows to spilled snared mids. The tones are generally pensive, zoned out, and buoyant. It’s a cornucopia of heterogeneous genres and elements: instrumental hip hop, tattered synthetic jazz, char-grilled future bass all packaged in the 9-track compilation available for stream/download now. We hope that you enjoy listening to it as much we enjoyed putting it together.

>>>Subterranean Wavelength Vol. 1: Ft. Escapism Refuge, Hlasko, Hawkword, Micr.pluto & The Watermark High

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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