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Hagan, Gafacci & Rvdical the Kid. Photo: Crudo Volta.

How African Polyrhythms Are the Root of European Club Music

We talk to Crudo Volta, creators of the new documentary Yenkyi Taxi, about the deep influence of African polyrhythms.

Polyrhythms, in the West African context, have long been a fertile foundation over which to tell stories. A percussive history passed through generations—through slavery and migration to North America and Europe—the polyrhythm offers a familiar soundtrack for us in the African diaspora.

Within it's contemporary context, the polyrhythm is an export firmly incubated in improvisation from highlife, jazz and funk. The advent of sampling machines soon allowed the percussive break patterns from those genres to be recorded and sampled as loops. As music software became more sophisticated, so did the innovation in changing the tempo of the polyrhythms playing at various speeds, yet still providing the backbone of the beat. A thread later emblematic in hip-hop, the broader-styled breakbeat within the early epoch of the UK rave scene to jungle and drum 'n' bass across the Atlantic.

African polyrhythms—now consumed under the umbrella of house (and it's many sub-genres) across the Mediterranean or the palatable acronym of EDM for American eardrums—have crossed over into the mainstream. There has been a fresh reconnection to the root of the African polyrhythms from the children of those from former colonies in the migrant communities of London and Lisbon through UK funky, kuduro and most recently the Afro-prefixed sound. A digital duality mindful of the past dances with pride into the future, resonating with peers who are taking ownership of their blackness on a global level.

A visual example of this unwavering commitment to own and tell the black experience around African culture is seen through the work of Italian based collective Crudo Volta. Following their excellent debut documentary film, Woza Taxi, which delved into the gqom sound incubated in the townships of Durban, Yenkyi Taxi is their latest visual narrative shifting the focus to how African polyrhythms are the root of European club music.

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