‘Ocean,’ a 1980s Afro-Disco Inspired Music Video From Teachers

Ben Bronfman and Teachers team up with South Africa's DJ Spoko in this '80s inspired video for their new single.

You might not know the name Teachers but you’ve heard their work.

The New York City based four-piece—comprised of multi-instrumentalists Ben Bronfman, Scottie Redix, Steve Borth II, Matthew Kranz—crafted the stuttering synthesizer beat for Kanye West’s “New Slaves” and helped out with production on “Monster.”

Bronfman and Teachers are now channeling the sounds of South African ‘bacardi house’ and kwaito for their latest single “Ocean.”

The track sees them join forces with Pretoria’s DJ Spoko, who produced the beat for “Ocean,” on a breezy, dance floor exploration into love and lust.

The single's music video, premiering here today, was inspired by a long-lost afro-disco video from the 1980s.

The video follows Bronfman and a pair of dancers to NYC’s Rockaway Beach, as they dance across areas affected by Hurricane Sandy with the backdrop of artist Katharina Grosse's outdoor installation, Rockaway!

Check out the “Ocean” video above and grab the single here.

Below, we spoke to Bronfman about “Ocean,” his Kanye West productions and what’s on deck for Teachers.

A photo posted by Teachers (@teachersmusic) on

Was there a '80s afro-disco video in particular that inspired the new video for "Ocean?"

Not really a specific one, it's just what happens when you watch hours and hours of African '80s and '90s videos on YouTube (laughing). But we did try to make sure the video has an environmentalist theme, even though you can't really tell.

We shot it out at Rockaway Beach at the Fort Tilden installation by Katharina Grosse. She does art installations after natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina or Sandy. The houses in the video were destroyed by Sandy. I was saying to someone the other day that it's insane that we keep naming these natural disasters after women, we should be naming these mega storms after the large corporations that continue to pollute the earth without paying for it!

How did you create the beat of the track? It sounds a bit like South African kwaito.

DJ Spoko from South Africa made the beat. He lives in Pretoria. When I first heard it I just knew the band could do something really exciting with it. I had a bunch of ideas for vocal melodies immediately. I'm happy we were able to come together make something out of it. It's really nice to blend the electronic drums with real drums, add guitars, overlay extra keyboards etc. I think the track really came to life.

Tell us about the two dancers featured in the video. Who are they? 

The dancers in the video are sisters named Ntangou and Ngonda, they're from the Young Paris crew and they normally dance with him. I recently produced African Vogue, which is a mixtape by Young Paris and so I found myself playing guitar for a Young Paris live show we did at Central Park SummerStage [Okayafrica's SummerStage showcase].

Ntangou and Ngonda were dancing during the set and I remember getting the idea to shoot the video while we were playing our set. They couldn't have been nicer about the whole thing 'cause we ended up shooting it like three days later. They came up with their own outfits and also came up with the dance movements as well. It really worked for the video and the song. It was nice to see them get so into it.

A photo posted by Teachers (@teachersmusic) on

Is there a new album on the way from Teachers? What can you tell us about it? Did you guys collaborate with other artists on it?

There's something on the way for Teachers, for now we need to remain hush hush, but all I can say is just stay tuned. We've got tunes boi!

Is African music having a resurgence in New York and the American scene?

I do see a resurgence but to me it's always been here. African sounds were always around me because of my mother—my mother's side of the family goes back to West Africa and my father's side to Eastern Europe. Growing up in NYC, my mother was always taking us to the African Art Museum, the Schomburg Center, or taking us to book readings about the African or African-American experience.

So to me it's something I've always lived with which I guess is really interesting—because we were always very conscious and aware of "Africa" more than just being African-American, Jewish family. The first time I went to Africa was when I was 14 and, of course, remember when Paul Simon made African sounds really mainstream in the '80s.

So it was there when I was a kid, and then again as a teenager when I got into Talking Heads and Fela Kuti. When I was in my late teens I toured with Keziah Jones, and so we spent a lot of time talking and thinking about African sounds of past and present. Recently, I was just in eight African countries, so you know, I'm into this shit proper!

Your productions for Kanye West sound like they could've been influenced by African polyrhythms and syncopated melodies.

You know, again it's like one of those things where because the rhythms are inside of me and are pumping through my blood it's tough to say "oh, this was African" or "this wasn't"—to me, I hear everything in polyrhythms, if I hear a beat, I hear four others on top of it.

The vocal rhythm on the "Monster" beat has an African chant influence. So yeah, on one of them, there's a direct African influence.

Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Image

#EndSARS: 1 Year Later And It's Business As Usual For The Nigerian Government

Thousands filled the streets of Nigeria to remember those slain in The #LekkiTollGateMassacre...while the government insists it didn't happen.

This week marks 1 year since Nigerians began protests against police brutality and demanded an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests took the world by storm as we witnessed Nigerian forces abuse, harass and murder those fighting for a free nation. Reports of illegal detention, profiling, extortion, and extrajudicial killings followed the special task force's existence, forcing the government to demolish the unit on October 11th, 2020. However, protestors remained angered and desperate to be heard. It wasn't until October 20th, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at Lekki tollgate in the country's capital, Lagos, that the protests came to a fatal end. More than 56 deaths from across the country were reported, while hundreds more were traumatized as the Nigerian government continued to rule by force. The incident sparked global outrage as the Nigerian army refused to acknowledge or admit to firing shots at unarmed protesters in the dead of night.

It's a year later, and nothing has changed.

Young Nigerians claim to still face unnecessary and violent interactions with the police and none of the demands towards systemic changes have been met. Fisayo Soyombo the founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, told Al Jazeera, "Yes, there has not been any reform. Police brutality exists till today," while maintaining that his organization has reported "scores" of cases of police brutality over this past year.

During October 2020's protests, Nigerian authorities turned a blind eye and insisted that the youth-led movement was anti-government and intended to overthrow the administration of current President Muhammadu Buhari. During a press conference on Wednesday, in an attempt to discredit the protests, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed hailed the Nigerian army and police forces for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests, going as far as to say that the Lekki Toll Massacre was a "phantom massacre with no bodies." These brazen claims came while protesters continued to gather in several major cities across the country. The minister even went on to shame CNN, Nigerian favorite DJ Switch as well as Amnesty International, for reporting deaths at Lekki. Mohammed pushed even further by saying, "The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre."

With the reports of abuse still coming out of the West African nation, an end to the struggle is not in sight. During Wednesday's protest, a journalist for the Daily Post was detained by Nigerian forces while covering the demonstrations.

According to the BBC, additional police units have been set up in the place of SARS, though some resurfacing SARS officers and allies claim to still be around.

Young Nigerians relied heavily on social media during the protests and returned this year to voice their opinions around the first anniversary of an experience that few will be lucky enough to forget.

get okayafrica in your inbox


How CKay's 'Love Nwantiti' Became the World's Song

Nigerian singer and producer CKay talks to OkayAfrica about the rise of his international chart-topping single "Love Nwantiti," his genre-defying sound and the reasons behind this era of afrobeats dominance.