Interview
Zubz, Thapelo Mashiane, Melly Mel, Lebo Mochudi and Captain. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Zubz & The Assembly’s New EP Is A Much-Needed Dose Of Positivity

We talk to South African hip-hop artists The Assembly and Zubz about their new collaborative EP, Podcast.

"I don't need to record another song for the rest of my life," says veteran South African rapper Zubz. "So every time I record a song, it's because something has moved me, and made me wanna do it."

So, him working on a 3-track EP with the trio The Assembly—made up of Melly Mel, Captain and Lebo Mochudi—was one of those cases where he was moved. "These dudes, you can tell from their vibe and energy, hip-hop is who they are, not just something they do. It runs in their blood. They make music," he says.


The recently released EP, titled Podcast, opens with "I Will Rise," an uplifting song in which Melly Mel, one third of The Assembly, raps:

"Me and positive, I conquer on a daily/ And actually, my mood is responsible for many/ so I stay sharp and woke, and I'm alive in the building/ Positive, recognize how we living"

The hook, sung by Eva Morgan reminds me of church. It's big and fills your earlobes, just like the music that accompanies it. "I Will Rise" sets the tone for the rest of Podcast.

The song "Good Day" offers a pure and positive outlook on life, which I haven't heard in hip-hop in a while (trap, bro).

Zubz raps:

"No greater gift than a day that's just begun/ I take a breath this air fills up my lungs/ Healthy, happy, alive, that's a beautiful day underneath these African skies/ Every moment a blessing, none of them passing me by"

Podcast reveals rappers who are comfortable with who they are as human beings and as artists. The EP, which seems to have positivity and optimism as the underlying theme, was a product of spontaneity.

The subject matter came naturally. It's a true reflection of the men's collective mind state. When I give them my take of the album, they all pause for a second and recall their lyrics before they agree with me.

"We didn't even know what we were doing when we stepped in there," says Melly Mel. "We just knew we wanted to be around each other, and we just knew this was the music that felt right to do, what we had in our hearts and minds in that space of time. If you take a look at it, you won't find any of this kind of music in any of our solo projects. It just came together like this in project. This project is where you get the same people you know, doing something uncomfortable musically."

Zubz adds that the plan was to not have a brief. "So we all met in the studio and we pressed play," he says. "Instro, the engineer, was hearing [the beats] for the first time. We were hearing them for the first time. Whatever hits you, you speak. Like, 'oh this sounds like a nice day, waking up in the morning like it's gonna be a good day,' and then we would be like 'oh that's the name of the song.' Then verses get laced in the booth and we are done."

The project's title came during a recording session. "It started with an idea that Melly had," Lebo says. "We were having a recording session and then he was like 'yo I've got this idea.' He draws a sketch on a napkin, it was of these pods headed towards earth. He's like 'imagine if we could use this for something as some sort of artwork.' Then we developed it, and when we started working with Zubz, he mentioned that he had a podcast coming out, I was like 'oh shit, podcast, we are casting pods.'"

Sonically, Podcast boasts airy pads, warm bass lines, trumpets and electric guitars—as the cliché goes, it's a musical project. Thapelo Mashiane, who's the youngest in the room, produced all the beats on Podcast.

"I gave them a catalog, knowing their sounds," he says. "Surprisingly, they chose the three least suspected beats. I was shocked when they told me which ones they had picked. And then I went back and asked them, 'did you guys hear this beat?' But what they did with it blew me away. I don't think anybody else would have done what they did."

"And in terms of what's out there," says Captain, "this project is different."

When The Assembly released their debut EP Inspection in 2015, they introduced themselves as an unashamedly boom-bap-centric trio. Some of their song came with DJ scratches, with production by the likes of Mananz, All Spark, Nyambz, and Melly Mel, among others.

Boom-bap is now a niche within hip-hop with other sub-genres like trap taking the forefront. The fellas aren't perturbed by that. It's all about making what comes naturally for them.

"As long as I'm doing something that feels good with me," says Captain, "why would I go out and try something that I know for a fact will be chewed once or twice and spat, this is the take-away era, nothing has replay value anymore. Why would I want the moment?"

Podcast is indeed the type of music that stays with you for multiple listens. Listen to Podcast below and download it from iTunes, Google Play and Amazon.

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Artwork: Barthélémy Toguo Lockdown Selfportrait 10, 2020. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Goes to Paris in 2021

The longstanding celebration of African art will be hosted by Parisian hot spot Christie's for the first time ever.

In admittedly unideal circumstances, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be touching French soil in 2021. The internationally celebrated art fair devoted to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora will be hosted in Paris, France from January 20 - 23. With COVID-19 still having its way around the globe, finding new ways to connect is what it's all about and 1-54 is certainly taking the innovative steps to keep African art alive and well.
In partnership with Christie's, the in-person exhibits will take place at the auction house's city HQ at Avenue Matignon, while 20 international exhibitors will be featured online at Christies.com. And the fun doesn't stop there as the collaboration has brought in new ways to admire the talent from participating galleries from across Africa and Europe. The fair's multi-disciplinary program of talks, screenings, performances, workshops, and readings are set to excite and entice revelers.

Artwork: Delphine Desane Deep Sorrow, 2020. Courtesy Luce Gallery


The tech dependant program, curated by Le 18, a multi-disciplinary art space in Marrakech medina, will see events take place during the Parisian run fair, followed by more throughout February.
This year's 1-54 online will be accessible to global visitors virtually, following the success of the 2019's fair in New York City and London in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19 related regulations and public guidelines, 1-54 in collaboration with Christie's Paris is in compliance with all national regulations, strict sanitary measures, and security.

Artwork: Cristiano Mongovo Murmurantes Acrilico Sobre Tela 190x200cm 2019


1-54 founding director Touria El Glaoui commented, "Whilst we're sad not to be able to go ahead with the fourth edition of 1-54 Marrakech in February as hoped, we are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be in Paris this January with our first-ever fair on French soil thanks to our dedicated partners Christie's. 1-54's vision has always been to promote vibrant and dynamic contemporary art from a diverse set of African perspectives and bring it to new audiences, and what better way of doing so than to launch an edition somewhere completely new. Thanks to the special Season of African Culture in France, 2021 is already set to be a great year for African art in the country so we are excited to be playing our part and look forward, all being well, to welcoming our French friends to Christie's and many more from around the world to our online fair in January."

Julien Pradels, General Director of Christie's France, said, "Christie's is delighted to announce our second collaboration with 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, following a successful edition in London this October. Paris, with its strong links to the continent, is a perfect place for such a project and the additional context of the delayed Saison Africa 2020 makes this partnership all the more special. We hope this collaboration will prove a meaningful platform for the vibrant African art scene and we are confident that collectors will be as enthusiastic to see the works presented, as we are."


Artwork: Kwesi Botchway Metamorphose in July, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957


Here's a list of participating galleries to be on the lookout for:

Galleries

31 PROJECT (Paris, France)
50 Golborne (London, United Kingdom)
Dominique Fiat (Paris, France)
Galerie 127 (Marrakech, Morocco)
Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris, France)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire/ Dakar, Senegal)
Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris, France)
Galerie Lelong & Co. (Paris, France / New York, USA)
Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)
Galleria Continua (Beijing, China / Havana, Cuba / Les Moulins, France / San Gimignano, Italy / Rome, Italy)
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana / London, United Kingdom)
Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca, Morocco)

Luce Gallery (Turin, Italy)
MAGNIN-A (Paris, France)
Nil Gallery (Paris, France)
POLARTICS (Lagos, Nigeria)
SEPTIEME Gallery (Paris, France)
This is Not a White Cube (Luanda, Angola) THK Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa) Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland)

For more info visit 1-54

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