This week focuses on artists we discovered while in South Africa during Design Indaba 2014
Bongeziwe Mabandla: Bendisiti
Seamlessly blending lyrics in Xhosa and English, Bongeziwe Mabandla's heartfelt folk music explores his journey from a rural town in the Eastern Cape province to a prestigious film school in Johannesburg—all in the context of post-apartheid South Africa. "Bendisiti" puts Mabandla's richly textured voice and penchant for infectious rhythms on full display—drawing on influences like Lauryn Hill and South African Xhosa vocalist Simphiwe Dana. A symphony of acoustic guitars and down-tempo hand-drumming alongside Mabandla's welcoming voice lulls the listener off into a contemplative state, making multiple listens a necessity.
This anonymous Cape Town-based producer and DJ performed his glitchy trip-hop/hip-hop beats at Cape Town's The Waiting Room this past Wednesday as part of the Design Indaba Music Circuit, which showcased local talent. A member of *gravy, the South African electronic music collective, Slabofmisuse gets the crowd head-banging without a second thought, like in his hypnotic track "Loveinthiscup." The gritty flute sample that leads the way creates a very sensual, even erotic, ambience. Citing Thelonious Monk and Dilla as influences, Slabofmisuse shifts layers beneath the melodic riff so seamlessly that one doesn't realize the same sample has been looping throughout most of the song.
Larry Heard Presents Mr. White: The Sun Can't Compare
For this week's #PrivateJam, Swiss-Guinean anthropologist and photographer Namsa Leuba—currently in an artist exchange program at Johannesburg's 12 Decades Art Hotel—selected "The Sun Can't Compare" by a master of Chicago-style acid house, Larry Heard. Released in 2006, the song's stripped-down vocals and rhythms (created from scratch, not samples) channels something pure and raw, back to the origins of house. Leuba explains: "From the first note, the song creates a craze inside me and all my body is taken by the rhythm. It reminds me of the many times I danced and let go on the dance floor with my crew P15 in Switzerland, all of us filled with so much love."
John Wizards: Muizenberg
Most bands cross genre lines, but few are as protean as Cape Town-based John Wizards. In their dreamy single "Muizenberg"—named for a sleepy beachside suburb of the Mother City—the band exemplifies their ability to draw on American indie rock, R&B and various styles of music from their home continent. A lingering guitar riff settles over a driving beat rounded out with compressed, airy vocals. Think Beach House meets Madlib sprinkled with a touch of Vampire Weekend—a band that frontman John Withers counts as a formative influence.
Margaret Singana: Why Did You Do It (Stretch Cover)
South African vocalist Margaret Singana was discovered while working as a cleaning lady; she would sing as she worked. Singana soared to fame and not even a debilitating stroke in 1980 could stop her, going on to release memorable songs that would earn her the nickname "Lady Africa." Fellow South African and renown photographer David Goldblatt took this picture of the singer in October 1970, when she was known as Margaret Mcingana and was not yet famous. Five years later, her powerful voice transforms the Stretch original "Why Did You Do It" and injects it with a soulful and exotic flair.
ListenUp is a Cool Hunting series published every Sunday that takes a deeper look at the music we tweeted throughout the week. Often we'll include a musician or notable fan's personal favorite in a song or album dubbed #PrivateJam.