Africa joins global sonic boom

2010-03-20 16:10

YOU know the experience is going to be just short of religious when

you take 60 musicians, DJs and producers from 32 different countries and mix it

up in a party capital like London for two whole weeks.


And this year’s Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) did not disappoint,

especially for the two South Africans – Tshwane’s deep house devotee J-Gomes and

Joburg’s Thabiso Mamogwa aka Master MP6-60.


When we meet, J-Gomes is cocooned in layers of warm clothing – a

brown woollen scarf, a pair of blue jeans and a thick grey jacket. He carries a

curious black bag and sniffs between speakings.


“This place is cold man,” he says. But as if to defy the oppressive

weather, he declares that he’s “enjoying every moment, though”.


In fact, he has just finished a ­collaborative track with Danish

tunemaker Robin “Hannibal” Braun, a sound designer with a presence in pop, Indie

disco and electronica. So the air is triumphant.


It is these types of unique creative interactions that the RBMA

makes possible. “I like that here I can work with people from Australia, Europe,

even the US,” he says.

It only takes a few seconds of listening to J-Gomes and

MP6-60’s musical contributions to discern their identities.


Mid-tempos and a fascination with tribal rhythms are more than

auditory gimmicks here, they are obviously a prerequisite for South African club

DJs.


But some have a different approach.

These are recluse bedroom knob

twiddlers who prefer to work on their computers, satisfied with the knowledge

that some other DJ will carry their art to the dance floors – like Dr Peter

Zinovieff, one of the guest lecturers.


He is credited with inventing computer-generated music.


In 1964 Zinovieff experimented with “a new way of experiencing

sound” on his computer.


Now in his 70s, he is the oldest ­invited lecturer at the RBMA.


Indie, house music and other digitally made genres all owe their

­development to his experiments.


The two South Africans say they have been quite inspired by him,

­especially MP6-60, who I catch between group lectures.

He says there’s “very

little time to chat” – he’s working around the clock recording vocals and mixing

tracks with his international counterparts


His Sesotho poetics have made him popular with other sound

plotters, and he intends milking this for all it’s worth because he is aware of

the career implications of being an RBMA alumnus.


Top SA names like Black Coffee and DJ Sysco of Multiracial Records

are only two of the notable successes of the RBMA.


This unique musical exchange has been convening in a different city

each year since 1998. The RBMA started in Berlin and has been to Sao Paolo,

Rome, and Barcelona.

Cape Town got its turn in 2003 and hosted what is

remembered as one of the most memorable academies yet.


Hosting the academy also means that Londoners get treated to

exclusive party line-ups.

One such gig was the “12X12X12” at The Scala, a venue

in the north of London that featured 12 seminal dance mixes by two dozen of

Britain’s grandest producers presenting 12-minute sets.


They rocked a house packed with party animals high on energy drinks

and something smuggled in.


The club scene saw giants like Jazzy B of Soul II Soul, Robert

Owens, Shades of Rhythm plus A Guy Called Gerald, to mention a few.


A new three-storey building on Tooley Street next to the famous

Tower Bridge is set to become the home of Red Bull UK when the musicians return

home.


And then we will all await the next gathering that will attempt to

pronounce a new sonic vocabulary for dance floors worldwide.

 

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