Shangaan electro invades France

2013-10-13 10:00

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So what happens when the crazy beats from a Limpopo band invade a small French town? Nadine Visagie went to find out.

It was raining when I arrived in Pau, a town in southwestern France known for its magnificent views of the Pyrénées and its impeccable wines.

Last weekend, though, the unsuspecting locals got a taste of something equally intoxicating – and purely South African.

Shangaan Electro, the madly energetic outfit from Limpopo that mixes traditional sounds with dance beats, is currently touring Europe and gaining fans at a speed of 180 BPM.

The show is being held at La Centrifugeuse, at the University of Pau, and I expect mostly students but find instead a mélange of people of all ages and backgrounds.

The venue is intimate and I begin to feel slightly nervous for the artists as I count only 30 people.

When Shangaan Electro finally appears on stage, a flood of bright colours and fast-paced music washes over the room and its reserved-but-curious crowd.

Shangaan Electro drop some Limpopo beats on the French crowd. Picture: Rachel Barranco

The only people really dancing are two African guys with dreads.

I can’t help but think that maybe there is some truth in the stereotype that white people don’t have rhythm.

But as the evening progresses, the audience doubles and people start resonating with the group’s experimental style and vitality.

It’s fascinating to see the audience’s willingness to imitate the high-intensity moves of the dancers.

The energy emitted by the artists is tangible and can be felt like jolts of electricity.

The group invites two men and two women on to the stage, giving the crowd carte blanche to go crazy.

Suddenly, there’s whistling and cheering – it’s clear Shangaan Electro has won over the audience.

Afterwards, I ask Nina Soisson (26) whether she speaks English, to which she replies “pas du tout” (not at all).

The majority of people in this area don’t and so I question her in French.

She describes ShangaanElectro as energetic and original, saying they made her want to dance.

Tomàs Mulungo is a Mozambican who coincidentally discovered ShangaanElectro the previous day when he overheard some people talking about them.

As a Shangaan, his interest was piqued.

“To me they are more Mozambican than South African. It’s amazing how fast they dance. It’s the first time where I got tired before the artists did. The guys are electric and everyone could feel it.”

Luce Bordenave (30) is still sweating and out of breath when I approach her.

“I love African dance music,” she says, “and it was great that we could go on stage. The music puts me in a trance.”

She explains that “Europeans don’t really know how to dance without alcohol or drugs but that ShangaanElectro knew how to make everyone dance”.

Aurélie Blain (32) describes Shangaan Electro as an “unclassifiable phenomenon” that led the audience into a trance with “gaudy outfits” and superfast rhythms.

Most people only have positive things to say about the group, but some admit they would’ve liked to see them play instruments, while others say the music became a bit repetitive towards the end.

Nozinja, the force behind Shangaan Electro, tells me that they’ve enjoyed performing in France because people go crazy for them.

“Every show they want more. Maybe the problem at home is that people know that we’re from there,” he says.

He tells me that the previous day they hosted a dance workshop attended by more than 200 people.

“Europe is welcoming us, they know our songs and when I ask them how, they say YouTube. Now we’re going for 3?million views.”

The frontman adds: “We’ve got a unique style of dance and Europe is waiting to see us showcase our talent. Don’t look down on yourself, give yourself time, go out there and group yourself together. If you practise very hard, and put all your energy into it, one way or another someone is going to come and pick you and you will tour like we are doing now.”

After the show, I am reminded once again that music truly is a universal language, capable of uniting people through the rhythm of a drum.

»?Shangaan Electro performed as part of the South African Season in France

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