Our local House fraternity has consistently kept its shoulder to the wheel, doing what it can to bring on board a multitude of vocalists, song writers and stylings to ensure the genre remains one of the more enjoyable ones we have.
Our best international prospects also come from this genre, with the likes of Black Coffee and, more recently, Master KG making it big overseas.
A dark horse in this field are two men from Soshanguve – Thabo “Smol” Mabogwane and Bongani “DJ Murder” Mohosana – who have a tentative spiritual connection with their work, which is evident from the moment you make the decision to hit play on any one of their first three albums.
Black Motion’s intoxicating stage presence and awe-inspiring performances bring an energy that, when combined with their music, is uncontainable. Their organic and Afrocentric arrangements tap into a primal desire we all have to completely detach and fall into a reality where only the present matters.
Red Bull has established a close bond with the duo and this partnership came with a cool concept to commemorate their 10th anniversary.
“It started as a passion, like all the music that we made, and the summer elements in the music that we make. [We thought], how would it sound if we performed on a mountain and there was nothing around us but nature?” says Mabogwane.
Against the restrictions of a pandemic, the Red Bull rendezvous was born and scheduled on top of a mountain in Mpumalanga, adjacent to the splendour of the Three Rondavels.
CAMP SITE CHIT-CHAT
On a warm August evening, Black Motion kicked off their weekend of celebration at the Blyde River Canyon’s A Forever Resort. Lead percussionist Mabogwane rocks a beanie, grey sweats and a leather goon bag, while Mohosana dons a black T-shirt, shorts, a fedora and Gucci veld sandals.
Seated on a couch with a single turntable and mixer on it, they seem chilled, especially in light of their online trending a few days prior to this trip after the announcement that this album would be called The Last Chapter.
Almost as if trying to soothe the elephant in the rock quarry-styled palapa, they pacify everyone’s concerns with a few snippets of their new offering, which was at 31 tracks before they added another 11.
The darkness of the night thickens as they open the gates on a gospel-inspired track featuring Sun-El Musician, called Hosana. The duo say they’ve known the deejay/producer for about nine years.
They also gave their tender ballad with Msaki and Alie Keys, Marry Me, a spin.
This song trended and perhaps fertilised the seeds of growing suspicions about the duo splitting after this large piece of work. '
The drums are inspired by the 1980s, with Msaki cementing her reign as one of the leading House vocalists in the country.
They also give us a King Monada track that shows off more techy elements, offering an art that is an ensemble of sounds from all over the world.
“We had to get King Monada, so you know we didn’t come to play games,” Mohosana says as he plays the song with a flick of the wrist, sliding the crossfader. The track is darker than the others and the production value is stupefying, with sounds encased in other sounds, resulting in a buckled beat that falls behind the metronome perfectly.
They fit King Monada’s vocals with a Daft Punk-ish synth autotune that is easy to forgive because they don’t abuse it. This song will terrorise the dance floors in lockdown level 1.
Then we head down a road where Pedi and Portuguese cultures intersect. The next track takes us to Durban, with an instrumental built to fit that soundscape, but with a sprinkle of maskandi provided by the legendary Ihashi Elimhlophe.
The small gathering of media, crew and a few close friends are jabbed, hooked and rope-a-doped into pledging our allegiance to this band as the night ends.
MOUNTAIN CLIFFS AND PINNACLES
The next afternoon, an elite group of featured artists arrive ahead of the performance recording – Msaki, Cassper Nyovest’s producer Alie Keys, the infectious Nokwazi and Xoli M, as well as the proficient Brenden Praise.
The stage is split into three platforms, with the Three Rondavels an imposing sight in the background.
All the artists are kitted out in MaXhosa couture and the idea is to catch the golden hour and film into the night. This concept will be so beautiful when people are eventually allowed to party a little like we used to.
They have a drone capturing the set from above, a swing boom darting daintily in between the shrubbery, and hypnotic lights that flash in time with the beat.
The set, which features such bangers as Joy Joy and the cult status Imali, with Nokwazi, is short, but conveys how good these guys are.
Almost as if on cue, the heavens let out a few light tears as they play Prayer For Rain. Their energy on stage is undeniable – Thabo thumps the drums and screams towards the sky as Mohosana slides along his platform. His sneakers slither around as he controls the decks from the front of the table.
Even the camera crew seem awestruck. They do eventually take a slight pause for the sake of the equipment, but that tribal beat and haunting lyrics reverberate around one of the greenest canyons in the world and all who were close enough to feel it are visibly affected. This includes DJ Zinhle, who is in the small posse of friends close to Black Motion.
THE LAST CHAPTER?
This body of work took Black Motion about a year and a half to make, and they are probably still adding to it.
“This last decade has been like a book, and each album represented a chapter,” says Mabogwane.
The book saw them learn their traditions and culture through music. The return to culture may seem like a gimmick these days, but how many of your favourites have been doing that for 10 years?
Mabogwane assures us there will be no split in Black Motion.
“Unfortunately for some and fortunately for others, there’s no split. The Last Chapter simply says we’re closing the 10 years. As we take every album release as a chapter, this last chapter is the last chapter of this book.
“We’re moving on to a new book – The Healers – because it’s been a lot for the people from where we come from. That’s why we chose this as the last chapter.”
Mohosana agrees: “In the 10 years of travelling the world, we got to learn a whole lot of things. Instruments, indigenous languages and native instruments are what make Black Motion unique, and we were not afraid to stick to what we believe in in terms of using other instruments and languages.
“So when the genre changes, it’s all a matter of sitting down and analysing it [to see] what we can incorporate into the genre, while staying true to our sound.”
A source close to the band tells us they are both looking to diversify, with Mabogwane aiming to venture down certain agricultural avenues and Mohosana looking to intensify his efforts around social empowerment.
Mabogwane sheds some light on the matter: “I personally want to change the mind-set of people in South Africa about a whole lot of things that are organic. Many people don’t know about the green side of things in terms of energy.
Mohosana says: “We want to take that [mentality] to rural places and make them understand that there’s solar power. And there’s a whole lot of things that can be used – [for example], natural products to make clothes. We don’t have to go deep into using chemicals that are hostile.”
They are welcoming of the changes in the House genre, with amapiano becoming so dominant. For Mohosana, it’s all love.
“I always say that music is music. Things become a problem when people look down on other people’s music.”
He’s clearly speaking about some of the controversy at this year’s SA Music Awards, where DJ Tira won the best kwaito awards in a year dominated by amapiano, while Yanga Chief beat out the likes of Youngsta CPT for best hip-hop album. Both didn’t sit well with audiences. But Mohosana maintains that musicians should celebrate each other.
Offering words of encouragement to anyone looking to break into music, Mabogwane says: “I would say that we like a whole lot of these young boys, but they get it wrong. They think you have to have expensive equipment to make music.
“As we always say, speakers can’t tell what program you used. It’s all about the music at the end of the day. Don’t think you have to have the KRKs or whatever expensive monitors to make that proper production. It’s all about what you have inside your heart.”
- The Last Chapter will be released on September 24 and you’ll be able to watch the live set at redbull.com, and on Channel O (Dstv channel 320) on Sunday September 27 at 6pm