31 May 2011

What a weekend.

Vusi Mahlasela in Helsinki 2011

The exhausting mixture of age and raising a small child have turned me into a person who thinks “Aaah, weekend, I am not going to do anything.” Of course, should our energetic four year old hear this, he’d laugh at my face. He tends to have other plans and always one part of those plans – and usually a very central one – is to jump on me when I try to lie down. But let’s just say, the idea of doing nothing on weekend doesn’t sound boring; it sounds great.

Occasionally there are, however, certain social gatherings or presentations of counter culture that I jump up – metaphorically – and abandon my utopian notion of relaxation in exchange for something even better.

Last weekend we went to the World Village Festival in Helsinki and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We didn’t check all of the performances, but for us there were definitely two highlights: Vusi Mahlasela and Daara J Family.

Vusi Mahlasela in Helsinki 2011

Vusi Mahlasela, to me and actually to whole of our family, is a bit of a super hero. He is that for many South Africans as well. His voice is one thing, but his poetry and political insight is really what makes him the object of our admiration. I consider myself very lucky to be able to add him on my list of great people I have had chance to shake hands with (some others on the top ten are Chuck D, Desmond Tutu, Dr Mamphela Ramphele, George Bizos and like him or hate him Zola). Nice thing about this festival was the artists interviews which were basically like press tent taken to the people. Already in the interview Vusi Mahlasela gave me the moment I had been dreaming of when he did an accapella opening of the When You Come Back song. I had been most looking forward to the moment when he shouts out “Mayibuye iAfrika” into the Helsinki late spring afternoon. It’s very powerful stuff. He came across incredibly humble artist and kind person and the actual concert was truly an experience. In the end, the title track of his most recent album Say Africa wrapped the show up in a mild rain. It was just perfect.

Daara J Family Live in Helsinki
The day before Vusi Mahlasela some similar emotions went through me with another group I like, but don’t have the same kind of history with. Daara J Family is Senegalese Hip Hop group that suffers slightly from the narrow mindedness of calling them a Hip Hop group. They are a lot more than that. Not that being a Hip Hop group isn’t something to be – it is – but Daara J Family fuses a lot of reggae and more traditional sounds with Hip Hop aesthetics of the vocal duo which is backed up by live instruments and a DJ. They performed in Helsinki this Saturday and gave a great show characterised by skillful musicianship, intense energy of the performance and political wisdom to seal the package.

Daara J Family Live in Helsinki

Their album School of Life has been pretty much the only one in the rotation in our flat after this gig. And not just because I like it, but because we all do. 

See the whole set of photos from the slideshow by pressing the play button.

27 May 2011

International community (of Hip-Hop)

International Hip-Hop connoisseur Natalie Crüe posted this Daara J Family video in Twitter today. It doesn’t surprise me at all – she knows good music – but it was especially good timing since I am going to see these guys live tomorrow in the World Village Festival in Helsinki. This free of charge event also has performances by Tony Allen who is known as a musician on his own right, but of course he also was the drummer of legendary Fela Kuti and the main act this year is South Africa’s own – and absolutely amazing – Vusi Mahlasela. Did I mention it’s free of charge? I am sure I will have something to say about it after the weekend.

23 May 2011

On Hip-Hop in South Africa and beyond

I am always happy to see people who have taught me to do great things. Perhaps my CV gets elevated by association and I must say, I have been very lucky in that I have been taught academically by some brilliant minds both in UK and in South Africa. Of course not every lecturer I’ve ever had was mind-blowing, a few were a lot less, but one of the ones I proudly say I was taught by is Dr Adam Haupt. Adam is the original South African Hip Hop scholar, but of course he focuses on other things as well. I attended his classes where he talked a lot about copyrights and other intellectual property related matters. He has written a book well worth recommending - Stealing Empire - which, besides buying, you can also actually download as PDF for free and more recently he went to Harvard University for some time. This lecture which lasts for 35 minutes and a bit is from that time. 

He talks about Hip Hop in South Africa and the meeting of culture and industry of the art form. In the end, Dr Haupt explores the internet phenomenon Die Antwoord and asks is it possible to understand it as anything but blackface. I by the way have never seen or heard any of their music. Even the short clip as part of this lecture, I just kind of skipped. So I cannot say much about them personally – I am not very interested in such gimmicks - but I am inclined to trust Dr Haupt’s analysis and I doubt there is anyone more equipped to talk about the topic anyway. So this is a great talk by an interesting person and at least in my opinion, on a very interesting topic – have a look.

More music

Recently I have been posting a lot of links and music. Perhaps more than before, but it’s for two reasons really: there have been many great songs, videos and links to share and then I have been busy, and admittedly a bit uninspired to pause, think and write my own posts. But who cares – I am fairly sure I am the only one. 

Klashnekoff is about to release something and there’s been some mixed messages, but I can still only imagine it being that mixtape that has been on its way. Here’s a new song and a new video Stay Alert. Klashnekoff is one of the only artists I’d post a kind of weed smoking song here – I don’t endorse such behavior and I find it incredibly boring just like I have little love for the beer raps, but note that he says he’s alert despite, not because of his habit. The moralist in me has spoken – it's a cool song and I am really looking forward to whatever release is on its way.

Representing my ends for a change

”Helsinki doesn’t get much shouted out, to hell with those trying to hush and shout it out”. It’s very true this statement by Gracias who shares my home town. His track HKI – short for this beautifully grimy yet supposedly top notch design capital of who knows what – is no longer brand new, but in my never-pausing attempt to find music to feel excited about I only came across it a few days ago after which it’s been featured on my playlist. A lot.

It’s quite telling really, that I find my home town talent last, but it is a different topic for a different post.

The song is really cool, but even more so, it’s this video that moves me with its distinct autumn feel. It gets me nearly emotional about these surroundings that are so melancholically grey – although currently beautifully green – and it represent something about my country I can identify with instead of the narrow minded bigots that have been getting all the attention lately.

So, it’s a cool track with laid back sound and a feel of the yesteryear; perhaps that infamous so called golden era of mid-nineties. Download this and other tracks from his Soundcloud and have a look at the video.

17 May 2011

On Governments and Politics


As South Africa is gearing up for local government elections our friends at the Pioneer Unit have decided to set free a classic spaza track Government by Rattex and Ben Sharpa. This song has been part of my soundtrack especially when I lived in Cape Town. Go and buy the whole Bread and Butter album and read what I wrote about him a year ago. It’s one of the pieces I am really proud of.

The Government - Rattex Ft. Ben Sharpa by PioneerUnit

RATTEX: Labour of love & hard entertainment

Win some, lose some.


My life is not massively influenced by the sports. I enjoy sport very selectively and even then I am a bit of a three minute highlights kind of person rather than someone watching the full thing even from TV. I don’t oppose sports although I do think many athletes behave terribly on the fields and rinks and we understand them just because they are sports people. As if they were part of different species only closely related to humans. Like chimpanzees. I’d find that patronizing, but hey, it’s a free ticket to do-what-you-like station so why would they care, I guess. My lack of interest in sports is not something I was born with. I used to look up to them. I thought the guy who showed the middle finger to the referee was the coolest in the world. I only later on realised how uncalled for much of the behaviour is, but there’s still some small bit in me that makes me curious of some selected big sporting events. I don’t know if I like that bit much, but it’s there so it’s part of who I am and as I am proud of myself, then I guess according to that logic I am proud of it as well. On some weird level.

Last Sunday Finland became a world champion. In what I hear you ask. In ice hockey. It’s like a winter version of rugby with sticks and puck on ice but without any colonial connotations (except that it was invented in one). And the world championships are characterised not by the presence of the best players in the world, but their unavailability as the North American professional league is still busy fighting and skating for big money. But put all those things aside – and it isn’t time to be cynical – Finland won the world championships for the second time ever and they did so with good game quite uncharacteristic to our national team. They played like winners; not like someone afraid to lose. So fair play and well done. It did make me happy for a bit and since it’s been 16 years since the last time, me and my son decided to go and witness the celebration in town as the team arrived home. Well, I decided – he’s four years old, but off we went and as far as I saw, the festivities were really nice and good spirited. People were genuinely happy and there was not any ‘othering’ as far as I could see, although I’ve heard that there had been some problems like that elsewhere and there’s no excuse for that. Ever. I am glad that the captain of the team dissassociated them from this even if the coherance of his statement was what you might expect from a sleep deprived athelete in sparkling wine.

Another negative I must find in the situation is the sense I am getting and which is supported by our leading newspaper. Not by their editorial staff, but by their website that lists the most read articles. Us Finns have many complexes and many of them are linked to losing in ice hockey against Sweden and pretty much the whole day yesterday, the day after the victory, the most read articles were not the ones talking about Finland’s victory, but Sweden’s loss. A very unappealing and immature trait in our nation and it might take a few more victories to get over it. So for that reason, and a few others, I hope they keep on coming.


16 May 2011

Music about racism in South Africa

Another one of the quick musical recommendations here; Three Piece Suit is a band that rapper Core Wreckah, who is often featured here in the blog, heads. Although, I don’t know if he heads the crew, but what we can say for certain is that he is definitely one of its members. This band, as far as I’ve heard, does a kind of organic acoustic sounding music with raps and singing and now there’s a song you can download. The song is called Looking at Me and it’s about the complicated race relations in South Africa. Racism in other words. This is a topic I feel passionately about and in my experience, it is one that cannot be talked about enough. Unfortunately, especially in South Africa, there hasn’t really been much meaningful debate about this topic. Some people might feel it’s all that is being talked about, but it really isn’t. And having to talk about it is a small thing compared to what it was and still continues to be anyway, so don't quite yet call the Amnesty International or seek asylum in Canada.

While the link to download the track is here, you can also have a look at a live performance from UCT (University of Cape Town) which is an institution still struggling with its past regardless of its assumed progressive nature and Cape Town liberalism which is not very liberal at all, but rather a bunch of apartheid apologist disassociating themselves from a status quo in theory, but in practice are happy to enjoy all of its privileges. 

Simplification - yes, of course - and definitely not the full picture, but in reality this type of thinking is never too far wherever you look at in the campus. I should know this, I used to both teach and study there. But it's not about how I feel about these things - listen to Core Wreckah's account, which in the video, admittedly, is slightly disturbed by less than perfect audio quality, but the free download gives you a better idea at least.

13 May 2011

New Looptroop Rockers video

Earlier today I posted a song for the weekend. I stick by that, but let’s add a video for another cool song in the mix. Looptroop Rockers have released another video, third one, from Professional Dreamers album. The video is for a song called Do which is a collaboration with Gnucci Banana. On top of her being an artist on her own right, she’s also wife of South Africa’s Spoek Mathombo. Video is filmed in London which is also quite nice. 

Free download for the weekend and beyond

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Driemanskap or that in general I’ve got a healthy appetite for material released by Pioneer Unit. While I am eagerly waiting for the solo mixtape by Ma-B; one member of Driemanskap, I am happy to link a solo track by another member, Redondo. It’s a remix of Sphithiphithi and the original version was released a few years ago on the group’s proper debut album Igqabhukil’ Inyongo.

I always liked the original. It’s a dark street sound to wear your hat low to, and the remix, made by Pure Solid / Dplanet, is future music – the accurate term is Spazatronic. Have a listen and download from the downwards arrow. You can also buy the whole album from Pioneer Unit’s web shop.

Ma-B’s Beats & Rhymes mixtape should be out before the month end and the rumour is that it will be a free download. Actually, I think it’s a bit more than a rumour, but either way I will link it here as soon as it is available.

7 May 2011

Set reading

So many great links flying around in the internet. Especially Twitter is really great for that purpose. Earlier this week I was linking several music related links and downloads, but now I have a list of articles and videos and such I recommend to look at. These links come from different places and different people who I don’t mention here – I can’t remember them all – and some of them have just come to my news reader from blogs I’ve subscribed to. Thanks to all the initial linkers or the one’s who linked them so that I saw them.

The most I can say really is that if it’s here, I think it’s worth your while. There is not really any other thing that connects these stories. The content of the links vary from South African Hip-Hop to some of my favourite academics and progressive thinking. They are not in any specific order either. So mixed bag it may be, but a proper goodie bag nonetheless.

5 May 2011

Major linkage

Photo: this is just an old photo from 2006, I think, that I came across today. It's got nothing to do with the post itself. Just so you know. Although perhaps I could say the music is soothing like the image - only the music for the most part isn't soothing. But read on.

This year – 2011 – has been somewhat insane with music. There’s been so much of it and obviously I only mean music that meets my pompously high aesthetic requirements. The problem, albeit very privileged one, has been the quantity – it has simply been too much to give all the attention it deserves. And the thing that I’d find the most difficult to explain to the teenage me should there ever be a time machine available, is that for the most part, this music is free.I am not saying that every song from every link is amazing, but that there's a lot of good stuff here and I haven't even had time to listen to it all.

Past week or so has seen a few new mixtapes and here’s some links:

And then there’s been a new song by a friend of WSOM, Core Wreckah and recently one of my internet peoples, poet and ex-rapper (I sometimes try to push him to rap more as he’s very good at it) Xeno aka iPithom had gathered all the recent free online EP’s, Albums and Mixtapes by Quaranteam which consists of some great UK artists and I must say that while I have recommended most of these in separate posts, it is pretty good to have them in one place conveniently so as said, for the following list, besides all the contributing artists, thanks to him as well.

Skillit: As Seen On TV? ~ http://tinyurl.com/6ybew3f @SKILLITMUSIC

Loudmouth Melvin: '1,2,3,4' (5 x E.P.) ~ http://mfi.re/?smg3wsa96c9gw1x @loudmouthmelvin

Mentalist: 'Make You Proud' ~ http://tinyurl.com/6c247wj @Chrismentalist

Pyro Barz: ?Look Who Crept In? ~ http://www.mediafire.com/?eu8uszvio2ug11v @PyroBarz

Pyro Barz: 'Third Degree Burns' ~ http://mfi.re/?ann1ryq4a5u2433 @PyroBarz

K-Nite 13: 'The Drawing Board' ~ http://tinyurl.com/5v2c54d @KNite13

K-Nite 13: 'The Prelude' ~ http://tinyurl.com/5tkrk94 @Knite13

'The Freestyle Sessions' mix cd ~ http://mfi.re/?js3e7n7x2zgle8g @PyroBarz & @loudmouthmelvin

So now the question is, is there time left for anything else anymore.