Some of the most fascinating new music I’ve heard lately comes from Spoek Mathambo, a 24-year-old South African electronic musician/rapper/graphic designer whose debut album, Mshini Wam, comes out September 13 on BBE Records.
Mshini Wam is all about unlikely combinations, odd juxtapositions that somehow work: pitch-shifted vocals atop tribal-sounding drums, soulful crooning layered over glitchy minimalist shuffles, hip-hop verses skimming the surface of glimmering nightclub beats. Mathambo reminds me at times of both Fever Ray and Burial, two artists whose approach to electronic music is highly personal, yet also seeks to cross continents, genres, and identities.
For proof, just check out the video for “Gwababa (Don’t be Scared),” which conjures images of a goggle-clad, African-disco-going version of The Knife:
Appropriately enough, even the name of the album has a double layer of meaning:
The title “Mshini Wam” is taken from a famous South African song with lyrics in Zulu called “Umshini Wami”, what means “My Machine” in English. It is popular amongst members of the military wing of the ANC – in their version it means bring me my machine gun.
Spoek Mathambo wants to give it a new connotation: for him “Mshini Wam” means “My Machine… a way to express a new wave of electronic African music”
For now, click here to download the title track, “Mshini Wam,”on MP3. The single, along with a whole slew of remixes, will be available on July 27.
And while you’re at it, make sure to download Spoek Mathambo’s excellent Africa Mixtape for Fader’s Pitch Perfect series.
– Anna K