The most avant-garde collective and label on the African continent of electronic music returns with an album steeped in an immense tradition, the South African toyi-toyi: a powerful dance of protest and fight.
Forget clubs offering only commercial standards, the aspiration of the trio of Durban Phelimuncasi is unquestionably political and anti-establishment. An alternative electronic music that invites you to dance to revolt, a credo like the Nyege Nyege Tapes label that accompanies the release of the album simply titled “Phelimuncasi: 2013-2019”, which is scheduled for release on September 17.
Coming from the townships of Durban in the early 2010s, gqom is a dark house music inspired by kwaito. To this, Phelimuncasi adds the toyi-toyi, a powerful dance accompanied by protest singing that was used during anti-apartheid demonstrations to intimidate police and security forces. No wonder that Phelimuncasi have been calling to perform at many political functions for the African National Congress and South African left wing Pan Africanist party EFF (Economic Freedom Fighter).
Their groundbreaking album on Nyege Nyege Tapes is a sort of nine-track retrospective of gqom music, produced over a six-year period. Five of these, recorded before 2016, are produced by early gqom legends DJ Scoturn and DJ MP3 over dark and gritty drone pads and pitch-shifted tom hits. Four more tracks were recorded in 2019 during a joint residency at Nyege Studios with Menzi, who has drawn international attention for his cyberpunk-cinematic sound design and searing synth dynamics.
But what makes this album a major work of contemporary South African underground music are its spontaneous chants invoked like mantras. Isizulu’s vibrant lyrics and contagious statements intensify and instill a sense of liberation throughout the album. Phelimuncasi is sure to open minds and boundaries of a genre that they helped bring out beyond the continent. An enchanting music that lives in us like an emancipatory evil filter.
Phelimuncasi: 2013-2019, released on September 17th via Nyege Nyege Tapes.
1. Ngavele Ngagaxela (Prod by DJ Scoturn)
2. Umahlalela (Prod by DJ Scoturn)
3. Private Party (Prod by Menzi)
4. South Beach eWHEE Ft 004 Da Artist (Prod by DJ Scoturn)
5. I Roof (Prod by Menzi)
6. Sesi Gora (Prod by DJ MP3)
7. GQOM Venus Cemetrary (Prod By Menzi)
8. Umgido (Prod by Menzi)
9. Ungabom Themba Umunutu (Prod by DJ Scoturn)