the house sound of south africa: bruce loko & fka mash

February 28, 2019
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One of the beautiful things about South African house music culture is its diversity. How radically different the sounds made by Jozi artists are from, say, Pretoria artists, who have different points of view from Soweto artists, who are different from all the people making music in Durban, which encompasses numerous electronic music worlds all by itself. Sparks really start to fly when these ideas begin mixing, forming unique musical languages, oddities and odysseys you hear nowhere else in the world. That’s the case with the remix (officially, a “Glitch Dub”) that Fka Mash created for Bruce Loko’s track “Sunset Over Water,” from the latter’s new EP, The Black Pearl.

Though Bruce Lokothwayo, a Johannesburg producer/DJ with a growing global profile, specializes in smooth, straight-ahead club bangers, the original “Sunset” is really an abstract piece of art-techno. Its rhythms constantly disintegrate into the corners of a hard-drive, like data streams running amiss. By contrast, Soweto’s Fka Mash (Mashito Lekgothoane) works in softer tones and slower tempos that make fat grooves; he creates complex rhythms from a mix of deeply programmed machines and simple human sounds. The beauty in Mash’s “Glitch Dub” of “Sunset Over Water” is that it’s in fact less glitchy and more forthright than the original, taking a beautiful melodic figure hidden in Loko’s version, and placing it front-and-center on a beat where the One is always easy to find (the handclaps) but the context is continuously changing. Using Bruce Loko’s pieces, Fka Mash did that damn thing.

On the occasion of featuring their collaboration, AFROPUNK wanted to learn a little more about Bruce, about his collabo with Mashito, and about making dance music in South Africa. Here’s what he wrote back:

Talk a little bit about who Fka Mash is and how long you’ve known him, and why you had him remix “Sunset Over Water.”

I met Mash I think last year, we released EP’s on the same label (Stay True Sounds), and to my surprise, when we first met, he told me that I’m the one who made him push his music, after my first release on Stay True, and he later became an artist on Stay True. To be honest, he took the track to another level — the melody and the baseline, actually everything…he killed it! He chose his own journey. The difference is that I wanted to make it a dance-floor track and he made it so smooth and groovy.

Talk a little bit about your relationship to electronic music.

Electronic music changed my life. We all know music can be a spiritual experience, can be casual fun, it can be so many things to so many people. I discovered that electronic music gave me an opportunity to explore.

How did you come to making electronic music? Where did you first play and begin to understand, ‘hey, I’m pretty good at this’?

Since I have a good ear, I’ve always been fascinated by weird sounds. I began to teach myself how to pack the sound particles according to my imagination. I first played back at home in Mpumalanga, Breyten… I was still a kid playing at friends’ parties. I began to understand that I might be good at this because I was getting a lot of gigs as a kid.

Talk a little bit about the relationship between dance music in South Africa, especially the kind of “house”-style music that you make, and the styles in Europe and America?

Dance music in South Africa is very complex, but with the kind of “house”-style music I make there’s very few places you can go to and very few artists that can “fit” the European styles, but there’s a scene in SA where you’d feel you’re in Europe. Locally there’s a lot happening… most artists get recognized abroad, promoters throw world class events. Internationally, I’m mostly inspired by the forward thinking artists, they make me realize to not to think inside the box.