Shangaan Electro
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Shangaan Electro


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"Soweto's ultra-fast dance music: Can you take the pace?"

Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) -- In a township rich in musical heritage there is a dance music emerging that is pushing dancers, and beats per minute, to the limit.

Travelers to South Africa will often visit the iconic township of Soweto, in Johannesburg, a place that played a pivotal role in the country's fight for democracy. But a lot has changed since the days of apartheid and music is no exception.

Every other weekend crowds have started to gather in the township to watch dance crews move to the ultra-fast beats of "Shangaan electro."

"The day I will stop pushing, is the day they will stop dancing," said Richard Hlungwani, the music producer at the center of the new Soweto sound.

On the music scene Hlungwani is better know as "Dog," but in his converted studio inside his Soweto house he's a musical mad scientist. Dog is constantly increasing the beats per minute in an effort to make his dancers move faster.

"When I come (to Soweto) it was not moving, so I said to my guys, let's make it 168 (beats per minute) and I said, no it's still not fast enough!" he explained. "Now this is 175 ... now 180!"
The world, will go faster. It won't go at the pace it's going now.
--Richard Hlungwani (Dog), music producer

South Africa

The music gets its name from the ethnic group in the Limpopo province of South Africa. But many Shangaan people, like Dog, moved to the big city in search of work and they brought their music with them.

"For you to be successful in music you have to be in Soweto, because that's where the dancers are," he said.

What Dog found in the township was a variety of musical styles and at the top of the dance scene was Kwaito, a form of hip-hop inspired by Soweto. The producer became determined to add Shangaan electro to the mix.

"Naturally Shangaani people used to hide themselves, you would find Shangaani people scrapping himself trying to speak other people's language rather than speaking his language," he said. "They are afraid, they are hiding themselves, but I said we will make people come out of it."

But adding extreme tempo to his traditional music didn't come without critics. Dog said he was often accused of trying to change the flavor of Shangaan.

"I said no, the toms (tom-tom drums) will still be there, because for the Shangaan, that's part of us, and the melody that goes with it will be there," he added.

Dog says that the only thing that won't be there is the bass and it's now the dancers that are urging him to speed up the music.

"I'm not pushing them, they're pushing me, those guys and those girls dance!" he added.

What began as a risk has paid off and Dog has now moved from weekend dance competitions to recording, marketing and selling his brand of electro.

"I was just intrigued," explained New York music producer Wills Glasspiegel, who first saw Dog's dancers on YouTube.

"It was something we couldn't figure out what it was. Even my friend from South Africa, it wasn't exactly clear where it was coming from, or what they were saying, or when it was from," he added.

But confusion has given way to admiration and Glasspiegel is convinced others will feel the same way. He's organized a European tour for Dog and his performers that will take the group to 15 countries.

"What I like about Europeans is that they are willing to try something new, but I'm afraid they will end up wanting us every week because we are going to blow them away!" said Dog.

For Dog a new audience is a chance to spread his beats beyond South Africa. While he says he changed Shangaan to fit Soweto, he isn't about to slow the tempo now: instead, the world will just have to keep up.

"The world will go faster. It won't go at the pace it's going now," he said. "It will go a little bit faster, because Shangaan electro is going to do that." - CNN

"Shangaan Shake (Various Artists)"

Honest Jon's have taken an interesting trajectory over the last couple of years. Since 2010 they've become synonymous with a certain sort of uncategorisable electronic music, many of the the modern artists they've worked with - Basic Channel's Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus, Vladislav Delay, Actress, T++, Shackleton, Pinch - occupying a liminal zone somewhere where dub collides with London bass culture and the outer reaches of techno. It's especially interesting that the label's careful curation (probably as simple as a matter of good A&R taste) has resulted in such a tight aesthetic. These artists may sound little alike, but they're bound by their common drive for individuality. It's also particularly enjoyable to hear the sound of many of the label's artists referencing, however obliquely, the African musics that Honest Jon's remain strongly involved with: in Shackleton's polyrhythmic percussive structures, for example, or T++'s de/reconstructions of old East African 78s on Wireless, or Actress's demolitions of musics typically associated with pan-Atlantic Afrofuturism (Detroit techno, electro, Chicago house, jungle).

Then there are the future sounds of Africa in Shangaan Electro itself. 2010's compilation New Wave Dance Music From South Africa showcased a completely self-contained sound: rapid-fire electro at 180bpm, hyper-coloured, whorls of canned marimba, synthetic struck instruments and half-chanted, half-sung vocals. An electrified take on traditional Shangaan sounds, it offered a curveball for UK dancers unaccustomed to its rapid tempo - drum & bass comes close at around the 170bpm mark, but even then it's halfstepped, the mid-bar kink making it easier for the body to follow. But in the text accompanying its release, Shangaan producer Nozinja reminded listeners that "Shangaan dancers, they dance, they can go on for almost an hour with that speed, without getting tired. When you see them dance you feel like they have got no bones." An apt way to put it: the few times I experienced even three or four minutes of it a club floor - Hessle Audio's Pearson Sound/Ramadanman was fond of dropping Zinja Hlungwani's 'Ntombi Ya Mugaza' at the end of sets from time to time - it was enough to thoroughly rattle the elbows and knees of a crowd who had previously been comfortably locked to a 135-140bpm lurch.

So it's interesting that none of the artists Honest Jon's brought in to reinterpret Shangaan Electro opted to simply re-frame their source material in a UK/Europe-friendly dancefloor context. One of the most important things about the Shangaan Shake project, which has run across a series of 12"s over the past year or so, is that the additional artists Honest Jon's drafted in mine similarly distinct spaces as the label's more long-running collaborators. So alongside Actress and Mark Ernestus, this 2CD compilation of the 12" releases features Detroit techno/house innovators Theo Parrish and Anthony 'Shake' Shakir, Bristol junglist (though never jungle producer) Peverelist, some of the founding names behind Chicago footwork (Rashad, Spinn and RP Boo) and London dubwise pop duo Hype Williams, amongst others. Between them, the full roster reads like a who's who of groundbreaking and boundary pushing current electronic musicians. There's nothing even approaching a generic contribution here.

That's probably one of the reasons why, across the course of two hours of music, these reinterpretations never resort to simply setting a full vocal a capella to a new musical backdrop. Most of them also suggest that the nature of the original recordings may have made it difficult to fully isolate individual segments. (The crumbling vocal on Burnt Friedman's take on Zinja Hlungwani's 'N'wagezani My Love', which drifts scratchy and uneven across a rough-hewn, jazzy backdrop, works in support of that idea.) Instead, across the whole length of Shangaan Shake similar brief motifs crop up again and again. Despite the wildly differing natures of the interpretations on offer, it's lent a great sense of coherence by the same short snippets of voice appearing in several different contexts.

Again thanks to careful curation, nothing on Shangaan drops below a uniformly high standard. Even at its least enjoyable - Ricardo Villalobos & Max Loderbauer's dry, granular contribution which recalls last year's Re:ECM album - it's still a fascinating listen. There's too much material to go through the whole compilation in detail, but several in particular stand out as highlights. The first is a pair of tracks from Honest Jon's signee Actress. His scrambled, rapidly decaying music suggests some alternate version of Detroit techno, plucked from a parallel reality where the genre's seventies germline has been fundamentally altered by blasts of cold war radiation. His two versions here offer different views of his sound - the first disc's, like Demdike Stare's track on the second, is one of the few things on here to sound indisputably British, its stumbling rhythm regularly rent with long blurts of Radiophonic interference. His track on the second disc is more in keeping with the Shangaan original, faster, brighter and barbed. Long-running Berlin operators MMM turn in a galloping slab of party house, and Oni Ayhun (aka Olof Dreijer from The Knife) drops the frosty techno sheen in favour of clompy rhythms and pitchbent vocoders.

Peverelist, as ever, stands head and shoulders above most of the competition: his take again recalls the soundtracking experiments of the Radiophonic workshop, but puts them to the service of stoned, swung house. As usual, jungle is never far away - it's remarkable that Pev's always able to infuse his music with that genre's rolling momentum and space-time folding properties, even when drastically dropping the tempo on this and other recent material. The result has a sort of prickly inevitability, as though what we're hearing will continue forever just out of earshot.

One of the enjoyable things about hearing a set of artists this diverse tackling the same source material is to lay bare their similarities and differences in approach. Parrish, for example, offers up the only contribution that keeps Shangaan electro's manic, toe-tapping tempo intact, a hacked version that's reminiscent of some of his recent Ugly Edits work. Chopping the original into miniature shards and spinning them in a centrifuge, the result is a near-overwhelmingly busy twelve minutes, a carnival-of-the-damned scarred by unruly zaps of synth.

Parrish's is the only track here that approximates the bodily and sensory overload of the Shangaan originals, though those that come closest - footworkers Rashad & Spinn and RP Boo - share a similar attitude. Like Parrish, they're fearless in their willingness to disassemble their source material down to its basest building blocks and rebuild with barely anything of the original track left. Boo's version, for example, accompanies his flurry of 808 hits with only a couple of song snippets, breaking them into juddering glitch sketches beneath his own vocal addition, "Africa soul is comin'/From my body/And I use it with my legs/Footwork". One of the few new voices added to the album, his jittery monologue offers an astute perspective on African music's relationship to electronic dance music - the soul of the continent, locked in music, channeled through movement - as well as footwork's own growing importance. Utilitarian, hypnotic, intensely functional and designed purely with bodily motion in mind, that genre is proving to be one of the purest expressions of the 'Africa soul' still buried at the heart of modern dance music. - The Quietus

"Nozinja's Beats Help Soweto Dance Faster"

SOWETO, South Africa – Sitting in his cramped, cluttered studio, Richard Hlungwani, also known as Nozinja, also known as Dog, is pushing the beat faster and faster.
[0728afdispatch1] Will Connors

Producer Richard Hlungwani, also known as Nozinja, also known as Dog, at his studio in his home in Soweto.

"If it's too slow, they won't dance," Mr. Hlungwani says. "They will tell you straight: 'It's too slow, can't it be faster?'"

Mr. Hlungwani, 40, is the producer and driving force behind a new, ultra-fast take on traditional Shangaan music, which derives from the ethnic group of the same name and originated in Mozambique and northern South Africa.

Shangaan Electro, as it has been dubbed by U.S. and U.K.-based promoters, is garnering attention both within South Africa and abroad. The London record label Honest Jon's recently put out an album ("Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dance Music from South Africa") of 12 tracks by various Shangaan artists that Mr. Hlungwani produced.
South African Dancers Feel a Need for Speed

It's techno dance music on speed. WSJ's Jeff Bush looks at street dancers in Soweto, South Africa, who are moving to a new electronic music that pushes the beat to the limit.

His records have won a number of awards in South Africa. The South African branch of Kentucky Fried Chicken used one of his songs for a recent TV and radio ad campaign. And a YouTube clip featuring one of Mr. Hlungwani's more successful artists and some break-neck Shangaan dancing has been viewed close to one million times since it was posted in 2007.

The music itself is stripped down to basics: syntehiszier-produced marimba beats, high-pitched singing, and the notable lack of any bass beats at all. But the most riveting aspect of the music is the speed.
[0728afdispatch2] Will Connors

A man dances to Shangaan Electro music at an album release party at a bar called Ike's Place in Soweto earlier this month.

For comparison: Lady Gaga's hit song "Alejandro" is 99 beats per minute. Taylor Swift's "You Belong to Me" is 130 beats per minute. Even Outkast's "Bombs over Bagdad" is a mere 155 beats per minute.

In his studio, Mr. Hlungwani cues up a new, unreleased track that is 187 beats per minute.

"Before, Shangaan music was much slower, and the voices weren't modified," Mr. Hlungwani says. "But who's gonna buy it? That one's for old people."

He says that his top albums and DVD collections released under his label, Nozinja Music Productions, sell between 30,000-40,000 copies in local record shops in Soweto and in the northern Limpopo province, where most Shangaan people in South Africa live.

"Nobody's heard music like this, or seen dancing like this," says Wills Glasspiegel, the Brooklyn-based producer of an African music show for Public Radio International and who is representing Mr. Hlungwani outside of South Africa. "It's such a unique style, so that even if you don't like the music, and wouldn't want to listen to it on a Sunday afternoon or whatever, it's still something that people are interested in looking at and learning about."

Mr. Glasspiegel is currently working with record label Honest Jon's on a follow-up album and is organizing a U.S. tour for Mr. Hlungwani and some Shangaan artists next summer.

Enlarge Image
Will Connors

A singer entertains the crowd.

Mr. Hlungwani's small brick house sits under the main highway that leads into Soweto, a sprawling city outside Johannesburg. Written on the wall of the highway overpass is an ad for a funeral home providing "The Best Customer Service, EVER."

A commuter train passes every twenty minutes a few dozen feet from the house, sending Mr. Hlungwani's dog Smoky into fits of barking.

But the train doesn't run after 8 p.m., Mr. Hlungwani says, so that's when he records the voice parts for his songs.

At a Shangaan CD release party last month in Soweto, hosted at a small bar called Ike's Place, a few hundred people gathered to drink beer, eat fried worm snacks and, of course, dance.

Standing behind two tall sets of crackling speakers, Mr. Hlungwani looked on approvingly. "We don't know how far it will go but we hope for the best," he says. - Wall Street Journal

"Shangaan Electro"

A dancing day in South Africa with the man devoted to breakneck-speed.

As part of the Smirnoff Experience, I was fortunate to become one of the few people from outside South A [Insert Hyperlink] frica to have attended a Shangaan electro dance in the heart of the township Soweto. Five years ago, the genre didn’t exist other than in its slower 1980s incarnation: Shangaan disco led by Penny Penny and Peter Teanet that ran at 110 BPM. The joyful, hypnotically sped-up, booty-swivelling and unmistakably African marimba beats coming out of Soweto today are pushing 184 BPM – and they are created for the purpose of making people dance faster than ever before. There are videos of the vigorous weekly street dances on YouTube getting half a million hits, and yet the phenomenon is still hyper-local: 50,000 records are sold per year without the help of digital distribution.

The man I’m meeting today revolutionised Shangaan music by upping the heart rate to the point of heart attack and exchanging bass and guitar for marimba and organs on midi keyboard, made even more frenetic by the addition of high-pitched vocal samples – sometimes American ones – and his own voice. Nozinja is a composer and record label owner, and produces the most popular Shangaan electro groups including Tshetsha Boys, who are the dancing clowns in the video below that you should really watch if you want to begin to understand Shangaan. He’s also the nicest man I meet in South Africa – the Shangaan people reportedly possess the sweetest natures of all the South African populations.

I’m dropped off by taxi outside a shopping centre in Soweto, and spend 45 minutes waiting for Nozinja. Eventually, a corpulent figure emerges, beaming behind gappy teeth, from his battered BMW. “Sorry!” he glances at the taped up back window, “My kids smashed it last week.” Nozinja, or Dog to his English comrades, drives me to his house in one of the more orderly streets in Soweto, a building made from bricks and mortar and not the corrugated iron that dominates elsewhere. There’s a dusty field to the rear and Nozinja’s actual dog rushes to greet me, meeting outstretched hands with a few ambiguous snaps of the jaw. He takes a seat in his chaotic studio and plays the track he’s working on today. Afterwards, we get back in the car and head to a gathering of several hundred people, who swig beer and watch as around ten groups of dancers, ranging in age from five to over 50, take it in turns to tirelessly swivel their hips at dangerous speed, all day long.

Dazed Digital: This month, Honest Jon’s records in the UK are putting out a compilation of Shangaan electro recorded in your studio between 2006 and 2009. Do you know where it is going to be distributed?
Nozinja: The whole world. Let’s hope we get gigs! KFC took one of our songs from the Tshetsha Boys to use on their advert in South Africa, so it will be seen all over the world. The person that came up with the idea saw us on YouTube and looked for me for three months…

DD: The song you’re playing to me just now… will you be letting the crowd hear it for the first time today?
Nozinja: Yeah. We have this cultural thing every Sunday where I test out new songs, check how the dancers’ movement is, and the vibe when people hear it. Then I can pinpoint mistakes, come back and fix them.

DD: When was Shangaan electro invented?
Nozinja: With me, it started in 2005. That’s when I said, ‘I’m going to do music,’ and I don’t regret it. I own repair shops, specialising in phones, and this guy came to me and said, ‘Let’s play music.’ We researched it for almost a year. I bulldozed them all, and now I am number one! Let me show you my trophies. (Nozinja leads me to his front room where he points out 12 or so music awards including some from the South African Grammy’s.)

DD: Can you remember why, back in 2005, you wanted to make such a fast version of the more traditional Shangaan music?
Nozinja: It’s the way they dance. When they dance slowly, they are making you sleep. They are dancing like they don’t have bones. When people are dancing, they will tell you they want something much faster.

DD: You mentioned that the women’s skirts that they dance in were worn by your great grandfathers and mothers, but what about Tshetsha Boys’ costumes, the clown masks and boiler suits?
Nozinja: We came up with this idea that if you want to break the market, make something that the kids like. Even if they don’t have the money, the parents will go and borrow the money to get what the kids want. When the Tshetsha Boys dance, the kids love it. My dream would be to have a play and take it around the world, because you need to see the dancing as well as hear the music to get the whole experience.

DD: What do you think of the other styles of music in the area?
Nozinja: The music is very rich. I love tradition, and with some types of music it is like we are copying what other artists from overseas are doing. I can go back to my elders and ask… but with rap music, who am I going to go back and ask? Nobody; so there’s no use for me to go and do it.

DD: Do you think you will always stay in Soweto, even if you made a lot of money from this?
Nozinja: I like it better where I’m from, Limpopo. With us, it will be better if we can get it overseas with people that can appreciate our music. On this side it’s only about 1.5 million people, and that’s not many. Here, you don’t get gigs. No-one is paying us, we just do it for us, as part of playing the music. It’s how you express yourself and show that you’re proud of being Shangaan.

Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dance Music From South Africa will be released by Honest Jon’s on June 28. Thanks to all at Smirnoff for making the trip to Johannesburg and Soweto possible.
- Dazed Digital

"Various Artists: Shangaan Electro - New Wave Dance Music From South Africa"

Speed in music can be strange. Sometimes songs that are fast, technically speaking, don't sound fast in effect. Maybe they don't move, or don't prove fleet in any way. Whereas sometimes a slow song, with the right lean, can seem to take off, to zoom toward some distant horizon. But however the finer points play out, speed in music can be misleading-- and wondrously disorienting. Case in point is the compilation Shangaan Electro-- pretty much every track on it is ruthlessly, breathlessly, ridiculously fast. Yet the effect of so much speed is to make everything, paradoxically and more than a little psychedelically, slow down.

Opening track "Ngunyuta Dance", by an act called BBC, makes for a good primer. After beginning with a weightless drop of chintzy-sounding keyboard tones and spritzy digital drums, it eventually has like 10 different patterns running through it, each at a manic pace. And something in the ceaselessness of them all makes the rhythm seem to just keep getting faster and faster as it transpires-- until a disembodying sense of overload washes over and starts, kind of magically, to pull everything apart.

There's a lot to pull apart. Shangaan Electro collects 12 extremely dense and startling tracks of contemporary Shangaan dance music from Africa, specifically a few southern parts near Johannesburg and Mozambique. Evidently, the scene grew out of the mind of one man, named Nozinja, who works as a producer and sells music on his own, on DVDs and cassettes that fan out for use at insane dance parties. Footage from these village parties has gotten around via popular YouTube clips full of sick dance moves, which feature lots of heavily torqued wiggling and actions that look like something a man might do after just discovering a leech on his balls. (Another way to describe them, this a choice quote from the liner notes: "When you see them dance you feel like they have got no bones.")

But part of what makes Shangaan Electro so interesting is the way it seems to laugh away the notion of context altogether, or at least rush right past it. Tracks in the Shangaan style tend to run around 180 beats-per-minute, which is very fast, and the seizing effect of that is amplified by a focus on cheap high-end sounds and a near-total absence of bass, which there simply doesn't seem to be room for. Dance music in general is typically weighted and time-stamped by bass. Shangaan electro floats in ethereal space instead, with lots of speed and no friction.

In the most comprehensive terms, Shangaan electro is extremely weird. The sound sources enlisted in the mosaic tracks here range from what sounds like children's-movie traffic noise to solar flares from a plastic sun. There's beautiful human soul in the choral singing in "Nwa Pfundla" by Tshetsha Boys, but there's as much beautiful post-human soul in the highly processed chipmunk vocals of their "Uya Kwihi Ka Rose". And pretty much throughout, there's a startling range of inventiveness with electronic sounds that are constantly clipped, looped, and folded in on themselves-- like in Mancingelani's "Vana Vasesi", which sounds like someone's spotty memory of Kraftwerk's "Pocket Calculator" run at triple speed.

The liner notes, revealing but also helpfully incomplete, describe the previously very isolated Shangaan electro sound as "hyper-local music, all of it still considered traditional." But little here scans as "traditional" once you tumble in and fall under its swirling parts' spell. All the tracks compiled trace back to Nozinja's studio, where they were born between 2006 and 2009. But they've started to thrive in a zone of no context, which is where we are now. None of Shangaan Electro sounds quite like anything else we have at our disposal. Which, come to think of it, places it within a rich tradition indeed.
- Pitchfork Media

"Scene and Heard: Shangaan Electro"

Marimba solos at 180 bpm, lyrics like African soap operas and a whole lot of ass-shaking ... welcome to Shangaan dance and the mysterious man behind it all

For Wills Glasspiegel, the discovery of Shangaan electro came after an evening of random YouTubing in his Brooklyn apartment. His sofa was then acting as a bed for Tshepang Ramoba, drummer with South African band BLK JKS, and the pair were looking at clips online. "Tshepang knows I manage a musician from Sierra Leone called Janka Nabay," explains Glasspiegel, "and he said 'you know, we have music like Janka's in South Africa too', and that's when he introduced me to Shangaan electro."

At 180 bpm, shangaan combines MIDI keyboards with marimba beats, distorted vocal samples and lyrics that Honest Jon's, the record label which is putting out a compilation, described as "African soap operas, tied up with domestic matters and a yearning for the slower life". But equally important is the dancing that goes with it; hyperfast footwork, the odd avian-like leg movements and, for the women, a lot of ass-shaking in colourful skirts. There's also a propensity among Shangaan dancers to dress up, as is evident in the clip of the Tshe Tsha Boys, which shows the trio (including one child) wearing bright orange jumpsuits and clown masks during performances.

When Glasspiegel was introduced to Shangaan electro, it was largely unknown outside the city of Malamulele in Limpopo, South Africa. Already an aficionado of African music through his work with Nabay and as a radio producer, Glasspiegel decided to travel to Malamulele to experience the music. "It reminded me of arriving in Kingston or Havana," says Glasspiegel, "because there is just music everywhere all the time. It's in the air." His aim was to get to the source of shangaan electro, and then see if he could distribute the music in the US. And that source was a man named Dog. "We found this DVD in a record shop in Malamulele by the Tshe Tsha Boys and Dog's number was on the back."

Dog (real name Richard "Nozinja" Mthethwa) is the man at the helm of Shangaan electro. A former mobile phone repair shop worker turned music entrepreneur, he is responsible for recording, producing and selling more than 50,000 records a year (he also sings himself) through his Nozinja label. Dog runs his empire from a home studio in Soweto, where he edits a slightly surreal stream of music videos, most of which are filmed in front of a green screen and interspliced with clips from shangaan township dances and, occasionally, stock footage of joggers, lakes and western business centres.
"It seems strange to us that these mundane images would be edited in, but to Dog, an image of white-collar workers circled around a xerox machine is still a bit foreign and exciting," Glasspiegel explains.

After a week of trying, I eventually got through to Dog on the phone late one afternoon. First things first, why the name? "My grandfather was called Dog – he would say to people 'you can't touch me!', because he was fearless. So I just took the name too." Dog says the story of shangaan electro started in 2005. "I wanted to take traditional, marimba-based Shangaan music and make it faster. At that point, the most popular music was at 130-135 bpm. I wanted to put it up to 180." When Glasspiegel and Dog first met, the former was greeted with scepticism from the latter. "People come to Africa all the time from the UK and America promising to do great things for our music – we sign a contract and then we never hear from them again." But Glasspiegel managed to persuade Dog that there would be no profit-hogging. "Wills did everything he promised me he would do. When I tell people that I have an international release for Shangaan music they don't believe me! But it's all down to him."

Glasspiegel aims to bring the acts on the shangaan compilation to the US to perform live. For Dog, there is a more immediate concern: "I want to make it faster still. The last record was at 183 bpm. I want to increase that, keep going up!"
The best shangaan artists, by Wills Glasspiegel

Tshe Tsha Boys are named after the "tshetsha" dance that originates in the village of Ka-Mukomi in the northern province of Malamulele. When Dog first saw the dance in 2006, he bought a case of beer for the performers and held a contest to see who could dance the best. Days later, Dog brought two of the top dancers from Ka-Mukomi to Johannesburg to record their break-out hit Tshetsha. Wearing orange overalls and clown masks, Tshe Tsha Boys make music that appeals to all ages – Dog's 11-year-old son is also in the band. "Young people have the buying power," Dog says.

BBC stands for Beautiful Black Culture. The group comprises three sisters, also from Malamulele. They're known for the way in which they dance in unison – a rare and magical sight in Shangaan. The sisters are often thought to be twins, which they play up to in videos and performances.

Tiyiselani Vomaseve are the queens of Shangaan dance. Featuring three sisters and two friends, they were Dog's first hit-makers and among the first women to be at the forefront of any shangaan group. Traditionally in Shangaan culture, women/wives sing backup for a lead male voice, but Tiyiselani bucked the trend. Though BBC and Tiyiselani are on the same label, "they don't sit in the same room together". Dog says there's a competitive spirit at play.

Mancingelani was the first artist to join the Nozinja label in 2005. He comes from a family of musicians in Soweto and has the rare honour of being the first Shangaan artist to have his own DVD, which is now a necessary component for any release in the dance-focused genre. Mancingelani means "security guard" – it's his day job.

Zinja is Nozinja himself, although Dog says that he "hates performing". He first started singing as a way of showing artists what he wanted from them in the studio. In the video for Nwa Gezani from 2009, Dog performs in a jacket and tie with gigantic super-imposed yellow tulips in the background. Perhaps Dog is the Shangaan Dr Dre – a man behind (and sometimes in front of) the beats.
- The Guardian

"Strange Glue (Green Man festival live review)"

I danced, I quivered, I laughed at them, I laughed at myself. I ed off the energy they gave out with an irreverent generosity, no pretence and none of the stomach turning pleasantries which turned much of this festival into a glad-handing family gathering. They were stikcy, murky, radiant and at times overwhelming. The guitarist and main vocalist is less a singer and more a convulsive oracle who makes ecstatic gestures with his voice box. - Strange Glue

"The Wire (live review)"

Repeated cells of joyous juju groove and a hefty dose of ink mathematics, topped off by a bearded bespectacled bloke with the voice of a Thai pop princess exultantly singing in tongues. - The Wire Magazine

"Drowned In Sound (EP review)"

Their taut Deerhoofisms wrangle with something undeniably more psychedelic, to create a veritable carnival of sound. The best description we can come up with is 'how we want Dirty Projectors to sound'. - Drowned In Sound

"The Fly (End of The Road Festival live review)"

They are the Mars Volta wrestling with the Boredoms, and they've just made this weekend a whole lot more interesting. Hell, we could've cut that sentence off early: they've just made this weekend. - The Fly

"The Fly (EP review)"

'Sun God' is the modal-jazz krautrock monster track that you could imagine them playing as the climax to a four hour gig in the traditions of King Sunny Ade or The Grateful Dead. - The Fly Magazine

"Rumor Festival (live review)"

A group of islanders dancing on the edge of a volcano, possessed by everything but parochialism. Latin, jazz, blues or world music? Tropical voodoorock with a touch of Sun Ra. - Rumor Festival

"Drowned In Sound (live review)"

Zun Zun Egui, however, are incredible, leaning from Cuban jazz with a noise skronk to a heavy afrobeat which recalls late-period Fugazi at their most freeform. - Drowned In Sound

"Mojo (Green Man festival live review)"

This year's non-folky treats include the heavenly tribal house of Brooklyn art stars Gang Gang Dance and Bristol-based, globally minded tropical-jazz-punk fusionists Zun Zun Egui, whose Mahavishnu Orchestra gone math-rock eruptions are enhanced by blazing blue skies - Mojo

"Line of Best Fit (Luminaire live review)"

Bristol's mighty Zun un Egui... begin with the lead singer, who'd been nonchanlantly standing in the middle of the audience suddenly erupting into a trilling multi-lingual cacophony, bounding around The Luminaire like a wide-eyed madman before unleasing 35 minutes of the most eclectic, frantic tropical-experimental-funk-rock madness I've ever had the honour of experiencing. When a band can simultaneously remind you of Battles, Dirty Projectors, Talking Heads, Ponytail and Yeasayer you know you've got an original on your hands - the blistering drumming, tribal chanting and brutally rhythmic bass-lines all adding up to one of the most engaging performances I've seen this year. The most exciting live band in Britain? Man, you better believe it. - Line of Best Fit

"Uncut (EP review)"

At a time when every fey indie herbert is trying to turn tropical, Zun Zun Egui are the real deal. Their members hail from Mauritius, Japan - and perhaps less exotically - Bristol, while the music is a fiery creole of Afrofunk, Krautrock and ecstatic no wave noise. All three tracks on their 'Bal La Poussiere' EP are a riot. The wonderous 10-minute Can-like incantation 'Sun God' edges it. - Uncut Magazine


Shangaan Electro (CD/LP/DL, Honest Jon's, 2010)
Shangaan Shake (12" series/CD/DL, Honest Jon's, 2011)
Xitsonga Dance (12", Jiaolong, 2013)

Plus many CDs, DVDs and cassettes self-released in South Africa



Shangaan Electro is the street dance phenomenon from South Africa that has become a global phenomenon on the back of a series of viral youtube films, an acclaimed compilation on Honest Jon's, and a remix series featuring the world's most renowned electronic producers.

The creation of charismatic producer/mastermind and vocalist Nozinja, Shangaan Electro is a very contemporary product of Africa, juxtaposing the traditional chants and vocal harmonies of the Shangaan tribe with high-octane electronic backing tracks. This is hyper-kinetic digital dance music custom made for weekly dance-offs in Soweto which can reach dizzying speeds of up to 190 beats per minute.

Shangaan Electro's unique sound, high speed dance moves and day-glo visual aesthetic quickly captured the imagination of press, musicians and fans across the world, with NPR declaring this to be "the Cheetah of African music" and both The Wall Street Journal and CNN documenting this emergent scene.

The band played their first ever shows in Europe in the summer of 2011 following an invitation from Roskilde Festival, and since then have lit up festivals and clubs worldwide from Sydney Festival to Barbican's Blaze concert series.

Based on a Soweto street party, the live show features the stars of the Honest Jon’s compilation – producer/mastermind Nozinja aka ‘Dog’, the clown-masked Tshetsha Boys and vocalists Tiyiselani Vomaseve and Nkata Mawewe - performing together in a scene-stealing supergroup.

Most recently Nozinja has embarked on a dance 12" series on Caribou's Jiaolong label, the first of which was released under his Xitsonga Dance alias. He is currently working on a new album with an array of collaborators from the Shangaan stable.


Zinja Hlungwani 'Nwa Gezani My Love' -
Tshetsha Boys 'Nwa Pfundla' -
Nozinja 'What Can I do My Baby?' -