If we can agree that Africa is not an art-producing island floating in isolated space, but fluid and prone to cultural absorption, then we can start to understand some of the results of the information flow in music and observe how collaboration is working in the 21st Century.
Whilst working with the group Nihiloxica, I asked their drummer, Prince, a musician from Uganda, where he would like to visit during his first trip to the UK. The rather unexpected answer was Grimsby, a poor, ex-fishing town in the North of England. This was because he had seen the satirical film The Brothers Grimsby by comedian actor Sacha-Baron Cohen in Uganda. A niche film in the UK, The Brothers Grimsby, along with its humour, cultural tropes and pokes at working class Northern England, has made its way to Uganda.
The world has become smaller than ever before, the fruits of which are apparent in cross cultural dialogue. Electronic music producers are no exception, aided in turn by the drop in entry costs to making music and enhanced accessibility to software such as Ableton Live. Tutorials on how to use music software are widely available on Youtube with a global community helping each other. Advanced production techniques are no longer derived from the sound of Europe, but instead picked up by people in China, Africa and the South Americas, filtered, regurgitated and built upon.
A great example is Angolan artist Nazar, who combines the nostalgic fog of London producers like Burial and the more bombastic Justice mixed with his home roots of “rough kuduro.” The resulting music is avant garde, sophisticated but somehow rhythmically familiar — a sound that transcends its roots and traverses new worlds.here
In Kampala, Uganda, the label Nyege Nyege has been working hard to support new African artists and expose them to an international audience. The label has searched out artists and producers, setup a groundbreaking festival and been the motivating force behind the genre-defying band Nihiloxica. Kenyan artists such as Slikback have enjoyed world-wide critical aclaim, thanks to a combination of staggering talent and the support of Nyege Nyege.
Slikback’s percussion-driven music takes cues from dub, dancehall and footwork as well as African drum music.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUwrmMlp25Y
Nihiloxica has its origins in an initial collaboration (later expanded) between three members of Bugandan drum group Nilotika Cultural Ensemble (Alimansi Wansu Aineomugisha, Jamiru ‘Jally’ Mwanje and Henry Kasoma). Formed “[u]nder the leadership of Jajja Kalanda, the Ensemble provides an outlet for the youth of Kampala, teaching spiritual, musical and tailoring practices to underprivileged communities around the city and performing at various cultural events.”About — Nihiloxica. (accessed, 20 June 2020). The cultural ensemble had performed with DJs at Nyege Nyege Electroni Boutique nights in Kampala, but no permanent collaborations were in place.
Nihiloxica formed when producer and drummer Spooky-J (Jacob Maskell-Key) and pq (Pete Jones), a sound engineer and synthecist, came to Kampala ahead of the Nyege Nyege Festival to write, rehearse, perform at the festival and record a live set that would form the group’s debut EP. The addition of long drummer and MC Spyda would complete the band, adding a layer of vocals to the live shows. As Spyda explains in an interview, Nihiloxica does the same thing in rehearsals, live performances and in the studio, lending a liveness to their music across different performance environments.An interview with Spyda about the formation of Nihiloxica and his thoughts on what makes the band unique can be accessed here:
What makes Nihiloxica’s sound so interesting is the meeting of Western techno and Bugandan drumming cultures. This “meeting” occurred free from the asymmetries that risk structuring such encounters. Jacob went to Uganda with Pete and formed a collaborative group in the traditional sense, rather than simply recording or sampling the band and then taking charge of the final product in post-production.
The music was made altogether in rehearsals, as a “proper” band would do. This allows for collaborative creative decisions, rather than ceding creative agency to a separate producer.For a conversation between Peter and Jacob about the creative collaborative processes of the band, see.
Formed by myself and Kongolese musician Mulele Matando in 2019, Electroni-Kongo is a fusion of driving analog techno and Kongolese Soukous music. Having worked together some twenty years ago in Leeds (where Mulele lived after escaping the civil war in his own country), both of us were familiar with our respective styles and working methods. We took a traditional approach to the creation of the music (as we did before), jamming in the studio and creating rhythms and songs on the fly. This is a collaborative, rather than hierarchical process. Mulele provides guitars, bass percussion and vocal ideas whilst I perform rhythms and sequences in real-time. I limit myself to a pallet of analogue and modular synths to keep things “raw” and “full-sounding.” Similarly, traditional percussion is mixed with electronic instruments to create a full sound.Electronic Congocamp
Vocals and extra percussion are then added in the studio as overdubs. Our live shows have an added element of percussion from James Wood.Watch here Through visiting both our own cultures and building on them together we work to create something new. Swapping ideas on the internet via Logic projects allows us to build whole songs and albums and then perform live as a band.
Creativity is a dialogical, two-way encounter. The previous models of appropriation in electronic music can be soundly rejected. Electronic music is a creative, innovative field and collaboration can result in fantastic, new creative forms as witnessed by the artists and bands discussed in this short contribution.
|3.||About — Nihiloxica. (accessed, 20 June 2020).|
|4.||An interview with Spyda about the formation of Nihiloxica and his thoughts on what makes the band unique can be accessed here:|
|5.||For a conversation between Peter and Jacob about the creative collaborative processes of the band, see.|