Various VariousShangaan Shake
The chronology is as follows: in 2010, with the fever for electronica made in Africa still rather high (a few years earlier we had seen the kuduro boom in Angola, via Lisbon with Buraka Som Sistema, and kwaito coming in from South Africa, reasons to speak of third-world beats), Honest Jon’s released an anthology of electronic music made in South Africa, selected by Mark Ainley and Mark Ernestus, and with a central theme: the productions by sound engineer Nozinja for different artists operating in the region of Limpopo, answering to names like BBC, Zinja Hlungwani, Nkata Mawewe and Tshetsha Boys. South Africa was the place to be at the time (the football World Cup, Die Antwoord, “Invictus”, and so on) and its electronic music started to cross the borders thanks to an exciting brew of house, electro and a popular rhythm called shangaan, a 180-BPM variety of Zulu music which, compiled on “Shangaan Electro. New Wave Dance Music From South Africa”, made for one of the compilations of the year.
In 2011, Honest Jon's started to link different key players of the western electronic avant-garde to the music of Nozinja and the artists close to him, in an ambitious remix project which has so far resulted in eight vinyl singles. With two artists per 12” (except Actress, who did two remixes on his own), the total number of top-notch producers who picked up the glove is fifteen, and now, in this story's last chapter, they've come together on one double CD, multiplying the effect and weight of the project. On “Shangaan Shake”, therefore, there's nothing new to be found for those who already heard the EPs, but it could mean a pleasant shock to those who hear this for the first time and without warning. In general, most of the remixers slowed down the pace of the originals: besides the footworkers, RP Boo and DJ Rashad & DJ Spinn, all the guests have chosen wide, open spaces and slow rhythms, coded using the hypnotic trickery of dub and deep-house; maybe moving away like that from the original material, the team managed to create something unusual, which is an original and different view, a thorough exercise of reconstruction and relocation of the raw material. Proper remixes instead of minimum effort for maximum cash.
The general level is extremely high: the meeting between Mark Ernestus and BBC, which was the first 12” in the series, opens the first CD and submits the listener to a flowing session of hypnosis, with clattering techno beats and liquid bass lines, a sizzling twist in the vein of what Ernestus himself did twenty years ago as Basic Channel. It's the same method of subtraction of superfluous sounds and emphasis on repetition (even slower and more reduced in the second version, like pure Rhythm & Sound). On Anthony ‘Shake’ Shakir's rework, the tempo goes up and the trademark shangaan electronic sounds are maintained, while it's still a renovated interpretation of the Afro-house Shakir already displayed on some of his classic tunes. With Burnt Friedman, liquid, organic dub enters the scene, adorned with traditional instruments and an inclination towards the ancestral side of world music, rather than towards technological evasion. The two Actress pieces are two mental pieces of dislocated rhythms, sped up to almost ridiculous extremes on the first take, and rooted in his misty techno vision on the second. We find more mist on the interpretations by Hype Williams and Old Apparatus (heavy dub, impenetrable psychedelics, as if all of the planet's atmosphere were ganja smoke) and on the one by Peverelist, which manages to couple tribal electro with solid dubstep on his meeting with Tshetsha Boys.
Of course, there is more. A remix by Demdike Stare with crows croaking and rhythms made with the sound of bones clashing; it's shamanism rather than witchcraft. And the almost 13 minutes of accelerated house, almost drum’n’bass-like, by a Theo Parrish in fine shape. There's even an impossible bridge between Johannesburg and Berlin with the pitched-up techno of MMM, not to mention the staggering house by Ony Ayhun and the liquid house of Ricardo Villalobos & Max Loderbauer – different sonic perspectives on a complicated post-dance Rubik's cube that is already one of the best compilations of this year: the same thing as in 2010, but now reconstructed brick by brick, blow by blow.
Actress Meets Shangaan Electro A