Okzharp & Manthe Ribane – Closer Apart

Producer OKZharp and vocalist, artist and dancer Manthe Ribane work closely with photographer and film maker Chris Saunders to create a unique collaborative audio-visual project. Though all three originally hail from South Africa, OKZharp cut his teeth in London as a member of LV, one of the first acts to sign to pioneering label Hyperdub. When OKZharp left LV, he spoke to Saunders about an idea for a film, and was introduced to Manthe, who was then a dancer and choreographer for Die Antwoord. They hit it off, and upon hearing Manthe singing to herself, they started collaborating musically, releasing two well received EP’s on Hyperdub, recorded in Johannesburg and London respectively. The recording of ‘Closer Apart’ reflects the song’s title – started on tour, with most of the music borne out of “headphone moments” in hotel rooms, planes and airports in the brief periods of time that the trio spent together in Paris and later Vienna. Okzharp describes Manthe as a co-producer; “she selected instrumental sketches and we developed them together, sometimes just keeping the bare bones or a melody or rhythm, or trying different elements or sounds.” In tandem Pearson worked with Manthe to develop an umbilical visual identity, feeding back into the music, for the live show but also for the audio-visual elements of their work. Even thought the album was built long distance, the short periods they spent together were the basis for creativity; Okzharp recalls one particular moment in Milan last year; “we had a whole free day before our flight so we visited the Salone di Mobile design show. We were so inspired by an installation there just walking around, listening to the amazing soundtrack. That evening our flight was delayed, so we sat on the floor of the airport terminal putting musical ideas down for ‘Time Machine’ on the laptop speakers and writing the lyrics: ‘Tic Toc time, we’ll be fine / Airport queues, cerulean blues / Viper trails cross the skies / Lights reflect in your eyes…'” The album has a softness and openness that contrasts the tougher sound of the preceding EPs; Manthe explains that “the new music is a 360 turn. It an expression of my ‘Lady’ side – I grew up listening to jazz, classic and gospel, I am a very soft spoken person, and it resonates with being confident with that. It’s been crazy finding balance and finding a smart way to strengthen my weaknesses, I had to trust the process. I hope everyone feels motivated and inspired to be more after listening to the album.”

2Lee Stark & Stephen of Kent – There May Be Wolves

July 16

The producer Stephen Of Kent has linked up with rapper 2Lee Stark to create some of South Africa’s most cutting edge contemporary hip-hop. Kent’s first commercially released body of work, ‘There May Be Wolves’ is a joint EP project between the two that draws inspiration from the popular TV series Game Of Thrones; 2lee’s name references the House Stark, whose symbol is a wolf, with the tape’s concept revolving around the fable of “the boy who cried wolf”, framing this project as the genuine breakthrough they’ve prophesied so often before.The pair worked on this album in the OFF BOYZ Recording Label “Winter” campaign, which will also include two upcoming individual singles from each from the artists.

Una Rams – Wavy Baby

Born into a Christian family in Makwarela, a small town in the northern region of South Africa, Unarine Rambani learned how to produce music, play the drums and piano at a church founded by his parents. Dubbed “The Venda Pop Star” by his growing fan base, the 22-year-old producer/songwriter/vocalist recently dropped a 6 track EP ‘Wavy Baby’, his second commercially released project.

The first track, entitled ‘Good Intentions’ (featuring songstress Thabsie), gently lures the audience into his world, offering a melodic fusion of genres from reggae, soul and trap. This is evident in stand-out track “Murder” which features Nigerian-based singer and songwriter Shayee-Shay and co-producer C-Tea. Una Rams describes the EP as “a love story about a boy and a mermaid. And I know it’s the craziest thing to say to anyone but it’s because a lot of people get into relationships when they are both from 2 different worlds, things fall through the cracks because you don’t understand each well enough, so this EP takes you through the different stages of the relationship, and unfortunately it’s not a happy ending.”

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RMBO – Zone 3

RMBO began his career as founding member and drummer of the critically acclaimed South African rock band BLK JKS. Born Tshepang Ramoba, his second EP ‘Zone 3’ is a six-track electronic afro-house journey with catchy kwaito choruses and an exquisite selection of vocalists from the southern African region, including musicians from Malawi and Lesotho as well as his native South Africa. Opening track Bona Bona features Radio 123’s Scarface Manolo and Lesotho’s shepherd musician, Morena Leraba, who also features on ‘Mzabalazo’, a kwaito-driven track with skittering drums and buzzing synths. RMBO explains that “‘Mzabalazo’ (or ‘mosabalaso’ in a Sesotho tone) is a borrowed word from the South African liberation struggle and it’s synonymous with rebellion/revolt or rather, a word coined originally in South Africa, toyi-toyi.”

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Mx Blouse – Is’phukphuku

Mx Blouse doesn’t hold back on their latest release. Embodied in the title, the Zulu word for ‘idiot’, Blouse laments people whose idiotic behaviour serves to hinder the freedom of those who are trying to live their lives and have a good time. As always, the Johannesburg artist endeavours to keep their content socially critical and relevant, while ensuring that the music is a party starter too.

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rkls – Self Titled

rkls – pronounced ‘reckless’ – is the brainchild of producer duo Kid Fonque and D-Malice, uniting their different cultural backgrounds (South Africa and the UK respectively) under a common love of rich neo-soul and hip-hop. Their debut album ‘Self Titled’ is a transcendent fusion of styles, effortlessly moving from classic soulful ballads to uptempo dancefloor-ready beats, and features a diverse variety of guest appearances such as LA’s broken beat visionary Marc De Clive-Lowe and hip-hop legends John Robinson and Kev Brown, as well as a host of dazzling new vocal and production talent from South Africa – Sio, Melo B Jones, Daev Martian and White Nite to name but a few.

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Muzi – Afrovision

South African artist Muzi has spent the last few years honing his unique sound. Though refreshingly forward-thinking, his hard-hitting sonic approach remains deeply inspired by his upbringing, a tale of striving through adversity in the semi-rural township of Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal.

From euphoric electronica to classic zulu sounds, he delicately balances traditional African music with contemporary western influences; his latest release, his second album ‘Afrovision’ is a bold, fluid fusion of elements of kwaito, afrobeat, RnB and pop. Woven through each track is a clear purpose to redefine how modern dance music can sound, embodied in lead single ‘Chocolate Dreams’ featuring fellow South African vocalist Una Rams and Nigerian singer Saint Seaba.

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