For South African producer, rapper, songwriter and filmmaker Spoek Mathambo, creating isn’t work – it’s a “labour of love”. Metabolising everything from UK grime to dub step, zulu folk to South African house music, Mathambo creates music representative of the deep pool of creativity that exists in his country. “Over the years I’ve absorbed a lot of influences that have made the album what it is,” Mathambo says, reflecting on his third studio album – Mzansi Beat Code – out today on Teka Records.
From collaborating on music with peers to producing a documentary about SA house music (Future Sound of Mzansi, 2015), Mathambo is always busy. But with Mzansi Beat Code he stripped things back, abandoning vocals to focus purely on production. The result is a richly percussive soundscape reflective of South Africa’s global connectivity.
Here, Mathambo shares an insight into the diverse sounds that shaped the album. “Some of the influences are from South Africa, others from further abroad, but they all had a very profound influence in one way or another on the record.” Dive in – volume to 10.
Control by Spoek Mathambo
“A big influence on this MBC album is my first album Mshini Wam, and the initial concept for the record which kind of got distracted at some point. I think I’ve much better achieved the goal with MBC… to make an album that celebrates the scope of South African electronic music. This song is a cover version that I did eight years ago with Richard Rumney, of the Joy DIvision song “She Lost Control”… kind of juxtaposing and making links between two seemingly incomparable genres.”
Home by Glasser (DJ Spoko remix)
“After earning his stripes first making hip hop in the Pretoria township of Atteridgeville, Spoko moved on to become one of the creators of the sghubu sapitori sound (a precursor to Bacardi House), as well as the Shangaan Electro alongside Nozinja (they worked together). This remix is a great case of his marching band drums and synths working much like they did in Township Funk, except this time with the beautiful vocals of NYC artist Glasser, his labelmate on True Panther Sounds.”
Mitshubishi (Menchess) by Rudeboyz
“This Qgom track keeps surfacing on different labels, sites, sets, and compilations – it has real staying power. It’s simple and stripped down with those colorful toms. The vibe transcends culture and language – I drop the song in different parts of the world and people always turn into limb-thrusting disco zombies. I think this track will be a future classic for sure, it was such a big hit when it came out a few years back. I missed the boat on giving it proper leng, but look forward to dusting it off soon.”
Taste the Floor by The Jesus And Mary Chain
“Soaked in fuzz and distortion, to me the song is perfect chaos. Noisey and ordered.”
Khomo Tsaka Deile Kae by Marumo
“Since hearing it for the first time a few years ago, I’ve really been influenced by this rare South African classic. The group has a really interesting story, as a collaboration of South African blind musicians… the track is 80s South African fusion at it’s best, a pastoral tale of a herder boy who loses his father’s cattle, set to epic funk rock. I love how the lyrics are so set in a rural mentality with a terrified boy expressing his stress at losing his father’s cows, pleading with his father for forgiveness, begging for understanding and vowing to looking for the cows as soon as day breaks.”
Black Blue Green by Aero Manyelo
“This track is such a nasty smash. I love to play it. I love to hear it. I love to tear down the walls down when I hear it.”
Flowerz by Armand van Helden
“This song has been in my life for a long time, but it seems like the longer I know it the deeper the music goes. I think that by this time next year, I will cry within the first sixteen bars. I promise you tears.”
No me conocerás (pepepe Remix) by Ceci Bastida
“This is where I first heard Ceci sing and it brought about our collaborative relationship, which started with some collaborations for her projects, and now she will feature on MBC.”
1000 Seconds by Black Whole
“A South African classic that doesn’t need too much explaining. It’s such a vibe creator, a warm welcome to the dancefloor, bubbling and growing. Black Whole was a deep house collective/crew from the Ivory Park and Thembisa areas in Gauteng, most known for this smash hit and for being the group that Aero Manyelo was in before going solo. Aero still releases music from the other artists like Mogrigo on his Herbal3 Records label.”
Sefty Belt by Fantasma
“Working with Josiah on the Fantasma album, who is a phenomenal songwriter and vocalist has really inspired me to work with more vocalists on MBC, and thus Loui Lvndn, Ceci Bastida, Kajama and Pegasus Warning are featured on the album. This song for me encapsulates growing pains really well. It’s body music… groove music… but rich with emotion and soul. That became a kind of directive for this album.”
Mzansi Beat Code is out today on Teka Records. Spoek Mathambo plays in London 20th May at Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, London E1 6LA