Review: Black Motion (@black_motion) and South African House

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Whil­st the drum pat­terns found in West­ern House music have become repet­it­ive over the years, those found in South Afric­an House seem to take us some­where else. When house music from Chica­go made it to SA, the Afric­an pro­du­cers were able to shape some­thing knew as they infused it with their own vary­ing cul­tur­al rhythms. Where an Amer­ic­an or European pro­du­cer used a soul sample or an elec­tron­ic sound to cre­ate a note, South Afric­ans were able to reach for unique instru­ments from their own his­tory. Some­times when listen­ing, you will hear Eng­lish-speak­ing vocals sung with a South Afric­an accent. At oth­er times you will be blessed with vari­ous indi­gen­ous lan­guages.

But although South Afric­an House music is so innov­at­ive, it has not found great inter­na­tion­al appeal. Even with­in the glob­al dance and elec­tron­ic scene, it has almost been pushed into a ‘world’ cat­egory. But through the suc­cess of SA’s con­tem­por­ary music hero, Black Cof­fee, the gen­re is now reach­ing wider audi­ences. He has been hard at work push­ing house tracks by his fel­low SA’s pro­du­cers. Through him, listen­ers are start­ing to real­ise that South Africa might be the unof­fi­cial house cap­it­al of the world with hun­dreds of artists deserving of more recog­ni­tion.

Two of these such artists are the duo that make up Black Motion. At their recent per­form­ance at XOYO, they moved their ded­ic­ated crowd with Djing, live drum­ming and dan­cing. Hav­ing been to a lot of house nights at the ven­ue, I could see that their per­form­ance illus­trated how dif­fer­ent the gen­re could truly be. Gen­er­ally a house DJ tries to put togeth­er songs that are sim­il­ar in tem­po and feel, gradu­ally chan­ging the mood of the set over time. Instead, Black Motion cre­ated a set that throbbed and changed in speed and feel. It was some­thing organ­ic. And rather than it feel­ing like we were many sep­ar­ate groups in the audi­ence, it felt like one sea of eager dan­cers.

The drum­mer respon­ded to the yells of the crowd and the DJ would allow him to take centre stage. Some songs drew the audi­ence into a dance whil­st some oth­er songs were brew­ing and min­im­al. The lat­ter kind are staple in the South Afric­an scene, more to cre­ate atmo­sphere than to tell a story. After such tracks, they’d bring it back to those with uplift­ing keys and strings. In most of the songs, the bass­lines were not clear or pen­et­rat­ing, they were cloudy and heavy, car­ry­ing the rest of the lay­ers.

Cer­tain songs would make the audi­ence move in sim­il­ar ways without their con­scious thought. It made me won­der wheth­er it had some­thing to do with the drum pat­terns them­selves, or wheth­er it was because the dan­cers were doing some sort of psy­cho­lo­gic­al imit­a­tion of one another. Either way, what it illus­trated was the com­mun­al power of the music. Fur­ther­more, there was none of the hos­tile edge that is usu­ally found in Lon­don clubs.

I wondered how much of the crowd were South-Afric­ans since many were able to sing along to the lyr­ics, a remind­er of their home. And how much of the crowd were merely mum­bling what they thought the lyr­ics soun­ded like (as I do in private)? How many of us had fol­lowed the scene from its begin­nings in the 90’s and how many had recently researched this phe­nomen­on and decided to invest ourselves in it? But the most import­ant thing was that we were all able to appre­ci­ate and par­ti­cip­ate in this extremely altern­at­ive scene in this already altern­at­ive gen­re.
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Nicholas Milverton
A writer with an interest in Philo­sophy, Soci­ology, Anthro­po­logy and all things intro­spect­ive. Someone who is equally at home in under­ground house raves as he is in café’s. He is con­tinu­ally ques­tion­ing the sys­tem and his own lines of reas­on­ing. There­fore, he is always rein­vent­ing him­self.

About Nicholas Milverton

Nicholas Milverton
A writer with an interest in Philosophy, Sociology, Anthropology and all things introspective. Someone who is equally at home in underground house raves as he is in cafe's. He is continually questioning the system and his own lines of reasoning. Therefore, he is always reinventing himself.