New Music
31.01.2011, Words by Charlie Jones

Spoek Mathambo's guide to South Africa

Last summer Spoek Mathambo released ‘Mshini Wam’. Its an album that brims with colour and fun, like spinning in circles in the middle of a summer street carnival, full of life splashing up and spilling over. This zest though is underpinned by a purposeful beat and drive. A muscular, grounding quality that is very much about reality as opposed to just a partied-up version of it. Therefore, we asked him to tell us about the real, geographical spaces that have been an influence on him and his music, in the cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa.

View Spoek Mathambo’s guide to South Africa in a larger map

A place that conjures up old memories?

Woah…I have been in Johannesburg my whole life so there are so many places that conjure so many memories…almost every place. Johannesburg is a big sprawling town, with many suburbs and their accompanying metropoli and their accompanying super malls…I spent a lot of time in a mall called Sandton City growing up…from nervous first dates (when McDonalds first got to South Africa), to fights and “Warriors” style standoffs, to mischiveouskly drinking beer on the rooftop, to shoplifting magazines and chewing gum with my sitting through Message In A Bottle for the remote chance of smelling a girl called Charlotte’s hair. Driving past the library in Johannesburg city centre also reminds me of a time when as a kid I would be in that big old building every single day after school.

A place that has a strong influence on the music you make?

In Cape Town there is a club called La Referance on Long Street (over Mr Pickwicks) that had a really big influence over the music that I make now…and eventually led to my interest in DJing and my mixtape series HIVIP. It’s a hole in the wall type bar where you can listen to great new South African music from relatively unknown ghetto house DJs and producers…there are posters of Nelson Mandela, Tupac and different wrestlers on the wall. And a painting of the cosmos. It’s the anonymous type….dance-like-a-madman-nobody-knows-you-or-cares …there’s no one to impress, type of place.

A place you like to go out?

In Johannesburg I love going to lunch with my two grandmothers, sisters, mom, neice, brother…we usually either go to the grill-house at Village Walk or one at Melrose Arch. For clubbing…I don’t club much in Johannesburg at all…I’m quite a homebody…In Cape Town. I love La Referance…and am always trying to find new clubs, but lots of people aren’t very keen on exploring with me. A club that I have been hearing a lot about in Johannesburg but haven’t been yet is called OST and is run by an old friend of mine, DJ Kenzhero.

A place people who have never been to the place before should definitely visit?

Definitely visit the apartheid museum…a fried chicken place called Chicken Licken. Whichever one doesn’t matter.

A place you live or used to live?

Used to live on Moroka street in Soweto…in Rockville. Going back there brings a lot of good memories…just being a dusty kid, my BMX gang.

A place you spend a lot of time in?

I guess we been spending a crazy amount of time at the Red Bull Music studios in Cape Town over the last year…big up to them.

A place you work/record?

I mostly work from my mother and father’s house in the leafy suburb of Sandton (in the north of Johannesburg) when I’m in town. You can usually hear my dog Bambatta barking and my grandmother sweeping in the background of most of my recordings. Or maybe if you’re lucky my neice, Bomi screaming, “Malume!”. Those are my metronomes…I know, not the most precise [probably why everything sounds so bloody off kilter when I work here]. This month, I’m hoping to record at the legendary SABC (South African Broadcast Company) studio in Aukland Park, Johannesburg.

BBE released Spoek Mathambo’s album ‘Mshini Wam’ on August 31st 2010


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