The new mix by Bram De Cock (a.k.a. DJ LeBlanc of Rebel up! DJs) features Pandza music from Mozambique—a digital, more lo-fi interpretation of local Marrabenta mixed with Dancehall and Hip-Hop, and a mid-tempo, laid-back vibe. He collected the music on a trip to Inhambane and Tofu, about 300 miles north of the capital Maputo on the Indian Ocean. We asked DJ Le Blanc a few questions about this music style popular among Mozambican youths.
How did you get interested in Pandza?
Bram De Cock: My first encounter with this style was in 2010, through an online mix tape from 2009 by Wolfram Lange, a German geographer based in Rio de Janeiro. He travels a lot and on these trips always dives deep into local music scenes, making mix tapes with the stuff he found and sharing them on his excellent blog Soundgoods.net. Check out his mix, which covers Mozambican Pandza, Marrabenta, Dancehall, and Hip-Hop, here.
Who are your favorite Pandza artists and where did you learn about them?
It was in Tofu, one night out, in a local beach bar where I heard Pandza for the first time: the full album of Skhem Khem on repeat, blasting from a distorted single speaker (the charm of mono…), around which young people and some drunk fishermen were dancing and singing along with the songs.
It sounded like a great album and then later, I was lucky to find a pirated copy in a taxi rank in Inhambane (I don’t think it was even officially released, as often these CDs are burnt at home and distributed among friends and taxi drivers). Skhem Khem is featured in my mix but I made a YouTube mix as well with four songs to promote their original take on Pandza. I like the lo-fi production; the combination of cheap-sounding midi synths, digital drum kits, funky basses and live guitar licks, glued together by sweet auto-tuned voices.
I learned from the South African Tsonga disco singer and producer Mr Jambatani that Skhem Khem sing in Tsonga—together with Bitonga one of the popular local languages in the region of Inhambane. Harmonically and melodically, you can hear similarities to South African Tsonga disco.
From Maputo comes the more popular (judging by his presence and hits on YouTube) Mr Bow. He is also featured in my mix, but here’s an example:
But if one talks of Pandza stars, then you can’t get around Ziqo, sometimes tending a bit too much to RnB to my taste, which in the Lusophone world means Zouk/Kizomba, but there is some cool stuff like this one:
And talking about a real hit, MC Roger is worth checking out, too:
What’s your favorite song about?
This is difficult as my Portuguese is very basic and most songs are in local languages, but telling from the mentioned YouTube videos I guess a lot of these songs often talk about the same things that bug young people today all over the world: partying, money, fancy cars, brand clothes, love, girls and maybe also, in the good tradition of the older socially critical Marrabenta, tackling larger societal problems.
Listen to DJ LeBlanc’s pandza mix below: