I got the chance to be part of the Redbull Basscamp in Johannesburg during October 2013. For six days, a unique cross-section of hand picked South African musicians holed up in central Johannesburg for lectures from music industry heavyweights in the morning (Hugh Masekela stopped by), followed in the afternoon by studio sessions which would, at times, stretch into the night. It’s the same concept as the Redbull Music Academy, a music grad school of sorts through whose doors the likes of Black Coffee and Flying Lotus have emerged.
As an observer, I was granted first-hand access into the collective composition geniuses of all the participants - the jaw-droppingly talented Nonku Phiri jammed with Rob Brink, drummer for Beatenberg and electronic music producer of note; Okmalumkoolkat spat the grittiest lines in a mini-rap cypher with Bra Sol from the group Big FKN Gun; and South Africa’s rap phenomenon Cassper Nyovest sat at a computer workstation laying the foundations to a beat which was to feature Cape Town’s very own Youngsta and Johannesburg-based Durbanite Moonchild Sanelly, among others.
Hlasko, Illite MC, Satori, and Card on Spokes (real name Shane Cooper. He won a South African Music Award for his album Oscillations recently) were other names among the participants. Basically, Basscamp was a musical madhouse; a four-floor gateway to intimate musical moments with artists at the bleeding edge of South Africa’s creative culture; an opportunity for great people to exchange ideas and make incredible music.
When all was done and dusted, I reviewed the footage I’d managed to capture and, using interviews conducted with Hlasko (that’s him above with Nonko), Ox++ (Brink), Bra Sol, and Fever Trails (Nick van Reenen of the band Bateleur), compiled this ten-minute perspective on South Africa’s under-appreciated left field music scene. It’s called Breaking Boundaries; let your imagination take control.
I’m very bad at genre categorization, it’s always been something I’ve been quite anti I think; I feel like it’s constricting. So calling yourself something separates you from whatever else is happening…it’s not about playing music to just your friends, it’s about playing music to whoever might enjoy it.
**There’s a gallery here.