Most original, first generation ‘global bass’ legends have moved in all kinds of directions. Few of them are as inspiring as the Berlin based autodidact musicologist, social activist and vibe-virtuoso Dj Zhao, who shows something of the ideas that inspired the ‘global bass’ movement to come into being. With his crew NGOMA Soundsystem, he strips off the layers of commercialisation, cultural whitewashing and creative inbreeding of the all the popular music that we hear around us like hiphop, house, techno or UK bass music, guiding us towards the endlessly richer source of it all: the traditions and cultures from Africa and the Near East that gave birth to all humanity.
In practice, this means an immersive experience of electronic grooves from many different branches of the African and Afro-diasporic musical family, forth and back between more and less familiar sounds (to the Western ear), from one region of the world to the other. His new recurring event ‘Mutant’ that just saw its 3rd edition and has hosted names like Rafael Aragon, Dj Ripley and Inti Che, brings this fantastic concept to the dancefloor in Berlin.
Attached to this event concept is a mixtape series with the same name of which we shared the first session earlier this year.
Now he is back with already the sixth edition. ‘The Merkolator’ is a contraction of Cajmere’s 90s experimental house gem ‘It’s Time for the Percolator‘ and the London slang word ‘merk‘, emblematic for the communities and subcultures that gave rise to grime, garage, jungle, 2Step and UK funky. The fusion of these worlds is the unique, bouncy sound of UK house. Zhao takes you on a trip to visit Jack and his neighbours, in his new appartment in an East-London council flat!
If you digged this, also check out the equally mindblowing previous edition, ‘Club Deconstruction’, which goes more deeply into the relation between cultural heritage, social class, colonialism and globalisation in modern African and Afro-diasporic music.
(Jersey, London, Luanda)
“Transcendent beauty is possible during both the renaissance and golden-age of a culture, as it is during the decline of empire.” — Anonymous
The music here strongly emphasize abrupt cuts, stop-and-switch dynamics, reflecting social fragmentation, and the often talked about compartmentalization of urban life into work/leisure/rest boxes. The music here is often tense, in my mind undoubtedly related to the pervasive class antagonism on the streets of NYC or London, and economic disparity which implements segregation. Violence is a constant theme: All of these new-ish music styles embody Gangsta Rap as much as Ghetto Tech, Booty Bass: pure sublimated aggression and commodified anger. The music here makes intensive use of manic repetition, often in a more radically rigid way than in traditional House or Techno, mirroring the reality of large sections of the underclasses, in whose culture this music is rooted, being locked into monotonous schedules of menial labor. So it is no surprise that *work* becomes a metaphor for the dance in Afro-American music, in a culture deeply shaped by both the historical legacy (No Drums Allowed) and present day reality of (wage) slavery.
Club Deconstruction represents fresh musical ideas in the “first world”, the former colonial centers, informed by recent internet enabled exposure to far away cultures (surely the only good effect of globalization). Track 5 – *Facta – Tungsten*, for instance, takes unmistakable rhythmic cues from Afro-House. While the periphery has always had access to Western culture (an effect of N. American cultural hegemony) – Kuduro from the Angolan ghettos has always assimilated the aesthetics of Techno and HipHop. Simultaneously, much of this music also draw on diasporic rhythm traditions in US and UK: Afro-Latin percussion on Track 03 – *Teeth – Black Thigh Shakes* is a good example.
Well that’s me breaking down this Mutant Club mix: 21st Century expressions of ancient rhythm heritage, shaped by colonial history, mirroring everyday realities of life, in the context of global capitalism.
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