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Parissoweto is back! For this edition, the South African rapper and producer Sam Turpin has compiled a brilliantly upbeat playlist tapping into the beatmakers and movers and shakers of the underground hip hop and electro spaces in South Africa and further afield. Presented here are original tracks and remixes radiating love and the art of colourful collaboration.
From electro-famo Lesotho shepherd-turned-rapper Morena Leraba featuring the late DJ Spoko, to Nonku Phiri alongside Portuguese DJ-producer Branko or the versatile Angolan musician Diron Animal jamming with Spoek Mathambo; from French trap to South African noirwave, this playlist is imbued with the impulse to create and collaborate beyond borders. On one of the tracks, Belgian-Congolese artist Baloji meets up with Saul Williams in Antwerp to put a new spin on his afro-electro number Unité et Litre, also featuring the Immaculate Crew’s WELL$ and Alec Lomami from the US/Congo. Here, Sam himself is linked to the remix, having recorded Alec Lomami’s verse in his bedroom.
Sam grew up in post-apartheid Johannesburg and was exposed to hip-hop at a young age. He began making beats during high school until his mother passed away in 2011. He soon began to use rap and music production as a way to express his emotions and attempt to cope with loss. Overcoming depression through music, Sam released his first self-made music videos and short EPs online, collaborating with local artists as well as from the African continent (Ghana and Congo) and the US and Europe. In August 2017 he released his first full length mixtape “4am in Jozi” online for free.
PARISSOWETO approached Sam Turpin to curate a playlist to his heart’s content. This is what he came up with:
We chatted to him to get behind his thoughts on the track selections for this compilation, and on music-making more broadly.
PARISSOWETO: Hi Sam, thank you so much for coming up with this playlist. How did you go about selecting tracks for this compilation? There is a strong sense of cohesion in this playlist, but it does not necessarily feel genre-bound: did you set out to create this specific warm mood, or did it just happen naturally?
SAM TURPIN: Thank you! They’re all tracks that I listen to anyway, and the music in general – these are all amazing artists and I’m fortunate to know some of them personally, so it’s kind of like a snapshot from my iTunes [laughs]. In terms of the mood, I didn’t specifically set out to create it, but I had to create some cohesion using the vibes and speed of each song, almost like a DJ does with a set – I have mad respect for DJs because it’s not easy.
Could you tell us a bit more about some of the songs and artists you selected for this playlist?
There are several that are close to home. The song by Langa & Illa is special because they’re both good friends of mine and I’ve been very privileged to work with them on my own projects as well. The one with Alec Lomami is special too because we actually recorded his verse in my room [laughs]. The whole Immaculate Taste crew is very dope! In general these artists are all amazing people and putting very special art into the world.
The playlist not only features South African artists, but also tracks from France, Congo, Mali, Angola, and even the US, making the sound to be quite ‘cross-cultural’ and international. Is this a specific sound or approach that you’re after in your own work as producer/artist too? Or is there a much more straightforward approach to the process of deriving a certain sonic or aesthetic experience?
Not intentionally. The thing with collaboration is that it has to be genuine and it has to work. It can’t be forced, so if two artists from very different places happen to vibe and come together easily on a piece of music it’s great. I think that all kinds of labelling with genre and culture etc. should be an afterthought to when beautiful art is made, regardless of who’s involved – but at the same time politics are definitive to life, we should all come together honestly with our intentions and hopefully come out with something beautiful. Generally in history humans have been very divided – but coming together doesn’t mean we should lose what is unique about us. So keeping your own culture and language and being proud of it with your work is beautiful and dignified in and of itself and even more so through a collaboration.
What drives you, personally, as an artist and a producer?
The feeling of happiness. I was very depressed at one point in life and music was the only thing that made me feel normal again. I was chasing that happiness. Happiness and also peace. Music has the power to unite people. I’m so blessed to know that the people who listen and love my music come from all over the place and have had a myriad of different life experiences. So blessed.
What do you like about the French hip-hop scene? How does it compare to South Africa?
This is difficult to answer because I’m not entirely familiar with the French hip-hop scene. I know some artists and what I do know is very dope! Like, very dope!! They have an amazing sound and have been able to blend more classic styles with the more modern trap sounds, and it’s working amazingly! The South African scene is so diverse and dynamic that it’s difficult to compare to what’s happening in France – we also have a very dope mainstream sound that marries classic sounds, but they’re so different and so cool that they can’t really compare – I think South Africa is way cooler though, but listen for yourself! In the Francophone world more broadly I think Africa is doing some very dope things, just like it always has been! But we don’t always see it in SA. I think that there is a problem that as a continent we’re still very divided between Francophone, Anglophone and Lusophone etc., so it’s difficult for artists from one side to break out into another unless they really make the linguistic strides to do so, even if they are so amazing! Like I think Aya Nakamura is so amazing and she’s so big in Francophone Africa but she’s hardly known in the English speaking countries. All this is even worse because they are the colonial languages that continue to divide, it’s so messed up and we really need to search for real solutions to overcome it, we can all see each other! I think it’s possible.
You do seem to have a considerable interest for francophonie and music emanating not only from France but francophone Africa. I believe you have spent some time in France and abroad, right? Do you mind elaborating about your travels and your general interest in the sounds coming out of francophone Africa?
I have spent a very limited time in France – I have some family in Bordeaux and also some friends in Paris and I have visited on occasion, but I haven’t stayed. I’ve been privileged to travel also to Senegal and also Egypt where my grandmother came from (she was raised to speak French in Alexandrie) and also to meet friends in South Africa who come from Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Rwanda – so I suppose this is my scope of the francophone world and it’s mostly because of my amazing friends and what they have shared with me. So for example my Congolese friends have taught me a lot about Rumba music and African pop music as well as my cousin from Bordeaux who has shared some amazing French hip-hop albums with me.
We would now like to delve into your visual aesthetic, which is very prominent. Could you elaborate a little about your influences and thoughts in this regard? Your brother Joe Turpin (who did the cover art for this compilation) is a visual artist, too, so how does your upbringing and your current aesthetic tie together? Do you collaborate often?
This is quite difficult for me to think about! Well, our mother was a photographer (anti-apartheid activist Gisèle Wulfsohn), so my brother and I were very fortunate to grow up in an environment full of art work and photographs. Visual art has always been a part of my life and I knew from very early that it was a keen way to express oneself, you could say I had very many references. As for me personally I quite like fashion, especially African designers who are some of the best in the world. It’s one way to express yourself! So I suppose that is what informs my visual direction when it comes to my music videos and cover art – but I don’t feel that I’m doing it consciously, it’s just natural to me! My brother and I don’t collaborate too often although we did do a joint show together in 2016 called “No Holding Bars” in Johannesburg, we hope to do a lot together in the future!
Where is South African music moving towards right now, particularly the ‘scenes’ that you support and participate in?
I can’t speak for everyone, but for myself I’ve been very privileged to be given platforms to perform and speak – even as an artist who is underground and very different to what a lot of people expect, and I think that alone shows that the spaces are thriving and doing well! I’m very confident about the South African music space, there is literally something new to hear every day.
Which artists (upcoming or not) would you recommend people give a listen? Anything that got you particularly excited? And how about recommendations for people who are unfamiliar to these spaces and who would like to tap into it?
I would also say people should check out ByLwansta, Luh-Ra, Red Robyn and BBye Beneco. Illa and I have a group called Cold Chinese Food which is coming out soon and also a larger collective called the Charles Gene Suite – very amazing music and people should definitely keep their eye open for that!
Find Sam Turpin’s music online :
PARISSOWETO VOL. 8 | THE TRACK LIST
1. Langa Mavuso – “Vivid Dreams” (ILLA N’s WeHeartBeat Re – Edit) | SOUTH AFRICA
Combining urban soul, electronic hip hop beats with acoustic jazz
2. BRANKO – “Let Me Go” (feat. Nonku Phiri & Mr Carmack)
Nonku Phiri – prolific alternative electro/dance artist | SOUTH AFRICA
Branko – DJ/Producer | PORTUGAL
Mr Carmack – DJ/Producer | US
3. Fatoumata Diawara – “Sowa” (Alex Garett and Greg Herma edit) | MALI
One of West-Africa’s foremost contemporary musicians is internationally acclaimed for her infectious blend of Malian blues-meets-funk and afro-folk.
Track remixed by Alex Garett and Greg Herma | FRANCE
4. Ibaaku – “Yang Fogoy”| SENEGAL
Senegalese avant-garde artist/producer shapeshifts his way around hip hop, soul, jazz and folk. This track was released on the Ghanian label Awkaaba.
5. Joey le soldat – “Bas Néré” | BURKINA FASO
Joey le Soldat hails from Burkina Faso where he released his album BURKIN BÂ infusing hip-hop, electro and ragga and produced by French beatmakerss Redrum, DJ Form, 76’os. The album was released on Awkaaba (Ghana).
6. Jovi – “48 Hours To Libreville” (produced By Le Monstre) | CAMEROON
Jovi is a prominent rapper from Douala who has also carved a reputation for himself as a killer producer under the guise of Le Monstre, and has been nominated for an MTV Award for Best Francophone Artist.
7. Baloji – “Unité & Litre” (Remix Feat. Saul Williams, Well$, and Alec Lomami) | BELGIUM | CONGO | UNITED STATES
Belgian-Congolese artist Baloji met up with American rap/soul icon Saul Williams in Antwerp to put a new spin on his afro-electro number Unité et Litre, alongside up-and-coming Congolese-American rappers WELL$ and Alec Lomami.
8. Petite Noir – “Radio Noirwave” (Demo) | SOUTH AFRICA
The inimitable Yannick Ilunga is the mind behind Petite Noir and his ‘noirwave’ movement, a musical expression of the way he views the world (borderless).
9. Bongeziwe Mabandla – “Mangaliso” | SOUTH AFRICA
Blending South African folk, reggae, maskandi, Afro-rock and pop, Bongeziwe Mabandla has established a modern, Afro-centric style| SOUTH AFRICA
10. THE BL∆CK HE∆RTS CLUB – “Nowhere’s Now Here” | UNITED STATES
From producer WELL$, featured also on Track 7.
11. NAKHANE – “Christopher” | SOUTH AFRICA
Since the release of his first album “Brave Confusion” (2013), the South African indie/electro artist Nakhane (then Nakhane Touré) has produced an immense creative output: as a writer, publishing his first novel Piggy Boy’s Blues in 2015 and as an actor in the critically-acclaimed film, Inxeba/The Wound (2017). Nakhane’s music career has solidly taken off in Europe, after BGM France released his second album You Will Not Die in 2018.
Previously featured on Parissoweto Vol. 2
12. Diron Animal – “NCrazy” (feat. Spoek Mathambo) | ANGOLA | SOUTH AFRICA | From Angolan traditional music to a capoeira group, then a hip hop project, Diron Animal has donned many outfits. His focus has shifted to dance music, from afro-beat to hip hop to funk and coupé décalé. | Spoek Mathambo is the unorthodox doyen of South African new wave and hip hop and heads the project Fantasma, blending electronica, deep house, hip hop, ancestral beats and psychedelia.
13. Sho Madjozi – “Village Dreams”| SOUTH AFRICA
Songwriter, rapper and poet, Sho Madjozi hails from Limpopo. She is known for rapping in her native tongue Tsonga, and gained prominence after releasing the hit single Huku.
14. MHD – “AFRO TRAP Part. 7 (La Puissance)” | FRANCE
The Paris-born MHD is the king of Afro-Trap, a self-coined style and a reputation he’s earned as he started posting freestyles to YouTube in 2015. Watch the documentary the FADER did with MHD, called “La Puissance”
15. Naza – “Sac A Dos” | FRANCE
Jean-Désiré Sosso Dzabatou, better known by his stage name Naza, is a French rapper and singer of Congolese origin. He is signed to Bomayé Musik and has released two albums, Incroyable and C’est la loi.
16. Morena Leraba feat. DJ Spoko and Andre Geldenhuys – “Shongo Foo”
LESOTHO | SOUTH AFRICA | Shongo Foo is a BeatLords collaboration between electro-famo Lesotho shepherd-turned-rapper Morena Leraba from Lesotho, Andre Geldenhuys and the late DJ Spoko, dance music pioneer of the Bacardi house genre.
17. Sjava – “Umama” | SOUTH AFRICA
A famous actor on South African day-time TV (Generations, 7de Laan, Soul City), Sjava hails from Kwazulu-Natal and has earned a huge following playing his Afro-pop inspired by traditional Zulu music and gospel.
/ ♥ END.
Text compiled by Jannike Bergh
Photography by Andile Buka, Jabulani Nyembe
Cover art by Joe Turpin