Shangaan Shake


In the summer of 2010, just before the World Cup, Honest Jon's unleashed a bolt from the blue: Shangaan Electro, a startling compilation of jacking dance music from the South African countryside. Heartfelt family and spiritual matters set at a breakneck 180 bpm to cheap samplers by local producer Nozinja aka Dog. In‐your-face, candid and berserk -- with sweet vocals riding bareback the processed progeny of marimba, drums, guitar -- fluorescent orange wigs, nutty dancing -- and no bass at all. A slap in the face and a jab in the bum of solemn, trend‐driven dance music, Shangaan Electro is resplendently vivid and full‐color, shot through with lightning‐fast multi‐rhythms, and dementedly, dazzlingly animated. A few years ago, Honest Jon's offered up a set of homages -- entitled Lagos Shake -- to the great Afrobeat architect Tony Allen, using his own recordings and compositions as its starting point. Now, in a captivating series of 12"s running throughout last year and into 2012, the Shangaan Electro tracks have been similarly fantasized -- rather than just flatly remixed -- by some of the contemporary scene's most inspired artists and producers, from Detroit to London, Berlin to Bristol. Kicking off a prodigiously active year for the Honest Jon's label, the double CD Shangaan Shake collects these new versions, presenting a cross‐section of the most vital moods and grooves currently at-large in underground dance music. Fresh from the label's recent Chop Up live revue, Detroit techno alchemist Theo Parrish throws in a hypnotic, 13‐minute, carnivalesque head-scrambler, multilayered with synths, galloping drums and clattering percussion. Trailering his brand new album for HJ this spring, the inimitable Actress ramps proceedings as up‐and-out as can be without jettisoning the dancefloor completely. Elsewhere, Anthony "Shake" Shakir's Motor City stomper -- a favorite with Gilles Peterson on his BBC Radio 1 show -- is this pioneer's most impactful work of late, hard‐hitting and reckless in all the right places; characteristically, Mark Ernestus from Rhythm & Sound is swingingly original and tersely dubwise; and amongst the set's wildcards, the futuristic pop duo Hype Williams turns out a mesmerizing tribute, lagging somewhere ages behind the party people, achingly soulful and lost. Nothing in modern dance is more attuned to Shangaan musical sensibility than Chicago juke and footwork -- and celebrated originators Rashad, Spinn and Boo lock into its madness with a lethal, frantic pair of reworks, true to the hyper-energy and raw, unhinged power of the source material. From the coiled forensics of Peverelist, though, via the deep, minimal funk of Villalobos & Loderbauer, to the carefree drive of Oni Ayhun -- each and every one of these Shangaan Shake reimaginings sparks from genuine, far‐fetched inspiration into wildly diverse and brilliant new trajectories. Other artists include MMM, Demdike Stare, Old Apparatus, Tshetsha Boys, Mancingelani and Burnt Friedman.