Boudoir beatmakers: Music that creeps out from behind the curtains

Producer Card on Spokes AKA Shane Cooper. (David Harrison)

Producer Card on Spokes AKA Shane Cooper. (David Harrison)

Despite racial and gender divides that persist in South Africa and its music industry, a number of young musicians are creating genre-defying sounds that add to a historically diverse culture of music. 

The question is where is the most interesting and progressive music being made in the country at the moment? Some would say Jo’burg, others Cape Town, or maybe Pretoria.

And others Mafikeng or Durban, not to discount some university towns. For many, the answer is bedrooms and home studios. Charles Leonard and Stefanie Jason spoke to four local composers.

GINAJEANZ (24)

Gina Mwoombola, aka GinaJeanz, recalls being introduced by a cousin to the Fruity Loops music producing suite in grade nine and how it changed her perspective on creating music. Since then, the Windhoek-born and raised Gina, who comes from a musical family and played violin as a child, has gone on to produce music for herself and others, released an EP titled Initium and recently travelled to the United States to create work and meet fellow producers. 

Having moved to Cape Town to study graphic design, Gina, who is currently a master’s student, also has a successful modelling career, which she balances with crafting alternative R&B sounds.

Bedroom or studio – where do you prefer to make your music?
It really depends. Most of the time I spend doing music in my room: half of my first EP was produced in my room, then later mastered in studio. I’m very adaptable to different environments, whether it’s the airport or a café; as long as I’ve got good headphones, I’m ready to work.

What’s your go-to app/software/equipment? Why?
I have a midi keyboard, speakers and headphones, and use Logic Pro [music production software]. I started out with Fruity Loops, so I have the option of working with both. I feel that it really doesn’t matter what software you use – as long as you’re comfortable, you can make magic.

GinaJeanz. (David Harrison)

Describe your typical fan.
My typical fan listens to a wide variety of music, can shift between old- and new-school, and embraces sounds from all over the world.

What three albums/songs do you find hard to resist sampling?
I stay away from sampling original songs simply because I enjoy creating my own work from scratch. I’m not against sampling and I have done a few for practice, but hardly do it any more. If had to pick, I’d sample Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, TLC’s CrazySexyCool and Tracy Chapman’s Matters of the Heart.

Barack Obama comes to South Africa. What music do you play as he steps off Air Force One?
I’ll definitely jam Brenda Fassie’s Weekend Special!

Where is GinaJeanz in five years’ time and how do you sound?
In five years I would have a mini-studio set up and I would definitely still be experimenting with my sound and perfecting my craft.

What GinaJeanz song have you chosen for Mail & Guardian readers to download? And how or why did you make it?
I have a track called Quartz Rose; this beat was made at 4am in Namibia and was the inspiration to complete the EP (download EP). It’s a true reflection of my experimental sound. – Stefanie Jason

CARD ON SPOKES (30)

It’s not very often that celebrated electronica producers juggle playing blends of progressive hip-hop, chillwave and house music with award-winning jazz careers. But for bassist-composer Shane Cooper, who also goes by his producer moniker Card on Spokes, that’s exactly what he does. 

For Cooper, the 2013 Standard Bank Young Artist for jazz, who has been playing bass since adolescence, his role as a producer has slowly been creeping to the fore of the electronica scene, to match (if it has not already) his high ranking in the South African jazz community. In May this year, Card on Spokes’s EP Sunwalker was released, which incorporated his badass bass playing on tracks like Comet, showing the Port Elizabeth-born, Cape Town-based musician’s skills behind the decks and on the instrument he has been acclaimed for. Card on Spokes plays Oppikoppi this weekend.

Why the name Card on Spokes?
It refers to the trick of putting a playing card on a bicycle frame so it flicks against the spokes as you ride, making it sound like a motorbike. My friends and I did it as kids growing up. The name refers to how music and sound enhance an experience.

Bedroom or studio – where do you like to make your music?
I have a studio room set up at my place, so it’s never far to get into making music.

Solo or collaborations – how do you enjoy making music?
I enjoy both equally. I try to keep it balanced. If I’m writing on my own for a long period, then I’ll work on collaborations to stretch my mind and go in different directions.

What’s your go-to app/software/equipment? Why?
I write music in Ableton [software music sequencer] because it’s super easy to move quickly when I have ideas and not get stuck on technicalities. I am a musician firstly, not a sound engineer, so the workflow suits my needs perfectly.

What’s your approach to sampling?
I don’t sample records that often but when I do, it’s usually lesser known artists I find in digs and I sample the bits that are more textural instead of melodies and chords. When I record live instruments, I try to treat them as if I sampled them, ’cause it allows me to think differently about the way I process the sounds.

Barack Obama comes to South Africa. What music do you play as he steps off Air Force One?
I’d play Me, the Mango Picker by Carlo Mombelli.

Where is Card on Spokes in five years’ time and how do you sound?
Travelling as much as possible and writing as much as possible. Hopefully I sound like me, but in the future.

What Card on Spokes song have you chosen for M&G readers to download? And in a tweet (140 characters), how or why did you make it?
Comet Song*. It was inspired by the Rosetta comet landing in 2014.

*Note: Comet Song is only available free to download until August 11. – Stefanie Jason

INDIGO REIGN (20)

The rock singer/songwriter and lead guitarist says his name is a combination of meanings: his blues-tinged music “reigning” in people’s lives and the colour indigo representing intuition and insight. Playing a handmade guitar, made specially for him by Johan Meiring in Pretoria, with a Genz Benz amp, the musician leads his band comprising a drummer, rhythm guitarist and bass guitarist. To date, he has released a demo CD, Taste for Apathy, which is available on sale at his gigs – his next one is at Amuse Café in Linden, Jo’burg, on Friday August 21.

Indigo Reign. (Delwyn Verasamy)

Your favourite place to make/create music?
It doesn’t really matter where I am – music comes to me anywhere, because it’s about the inspiration and it happens inside my head. I create music anywhere I can observe people, experience something emotional or powerful, or have time to reflect on something that I have experienced or seen.

Describe your typical fan.
I don’t have a typical fan. It doesn’t matter what colour they are, what they look like, what they wear or how old they are (rock fans span the generations!) – as long as they like my music and they feel free to express themselves and to let the music take over, that is the most important thing. 

Name three records or songs that shaped you.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Axis: Bold as Love because of the amazing songwriting and storytelling in his music and how he conveys a message through telling a story. Also, the Rolling Stones’s Exile on Main Street, which shows how consistent a band can be over time and how they can stay true to their style and still be successful. And Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon – this record showed me that you can be as creative as you want and that if you are true to yourself and to your creative drive, people will like the music. You don’t have to be driven by what you think will sell – if you make truly good music driven by your own creative direction, it can become commercially successful.

Barack Obama visits South Africa and you’re asked to perform when he disembarks from Air Force One. What will you do?
I would play – obviously! I’d get world exposure for my music! I would play my song Good Times – it is a song that everyone can relate to. It is easy on the ears, a good rock song but with pop overtones, and has a message that everyone can relate to, about loss and friendship.

Describe your sound five years from now.
In five years from now I hope that my music will be well known, inside and outside South Africa, and that it will be more mature, and that as a musician I will be more experienced, having grown and made a real success out of writing songs and performing. And I wouldn’t mind if bigger bands had taken up some of my songs to play.

Pick one of your tunes for the M&G’s readers and tell us how you made it.
Good Times. It’ a tribute to my best friend and fellow muso who died tragically, and a song that has meaning for anyone who has lost someone they love. – Charles Leonard

HEALER ORAN (25)

Andrei van Wyk, aka Healer Oran, plays within soundscapes of electronic noise – or “Afro-noise”, as he calls it. With the assistance of a guitar, whose sound is altered by effects pedals, the Johannesburg-based musician also uses his voice with electronics such as an MPD (Music Player Daemon) and keyboards to get his desired experimental sound. 

With three releases out at the moment (all available for digital download), Healer Oran’s most recent collection of music is a mini-album titled Love is My Only Shield. His debut EP Jerk was released earlier this year, and his first single The Recognitions was released ahead of his debut show at Invisible Cities last year.

Healer Oran. (Delwyn Verasamy)

Your favourite place to make/create music?
Though I create my music in a small study at home, I love finding interesting places to create and perform, whether it be a large living room or someone’s garage.

Describe your typical fan.
Someone really friendly and open-minded who is willing to accept new things and ideas.

Name three records or songs that shaped you.
The Clown by Charles Mingus, The Real Estate Agents by The Real Estate Agents and Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band.

Barack Obama visits South Africa and you’re asked to perform when he disembarks from Air Force One. What will you do?
I would perform, on the condition that he would lend his voice to the performance.

Describe your music five years from now.
I think my ideas would progress. Though I make typically loud and abrasive music, I believe my experiences over the next five years would support a positive growth, adding layered and textured sounds to my sonic palette … And I would be 30.

What song did you pick for the M&G’s readers and how did you make it?
It is called Love is My Only Shield II – Watering the Stapelia and Mint – a Dr Nico sample, acoustic guitar through an octave pedal and me singing gibberish. – Charles Leonard

 
stefanie jason
Charles Leonard

stefanie jason

Following studying towards her Film & Media degree at the University of Cape Town and North Carolina State University, Stefanie Jason began work as a copy editor and writer for various South African publications, including Bona, True Love and Sowetan, as well as the Mail & Guardian. For the M&G's arts & culture supplement Friday, she writes about art, music & lifestyle when she isn't relaxing, traveling or checking out Jo'burg's many art galleries.
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