Rise 'n shine on Moodphase 5ive

When Moodphase 5ive released their debut album, Steady On, they won Cape Town over big time. Who could forget their phenomenal performances at this year’s Up the Creek and North Sea Jazz Festival? They also toured Jo’burg, where they recruited many a lover of hip-hop, funk, soul, drum’n'bass and even jazz.

And this is what makes them really addictive: they’re not easy to classify.
Sure, their sound is based in hip-hop and founding member Denver Turner delivers socially conscious rhymes. In fact, Turner defers to old-school hip-hop head KRS One, a staunch proponent of that concept called “knowledge of self”, in Rise ‘n Shine. Not much of that in mainstream rap these days.

Like much hip-hop, Moodphase is big on funk, soul and even jazz. But the difference is that they’re a live band, featuring soul diva Ernestine Deane on vox, Brian de Goede on drums, Ricardo Morretti (ex-Firing Squad) on keyboards and the Honeymoon Suites’ Bood Carver (bass) and Douglas Armstrong (trumpet).

The result is a fresh, eclectic mix. The success of Steady On is also to be attributed to African Dope Records. It’s masterminds are the now legendary underground drum’n'bass DJs Krushed ‘n Sorted (Fletcher and Roach), who mixed and mastered this aural delight.

Fletcher and Roach spent much time contacting overseas labels, trying to establish working relationships. As a result, they did a four-stop tour in the Czech Republic, as well as touring Amsterdam, Harlem, Rotterdam and Utrecht in The Netherlands. A key gig they performed at was the Global Connection Festival in the Czech Republic. It featured artists from places such as Cape Town, Prague, New York and Paris.

“A lot of the acts there were live musicians or electronic musicians in combination with DJs,” recalls Armstrong.

“There’s an understanding there that a band is an act, whether the act is live or crossover. There’s not that separation between digital and electronic and live bands,” says Deane.

Their gigs went down very well — in fact, many new fans bought their album on the spot. Moodphase 5ive now has a distribution deal in The Netherlands and they’re selling more CDs there than in Jo’burg itself.

The biggest culture shock came when they realised how seriously venue owners treat musicians in Europe. “We were blown away by a live level of sound — rigging, monitors, engineers,” says De Goede. “The fact that you don’t have to ask them for anything. They give it to you straight away. It’s not like you have to fight with the engineers to get a good sound.”

They were also were well catered for by way of food and lodgings, which made the gigs incredibly stress free. Needless to say, this got them thinking about what’s amiss back home.

Douglas sums it up: “In a lot of the clubs in Cape Town the gear is shit, the acoustics of the venue are crap. The theory with clubs in Cape Town is, ‘Just put a bar and tables in and you’ve got a club.’”

They add that the technical training of engineers also present a problem.

Then there’s the protection money rackets and fly-by-night club operators who put very little into clubs so that they can make a quick buck for a season. De Goede says in Europe there are “social systems in place to make businesses work, to give music, art and culture a platform”. First World/Third world dynamics seem to be at play here.

Moodphase 5ive are working on a second album — due in February — and plan to release an EP by the end of this year. It will contain remixes off Steady On by Prague DJs and Cape DJs like Warrick Sony.

Catch Moodphase 5ive on the Black August tour — along with Lauryn Hill, Dead Prez and Talieb Kweli — on August 29 in Durban, September 1 in Johannesburg and September 4 in Cape Town. For more information contact Tel: 082 462 3063

Adam Haupt

Adam Haupt

Adam Haupt is professor of media studies at the Centre for Film & Media Studies at the University of Cape Town. These are his own views Read more from Adam Haupt

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