SPOEK MATHAMBO opens for Saul Williams at the Great Hall on Friday (March 23). See listing. Rating: NNNN
Spoek Mathambo’s M.O. is to dismantle expectations of African music in the global imagination. Mshini Wam, Mathambo’s 2010 debut, spawned “township tech,” a brawny rap-inflected dance, as the sound of South Africa’s once segregated, still underdeveloped neighbourhoods.
Father Creeper expands on township tech, sowing bottom-feeding bass and rude-boy raps as the sonic seeds for something more ambitious. It’s as much about summoning Johannesburg and Africa – via pithy, slangy lyrics, percussive quirks and highlife guitar motifs – as it is a neat flip on cultural exchange.
Mathambo brings in video game sound effects (Kites), 90s alt-rock (Stuck Together) and the probing womp of Flying Lotus-style beat wizardry (Skorokoro). Put Some Red On It feels equally indebted to trap rap, chill-out and Fela Kuti-style narrative. The compelling collision of a pop sensibility with organic guitar riffs, dystopian digitalism and sharp wordplay plays out like the score to a musical set in 2012 Soweto.
Top track: Put Some Red On It