South Africa has a long history of producing world-class electronic acts, and now more than ever, more artists are taking the leap into live and showcasing their talent to the world. We take a look at some of the best live electronica acts to have come out of South Africa’s ever-expanding music scene.
Long known as a pioneer in the experimental realm of house and kwaito/midtempo, Felix La Band’s abstract approach to production has seen him release on Munich-based label Compost, as well as the legendary African Dope Records, since 2001. Much like his collage artworks, his music layers samples, like television recordings and speeches, with house inspired and atmospheric sounds to create thought provoking messages through his multi-cultural approach to South African dance music.
Daev Martian’s jazzy grooves have become much sought-after in a variety of different scenes in South Africa thanks to his genre defying productions, which blur the lines between house, hip hop, jazz and electronica. His infectious tunes are undeniably groovy, and his leftfield appeal is a mind-trip for many music lovers. Daev Martian creates jazz for the modern ages.
The Sibot x Toyota experience is like nothing else in South Africa. Beyond the mind-blowing visual appeal, Sibot’s sets are one of the best examples of what a live electronic set should be. Watching his fingers rapidly beat at the drum machine, it’s easy to tell how talented this performer is, and why he is considered one of the Godfathers of Cape Town electronic music.
Made up of Desert Head and one half of Hessien+, Christian Tiger School have taken their experimental trip hop sounds around the world, even hitting up Sonár in Barcelona earlier this year. But what makes them stand out from the rest is the consistency of their live performances. Their improvisational style of playing makes every set unique, and their explorative approach allows their music to move and evolve throughout the night, allowing the audience to engage in the innovative atmosphere they create on stage.
Card On Spokes
Shane Cooper aka Card On Spokes is a musician first and foremost, and his blend of electronica and jazz elements speaks measures of his musical education. There are some eerie commonalities between Shane and British producer Bonobo though. They are both extremely proficient on the bass guitar and both create otherworldly electronica that lends a lot of its approach to jazz music. But Card On Spokes is a force of his own, who, one could say, meets the British maestro on a similar plateau of musical genius.
As the co-founder of the Subterranean Wavelength imprint, Micr.Pluto has released music from some of the country’s finest electronic producers including the aforementioned Vox Portent and Daev Martian. But beyond connecting the right dots, he is a prolific staple of Johannesburg’s electronic music scene in his own right. His heady blend of hip hop elements with electronic sounds keep a steady rhythm while morphing in and out of the electronica spectrum, creating a spaced out yet danceable atmosphere on the dance floor.
It’s easy to say that Thor Rixon is one of the quirkiest artists in South Africa, if not the world. He once tattooed "Fuk Bread" at the back of his head in a music video, and recently got himself beaten up in the video for his new tune "The Clown". But it's his incredible productions and skill on the trumpet—which he used to perform with Petite Noir at CTEMF 2016—that make his live sets a truly unique, multi-genre experience that explores the furthest reaches of the mind.
Showmanship is the name of the game when DJ Invizable takes to the stage. Dressed in a white suit with traditional African patterns on it with visor covering his face, he is a mystical creature that uses his original house tracks, flamboyant dance moves and keytar skills to wow crowds and take them on an interplanetary journey. Known for giving his all with every performance, Invizable is an attention grabbing artist who makes new fans at every gig.
Sean Ou Tim aka Mr. Sakitumi has played in many prolific bands in South Africa throughout his career, including Lark, Goldfish, Freshlyground, Max Normal and Jeremy Loops, and is widely regarded as the “go-to” multi-instrumentalist for live performances. In his own capacity, he takes to the stage utilizing his drums, bass, guitar, keyboard, sampler or scratching skills to create dynamic live sets that span a variety of different genres simultaneously. And his quirky and playful demeanor on stage makes him a pleasure to watch while playing live.
The lesser known artist Aragorn23 is a truly unique act that integrates motion detectors to create music. With the performer standing in the middle of the stage, he is able to trigger sounds and samples by moving specific body parts and using a loop function, music is created. Aragorn embodies innovation within the live performance arena, and is a prime example of South Africa’s cutting edge live electronic music scene.
Vox Portent is a one-man music making machine whose minimalist performance approach allows his downtempo, chillwave/electronica sound to take the foreground. As a young producer entering the South Africa’s electronic music scene, he has become a reputable artist since the release of his debut album Lucid in 2014, and has since played Oppikoppi, Fenomena and Churn Festivals. Under his Je Suis Ohne alias, he also uses his vocals as the focus of a more indie pop orientated sound—showing that Vox is anything but a one trick pony.
The long-maned sonic experimentalist known as Leeu has a penchant for world music inspired sounds, merging ethnic percussion elements with deep house and techno to create an aural exploration like no other. With his vocal counterpart Lazarusman, the duo are able to transform a dancefloor into a transcendental, spiritual experience—hypnotizing the minds and bodies of their audiences.
As a certified Ableton trainer that runs the Academy of Music Technology in Johannesburg, Behr is probably one of the most skills producers on the platform. His vast knowledge of the popular music production program is a massive asset to his performances, and his approach dives into creativity in the most clinical way possible. His in-depth use and understanding of sampling breaks the barriers between genres and allows him to express his philosophy that music is within us all.
Watermark High / Kinoh
Delving into the sphere of trip hop, Watermark High pushes the envelope with forward thinking productions that incorporate gritty electronic sounds with funky drums and a piano chords. This piano influence is a lot more evident under his Kinoh alias with which he creates blissful downtempo songs and leans to a softer, more euphoric sound. In his live performances he plays all the parts using a drum machine and builds the songs by layer by layer, to create otherworldly soundscapes.
Buli claims to be from space, and his beats make that claim very believable. Having released his debut EP The Inner Space in 2015, Buli has continued to share his trippy beats with the world, culminating into his live sets, which allow him to expand on his productions and create unique renditions of his music. The result is a mellow and emotive, yet groovy and quirky cosmic audio canvas, which is a feast for the heart as much as it is for the mind.