Dubokaj — Dubokaj Meets Fortune Shumba
“This guy's music sounds like a guy from a township in Durban. But he is white AND Swiss! So, I guess we could coin a new term to describe him, something along the lines of: "Kasified Mlungu”. When loosely translated this means “white man with township vibes.” Nothing too formal, anything goes, everything works.” – Fortune Shumba
Dubokaj – the Bernese artist / producer responsible for introducing the world to the sound of Alpine Dub – is back again, this time, with a seven-song EP of sweltering, bass-heavy, melodically kaleidoscopic summer jams. The release is simply titled Dubokaj Meets Fortune Shumba, in honour of the collaboration with the South African songwriter / vocalist, with whom he wrote and recorded the bulk of this material. The EP was drafted during a three–month stay in Johannesburg, South Africa, where Dubokaj set up a makeshift studio to record with local artists; while exploring the scene with his host and partner in crime, none other than Tshepang Ramoba of the mighty BLK JKS. The final stretch of the production and all of the Dub re/de/constructions took place back at his studio in Bern.
Despite his music usually being composed somewhere in the Swiss highlands, it always has had a mildly tropical tinge to it. Which makes this particular release all the more interesting as, in a way, Dubokaj finally got to correlate some of his inner sensibilities with an actual place that embodies them. Plastic palm tree – it’s time to say goodbye! Dubokaj recalls: “What altered my perception as an artist were the reactions of South African artist to my music. When we listened to my stuff at the studio, I realised that they hear my beats differently from me. They compared my music to styles from the Kwaito era and to music coming out of Pretoria.” The intensity of Joburg, as a space, and its particular expression of urbanity also deeply impacted the producer. A new type of tension appeared in his productions. The reverbs became even bigger and darker. The bass more aggressive and biting. Although these tracks could be a perfect soundtrack to a summer cook out or could just as easily shake up a late-night block party, they also express a tension and an attitude that true city dwellers know all too well.
“I had always been wanting to go into the electronic space and he came just at the right time, when I really needed the change. Tshepang from POST POST played me some of his instrumentals and I was won over immediately. I actually said to him: "you are gonna produce for my debut album man!". – Fortune Shumba
Environmental influences aside, this EP, at its core, is actually a sonic document of an intense creative dialogue between Dubokaj and Fortune Shumba. Without a smidgeon of a doubt none of these songs would sound anything like this today without Fortune’s voice infusing them with his unique approach to melody and storytelling. It’s also quite plausible that without this collaboration autotune would have never appeared on a Dubokaj track. Like EVER! Which – BTW – would truly be a pity, as this is, by far, one of the most tasteful and original applications of this audio effect, to date – something uniquely textural and dubby. The full vocal versions of the lead songs (Trinidad Baby, Casioma Lies and Nobody) are great examples of radio-friendly compositions that undermine all of the structural presets which make Pop music so bland these days (verse-chorus-verse..). And not only that, they also manage to retain the raw underground sensibilities and the edginess intact, and even harness them for a pop-song type affect. In the most idiosyncratic of ways these are examples of perfect, modern love jams. The Dub versions of the main songs, as well as the Troyeville Tape Repair track, definitely take it back to that pure Dubokaj Dub blueprint. Either way, one thing is clear: compromising your sound to crossover is for suckers! And these two cats are having none of that.
“The first thing I noticed about his music was the fact that it was nothing like the stuff on radio. It was eclectic. There were influences of Gqom, House, Kwaito, Grime, Dubstep and Reggae all fused together. It breaks all the rules as far as song structure is concerned. He does whatever the hell he wants and that has sort of become his signature.” – Fortune Shumba
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