His fifth solo album, Mzansi Beat Code, reinforces this notion of Spoek Mathambo as one of the integral core members of South Africa’s international dance-music movement. Mzansi Beat Code has several head nods towards the likes of Chromeo or more distinctly Pharrell Williams, with its electronic high level production which constitutes this coined term, Township Tech, but is in itself an influential album that moves the listener to the dancefloor.
Spoek Mathambo, born Nthato Mokgata in 1985 in South Africa is a creative artist defined by his fusion of a eclectic list of musical influences. Growing up in Soweto, his early work included collaborations with South African producer Sibot, and in 2010, he released his debut album, Mshini Wam, on BBE Record. Included in the album was a cover of Joy Division’s She’s Lost Control, the video of which received the Young Director Award at the 2011 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Mathamb0 was also nominated for the MOBO Awards that very same year, and this is not the only time he has been shortlisted for this prestige.
At times, the music included in Mzansi Beat Code is extremely appealing, populist without being obvious. Tracks like Want Ur Love and I Found U, which feature Kajama (the singing sisters, Nandi and Nongoma Ndlovu) and members of Fantasma (guitarist Andre Geldenhuys, multi-instrumentalist Bhekisenzo Cele and Bacardi house mastermind, DJ Spoko) consisting of deep house grooves, lewd and soulful lyrics, are transfixing and will no doubt hook into the listeners.
However, the combination of sounds on this album reflects South Africa’s growing reputation as a leading electronic music global gumbo, with Spoek being one of those at the front of this movement. The tracks with Johannesburg’s songwriter Loui Lvndon include an industrialised soulful sound and a break-up pop-soul reminder that Young Fathers exist. Volcan, featuring Mexican singer Ceci Bastida, almost begins like a Spanish soap opera, which transitions into a more rhythm and drum based track with all the components to get the body moving. The Mountain, a collaboration with renowned rhythm artists, namely Spoko, Pretoria DJ Mujava and Pegasus Warning is a heavily synthesised, playful house belter with high octave yet raw vocals.
In the album there are certainly more beat codes than tribal languages, and with the title, Mzansi, which is a widely adapted Xhosa word for the republic, there is a clear concept of multi-voices speaking. Not only that, but Mathambo with this album brings together the best in South African talent, which would in some parts of Soweto be considered rhythm funkadelic. Despite the head nods to various Western musicians this is an impactful album, which has all clear tell-tale signs of an artist at the core of South Africa’s dance scene.
Spoek Mathambo’s new album, Mzansi Beat Code, is out today on Teka Records.