Endorsed, remixed and represented by a bona fide who’s-who of electronic music producers (including Diplo, Brodinski, Crookers, Switch, Mumdance and Riva Starr), charmingly monikered London duo Radioclit have long set themselves apart from any sort of generic club culture with their own distinctive, experimental sound. Bringing an unusual variety of international influences to their house sensibilities, the pair recieved round after round of glowing critical acclaim for The Warm Heart of Africa, a collaboration with Malawian vocalist Esau Mwamwaya.
Now with the first of a series of ‘mini-compliations’ due to be released on Mental Groove records, Radioclit continue their exploration of the continent with Saga Africa; an unabashed celebration of African music. Featuring tracks from up-and-coming producers Myd, Douster and Lazy Flow, as well as a track from Radioclit themselves, somehow the duo seem to have compiled a taster of what seems like world music, but without it being, y’know, completely fucking unbearable?
Although really, to say this was world music would be inaccurate – and for many, probably pretty off putting. Negative stereotypes are still pervasive (and normally pretty justified; Buddhist Chants and Peace Music anyone?). It’s not mung beans, tie-dye and whale songs here though, because in reality, a lot of Western artists are looking to other cultures to fashion a deeper, more exciting sound. A sort of nu-world-music order was established in 2009 as artists like Major Lazer, Toddla T, Santogold, Bonde Do Role, Buraka Som Sistema and M.I.A. (also a Radioclit collaborator) fashioned their own sonic calling-cards from a variety of global influences and reaped the rewards of the demand for these fresh, original voices.
Saga Africa brings us the efforts of Radioclit’s own handpicked, favourite, international up-and-coming producers and their African-inspired tracks. Opening track ‘Afro Maniok’ by French producer Lazy Flow seems content with a distinctly more western tone than the tracks that follow. Whilst it’s initial melody is uncannily like something that would back a montage on a holiday program, the layers of syncopated percussion that follow are enjoyable, if a little lazy. Contrastingly, Radioclit’s ‘Tutule Dance’, does nothing to halt their recent run of successes with an immaculate fusion of African and English musical nuances; African instruments are mirrored and layered with wonky fidget-house synths over subtle, shuffling rhythms.
However it’s Myd’s ‘Train to Bamako’ that is the compilation’s real highlight. Irresistible with it’s infectious, skipping rhythm – a combination of house music’s four-to-the-floor kick drum and layers of rattling, polyrhythmic African percussion. It’s wonderfully simple marimba melody is malaria-grade infectious and compliments layers of warm, elated African pop vocals. The collection draws to a close with ‘King of Africa’ from Argentina’s Douster, which makes use of the instantly recognisable music from the Lion King. Containing a standard package of unimaginative chopped vocals and none-too-exciting synths, this effort feels like a wasted opportunity and it’s down to it’s hypnotic rhythm to carry the song forward. Perhaps it’s a bit worrying that the only African influence Douster could muster is sliced vocals from a Disney film soundtrack and a lion sound effect, perhaps not – the song stumbles along like Ladysmith Black Mambazo in Ibiza all the same.
Sometimes raucous fun, but often fairly pedestrian, Radioclit’s EP is electronic music’s celebration of the diverse sounds of African music. Whilst some offerings suffer fail to exceed generic house with diluted African influence, for the most part it’s joyous vocals, well exacted, exotic influences and rambunctious energy make Saga Africa a solid compilation destined for the dancefloor.
Saga Africa is released on the 25/1/10 on Mental Groove Records.