Welcome to Guest Dose. Every month, NPR Music's Recommended Dose crew invites a knowledgeable and experienced DJ/selector to share with us their personal perspectives on electronic and beat-driven music, and make a mix from some new tracks they are digging.
Ask Daniel Haaksman how he cultivated his love for Africa's digital rhythms, and the 47-year-old Berlin producer will tell you of a life supporting beats from around the world. Long before his latest album, African Fabrics, engaged in a dialogue between European club sounds and the music of Angolan kuduro, Mozambican pandza and South African house, Haaksman made a point of introducing gringo clubbers to global dance music.
The 2004 compilation he produced, Rio Baile Funk: Favela Booty Beats, was one of the gateways for the sample-heavy lo-fi streetwise electro-hip-hop of Brazilian favelas; and was instrumental to Haaksman's founding of his label, Man Recordings, which set about releasing music by Brazilian baile funk artists, and by the European and American producers who wanted to collaborate with them. Haaksman's work with global artists stretches as far back as the early '90s, when along with his then-partner Stefan Hantel (better known as Shantel) he began a Frankfurt club night that focused on rhythms from North Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans (and Brazil) — in short "a sound distinctively opposing the ruling techno-house of the moment," he told me.
With its myriad of drum machines, African Fabrics is far more receptive of those styles, though much of that has to do with how the creative process and the power of influence have changed over the last quarter century — especially as the Internet age has progressed.
"In the African countries I traveled to [while making Fabrics], I was amazed by how globalized these local musical cultures already are," says Haaksman, when I reach him by Skype. "They use elements from rap, from European house, from trap, and mix it up with their own local rhythms and styles. It's not about authenticity in its original context — they want to connect to other cultures through hybridization. And that's what I did with my album."
Haaksman's album is, in his own words, "a Berlin take on different music styles that are present in some African countries at the moment." Its guests are less a product of a survey than of Haaksman following his Portuguese-speaking muse onward from Brazil. He was first invited to Angola to play a festival in 2009; and in its capital Luanda, he became engrossed in kuduro, an up-tempo percussive style first created as a kind of choreography by the dancer Tony Amado as a takeoff of Jean-Claude Van Damme's moves in the film Kickboxer – and which translates to "hard-ass." (Amado appears on the album.) In Mozambique, Haaksman heard pandza, "a kind of Mozambican dembow or reggaeton," and enlisted the excellent female MC Damo Do Bling and the crooner Alcindah Guerane. He also made a track with Spoek Mathambo, one of the more famous rappers/vocalists to come out of the South African house scene — it is a cover of "Akabongi," the 1994 jive classic by the SA vocal group, Soul Brothers.
"I always think that culture travels down a two-way street," he says. On African Fabrics, Haaksman has been energized to create his own hybrids. The special DJ mix he created for NPR Music's Recommended Dose dances down these same roads. I asked Haaksman (follow his travels at @DanielHaaksman) to walk us through the tracks he brought together, all new music that he regularly plays in his sets. This is what he had to say.
1. Bad$ista & Tap, "Na Madruga"
"Bad$ista is a young producer from Sao Paolo. She is a child of this Internet revolution in that she embodies a new wave of Brazilian producers who are very well informed about what's happening. For many years, Brazil was cut off from much of the information that was circulating in the Northern Hemisphere because of geography — it took a long time for records to arrive, and underground culture was very hard to get access to. Now thanks to YouTube and Soundcloud and the social media phenomenon, Brazilians can follow what's happening in the U.S. and Europe in real time, and they mix these international styles with local elements. Bad$ista is very fluent with everything Internet and creates exciting new music hybrids."
"Na Madruga" is out now on Beatwise Recordings.
2. Daniel Haaksman, "Afrika" (feat. Tony Amado & Alcindah Guerane)
"Both Amado and Guerane sing in Kimbundu, a local Angolan language. Though I initially didn't understand what they were singing about — I later understood it's about the history of Africa, from pre-colonial times, through slavery, to decolonization and the present and the future — when I heard the a capella for the first time, I was blown away by the emotionality the singing is communicating. It was not easy to make music to because the vocal is so strong, so I decided to make a minimalist beat that only consists of a handful of sounds."
"Afrika" is out now on Man Recordings.
3. DJ Daycard, "Afro Intrudor Sabi Ku"
"Daycard is a Dutch DJ/producer making quite an interesting mix of Brazilian baile funk a capella and Afrohouse or kuduro-house-inspired beat. There are a few producers who do these kinds of hybrids, and they're mostly from either Portugal or the Netherlands, and in their local context they play a different kind of club music. Holland has always been a colonial power and has always had a lot of migrants coming from Dutch colonies; one of them is Surinam, a country on the northeastern coast of South America, where they are musically influenced by Brazil and by the music of the Caribbean. When people from Surinam move back and forth between their country and Holland, they start to mix the music from home with the European club influence. That's why you had this Dutch house phenomenon: basically kids from the Caribbean wanted to play reggaeton in Dutch clubs, but it was too slow for Dutch kids, so they pitched it up and the result was 'Dutch bubbling,' which is this hi-speed reggaeton that someone added a hi-hat and some rave sounds to."
4. Namaste, "Wat Wat (Batuk Remix)"
"Batuk is a new South African supergroup that features Spoek Mathambo and Aero Manyelo, who is a very popular DJ and producer, they released a single earlier this year — I made a remix for them. I know Spoek. I've played with Aero a couple of times in Europe. I like this track — it's a dub of a South African house track — and it fit really nicely with a DJ Daycard track."
"Wat Wat (Batuk Remix)" is out now on Teka Music
5. Africaine 808, "Balla Balla"
"They are a duo that throws a party in Berlin so we have lots of mutual friends, and I've known Nomad for a while, he is a famous street artist. I quite like this track off their new album; in Germany, "balla balla" is a common way of saying something is crazy, and this track is a bit crazy — when you play it out in the clubs people go a bit nuts, because it has this twisted marimba type of sounds. I thought it was quite interesting that both Africaine 808 and I are releasing albums that somehow relate to African music styles at the same time, since we both come from the same city and the same kind of backgrounds. It is refreshing to see Berlin producers opening up to African music, because it's still pretty much a techno city — the sound of Berghain is still dominating the clubs and shaping the image that Berlin has in the world — and there is not much music variety."
"Balla Balla" is out now on Golf Channel Recordings.
6. Konono No.1 Meets Batida, "Nlele Kalusimbiko"
"This is the first song from the new album that will come out on Crammed Discs. When I first read about it I thought it sounded like a great collaboration. I've always been a huge fan of Konono No. 1 and of Batida, who is Pedro Coquenão who is a white Angolan that grew up in Lisbon, so he knows Angolan culture but also knows everything about Portugal and Europe, and puts it into his music. Him working with Konono is a very exciting concept. This track is really hot."
"Nlele Kalusimbiko" is available April 29 on Crammed Discs.