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.