Destination South Africa: As acts like Stay-C, Krispy and Dopplershift rise to global prominence and labels like Rubricate Records infiltrate our playlists, we take a flight south and explore a thriving scene that’s rooted with strong foundations and powered by an exciting new generation of artists…
Community sits right in the centre of South Africa’s drum and bass scene. It always has done, ever since the days of figurehead artists like Counterstrike and famous nights like the now defunct Homegrown who would invite international headline acts each month and inspire an exciting and passionate DJ culture.
The last few years, however, have seen a shift on focus, placing the spotlight predominantly on the small but mounting pool of new producers and DJs in the country. Artists like Stay-C, Dopplershift, FinnaDrift and Sol Pillars – to name a few – are all helping to focus global attention on their snowballing scene.
“We’ve realised here in SA that getting releases under the belt earns a reputation and thus develops into a career rather than a hobby” explains one of the country’s most promising new talents, Dopplershift. “Before, the local scene relied on knowledge from a few individuals who purely DJ’d and booked internationals, which created a ceiling as artists didn’t have anyone to really look up to. That being said, the scene itself is rather small so the mirage of ‘Idols’ didn’t exist.”
This is the exact kind of philosophy that seems to be entrenched into the artists currently growing in SA – a love for the underground and ceaseless support for their peers. Each artist UKF reached out to was keen to help point out more talent in their circle, and it gives an insight into how movements like this can bloom and reach larger audiences.
“From my perspective there seems to be a great sense of collaboration” explains Sol Pillars, an artist recently releasing on the likes of Bay 6 Recordings and local label Propaganda011. “More recently, I have seen local D&B producers making and releasing tunes together and subsequently learning from and pushing each other. A great example of this collaboration can be seen with Propaganda011’s all local VA Compilation, and Rubricate Records’ Radiation Radio VA which is mostly South African! Event organisers are wanting to bring up artists from different cities across the country, and I think this is a testament to how excited people are to meet up and connect in an organic way.”
Propaganda011 and Rubricate Records are indeed two labels that seem to best represent this close-knit family feel of drum and bass in South Africa, with recent compilations on both labels proving the weight behind their collective musicality.
Xerowan, the individual behind Propaganda011 explains to us the struggles of running a label in South Africa right now. “Our biggest challenge is getting our artists heard by international audiences. South Africa does not yet have the credibility that some other non-European countries have, so we must rely heavily on premiere channels, our promo lists and social media marketing to reach beyond our borders.”
However, the foundations have yet again been set, being supported by the enthusiasm behind every growing DJ and producer in the country. We hope to bring some of these to the forefront, with our list of 11 South African drum and bass artists to watch out for:
If you haven’t heard the name Stay-C over the last year or two, it’s time to crawl out from under that rock. In fact, we recently caught up with the rising Johannesburg star here at UKF, where she explains in full her sudden rise in the world of drum and bass through Hospital Records’ Women In Drum & Bass Mentorship scheme. Through this scheme, she ended up releasing two tunes on the label, including her warped, funk-filled take on Nu:Logic’s ancient ‘New Technique’ and the UKF backed ‘Russian Doll’ on their Future Symptoms series.
She is a shining example of the talent brewing in the country, and will no doubt inspire more to follow in her footsteps. Don’t forget to also check out the minimal stepper Make It Complex on Soulvent, and hr numerous free downloads on Soundcloud.
Look out for: More releases next year, as she explains she is in discussions with various undisclosed labels. “I’m mostly focusing on making music that I’d love to play in a set. If that equates to a signing, great! If not, that’s also cool with me!” Nice and humble!
“I discovered drum and bass around 2014, when my best friend Juan [Real Feels] and I went to a local underground club early one morning to try something different. I’m pretty certain it was love at first sight (or sound), but it wasn’t until much later that I started producing & DJing myself.”
Dopplershift’s workrate over the last two years has been something to behold. Labels like Melinki’s Four Corners Music have fashioned an ongoing home for his deep, twisted spin on the genre, while others like Hyperactivity Music, Monk Audio, SINE Audio, Four Corners and Skankandbass have all quickly caught onto his talent. Ran by himself and Real Feels, the multi-genre label Rubricate Records is yet another way he can sink his teeth into the industry, and it fosters the inclusive and supportive nature of the wider SA scene. Go check out the recently released Radiation Radio VA LP for a glimpse into the diverse array of local drum and bass talent there.
Look out for: A remixed version of his ‘Don’t Look Back’ EP on SINE Audio, plus releases on Echo Chamber, Impact Music, //DarkMode, and more to be announced. The workrate truly doesn’t slow down with this one…
Recently seen putting out the ‘Racing Nostalgia’ EP on Random Movement’s Flight Pattern Records, FinnaDrift has been drifting his inimitable groove into the world of liquid drum and bass.
“The Racing Nostalgia EP was based on my longing for the days of playing racing games after school, non-stop. I drew inspiration from the visuals and soundtracks of games like Need For Speed, Forza and Dirt, but mainly, my focus was on Gran Turismo. Gran Turismo was special in that it also altered my musical tastes, as the soundtrack consisted of jazz, house and generally soulful music.”
This influence is evident in across all his music released so far, having also touched down on Default Recordings and Sunny Moves this year alone. It’s a wholly unique and nostalgic twist on the genre that reflects the versatile nature of the SA drum and bass scene.
Look out for: Releases in 2022 on some exciting yet currently undisclosed labels, plus lots more in the works. Keep an eye out…
K A G E
Criminally underrated is a term that may as have well been created personally for K A G E. The sound design is intricate, the soundscapes expansive; and the vision is apparent from the moment you step foot into his aural world. K A G E’s music has proved fitting on experimental bass-music imprints like SATURATE and sister label Sound Museum, while his recent EP on Rubricate shows his love and appreciation for the local movement.
Look out for: Lots more new music in the not-so-distant future, including more on SATURATE.
Yet another producer/label owner hybrid, Xerowan is the brains behind Propaganda011, a Johannesburg label that seeks to push the finest drum and bass talent in the country. The recent Frontliners Vol. 1 LP is a perfect emblem of where the country’s love for 174bpm is at right now, featuring many of the artists listed in this article such as Dopplershift, Stay-C and K A G E.
“It has always been a tight knit community” he explains. “Artists as well as labels and promoters have for the most part all made huge efforts to grow the scene as a whole while staying true to their individual sounds and values.” This attitude runs through the label’s roster, acting as a place to big up the local talent and eventually get them noticed on a wider scale.
Coming from a background in rock music and subsequently seeing the parallels between the genres, his own productions are neuro-leaning with a strong focus for the dancefloor. Recent tunes like LMK LOL on Rubricate’s recent VA or his remix of Hatework Machine’s Propaganda provide matchless energy that deserves to be heard outside of SA.
Look out for: A new Xerowan EP on Propaganda011 in 2022, plus another EP currently in the works.
You may recognise the name from Dopplershift’s recent Skankandbass release, featuring on the icy minimal number ‘The Gallow’, but Krispy has been cooking up serious heat over the last few years. An impressive list of labels have played host to his music, including Onyx Recordings, Four Corners Music, Delta9 Recordings, Impact Music and of course, local labels like Propaganda011 and Rubricate. It is no surprise that artists like Buunshin and Skeptical have supported his tunes, with his music often sitting on the deeper end of the spectrum but with a level of innovation that sets him apart from the rest. This is an artist that deserves even more global love, and we see it coming very soon.
Look out for: A new batch of tunes that he’s been cooking up in the studio. Keep an eye out on his socials to see where this leads.
From smashing the South African DJ circuit, to releasing a diverse affair of music on Bay 6 Recordings, Calibrate Records, Rubricate and Propaganda011, Sol Pillars has had an exceptional year. His rapidly progressing musical knowledge and apt for precise production skills tell us this is only the beginnings of a fruitful career in drum and bass.
“I find most of my inspiration through listening and trying to understand the music I really enjoy, as well as listening and raving to great sets. Since I discovered drum and bass, I’ve enjoyed finding all the nooks and crannies the sound has to offer, and I think it’s incredible how one genre can express a diverse range of emotions in such detail. I try to channel and stay true to this when making my own music, letting how I feel at a point in time dictate what ends up coming out of the speakers.”
Look out for: A freebie and subsequent EP on Modular Carnage. We’ve managed to cop a listen, and it’s one of his strongest, most diverse releases to date!
It was back in 2015 when Crusty first appeared in the drum and bass release sphere with his tune The Only One on an early Rubricate Records release. Following this, he saw a long break, honing in on his craft and preparing himself for a proper return in 2021. His Come And Dance single on Propaganda011 released earlier this year provides a solid glimpse into his newly established sound – whomps galore, snappy progressive percussion lines and ragga vocal samples. We also commend any producer who samples Gordon Ramsay in a drum and bass track (check his Hells Kitchen release on Monk Audio).
Look out for: Two EPs that are currently in the works – “one for the liquid heads, the other one with all the ragga jungle vibes.”
Mew Zu’s style is one of subtle complexity. Ranging from stripped back, weighty minimal expeditions through to the more experimental explorations of 170bpm music, you never quite know what to expect in each new tune. His work rate has been increasingly consistent, and the progression is plentiful. The impressive string of releases this year on Germany’s Subplate Recordings shows the producer at his most settled to date, yet digging through his catalogue from the last couple of years is a sure fire way of unearthing some more hidden gems.
Look out for: Even more forthcoming material on his current musical home, Subplate Recordings.
Alongside long-time friend and collaborator Dopplershift, Real Feels is one half of the team behind one of South Africa’s most important drum and bass labels – Rubricate Records. The guy lives and breathes this music, and more recently this has led to releases on the likes of Skankandbass and Four Corners Music.
“For a little over seven years, I have been performing, putting on events, running venues and managing Rubricate with Dopplershift, and it has been nothing but exhilarating every step of the way. From touring around the country for three months playing shows to living in various cities with residencies. The highs have been nothing but a dream, but have also been accompanied by years of blood, sweat and tears. I’ve been hustling, sleeping on couches and putting every last cent into building a dream.”
Look out for: His second album to be released on his own imprint, plus a spot on an exciting compilation on a UK label (hush hush for now).
South Africa has long had a reliance on local DJs, and Magz AKA Captainmagda is one of the scene’s most prevalent and consistent of them in the drum and bass scene right now. Her love for the art of DJing results in nothing but uninhibited passion in her mixes, with regular sets at nights including the recent 18th birthday of Teknotribe, alongside SA’s iconic Science Frikshun drum and bass crew.
“There are too many people I could mention to you right now, and it makes for a very bright future within drum and bass in South Africa. The diversity we are beginning to see is fresh, and the parties are really starting to pop off. Bring the internationals!! We off that red list!!”
Look out for: More ’20 minute sounders’ mixes on her Soundcloud, plus you can catch her playing a huge Halloween party in Johannesburg CBD’s And Club and Carfax venues.