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Art Mixtape! South Africa’s Spoek Mathambo Sounds Off

Art Mixtape is back with more art and music marriage magic. Today's installation is courtesy of uber-talented South African multihyphenate Spoek Mathambo. A musician, artist, producer, DJ, filmmaker, and all-around inimitable iconoclast, Mathambo also coined the terms Guzu (based on Zulu guitar music) and Township Tech (electronic club music), to describe the two styles of music he producers.

This Art Mixtape is served with a twist—Mathambo chose to mix it up and share his thoughts on his pairings, giving some fascinating context for his music + art matchmaking. Get a taste below, then head over to our blog for the main course.

P.S. Want framed art delivered for Father’s Day? Your last chance to order in time for guaranteed arrival is this Monday, 5/29/17.

1. I Found U (feat. Kajama & Fantasma) by Spoek Mathambo // September Shade by Leah Giberson

I paired this song with the print, because I think September Shade perfectly encapsulates a question that the song title I Found U skirts around...who is "I" and who is "U". I wrote the song with my friends Kajama as a kind of "self love" anthem so that the "I" and "U" is one in the same. The two empty chairs in the print look like my perfect chill out summer time date in the sunshine between my brain and my soul...banging beats and a couple of cold ones. I Found You.


2. Khomo Tsaka Deile Kae by Marumo // Typical Cows, a 20x200 Vintage Edition

I picked a cattle related artwork to pair with this rare South African classic. This Marumo track is 80s South African fusion at its best, a pastoral tale of a herder boy who loses his father's cattle, set to epic funk rock. I love how the lyrics are so set in a rural mentality with a terrified boy expressing his stress at losing his father's cows, pleading with his father for forgiveness, begging for understanding and vowing to looking for the cows as soon as day breaks.


3. Mooki by Aero Manyelo // Primates by Brendan Wenzel

This is a new release from Aero Manyelo, and no matter where I hear the song, I get the vivid hallucination of being in a jungle/forrest with millions of species of bugs, birds, lizards and PRIMATES...all swinging to the beat.


4. California Goths by Wavves // Praia Piquinia 14/08/12 14h00 by Christian Chaize

The beach is always idealized as the ultimate place to be...and much surf rock further idealizes it with allusions to sun, surf, babes and brew...these prints are quite sad to me, as is the song California Goths. It makes the beach somewhere I don't want to be...or rather a place I don't want to die at. There is a weird tension in the optimistic lyric "When I dieeeeeee...When I diiiiiiie....The sun will always shine". Yes, a shining sun is a good dying a good thing? I'm not so sure it's a bad thing anymore.


5. Chancha Via Circuito feat. Lido Pimienta by Jardines // Dandelion Clothesline, Santiago, Chile by William Lamson

What an odd and beautiful photograph. Your mind animates the photo in the wind and cuts the dandelion to shreds...carried away. Lido Pimienta paints the image of an odd and beautiful garden in her song, growing vines twist and blowing the wind of gentle cumbia. Tranquil!


6. The Mountain ft. Pegasus Warning, Dj Spoko & Dj Mujava by Spoek Mathambo // Ablution, from The Barking Wall by Brendan George Ko

The print gives me a great sense of relief, not like taking a pee after holding it for hours, but rather the first breath of air after you've been underwater for a minute and a 15 seconds. The song, 'The Mountain' for me has become about the insurmountable strain of growing up. Growing up and growing old, falling down and getting up, cutting your hands clutching upwards...and sometimes realizing the bottom can be the most comfortable and beautiful place.


7. Sefty Belt by Fantasma // Mountaineer in an Ice Cave of Paradise Glacier, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, 1925 , a 20x200 Vintage Edition

Another song which for me encapsulates growing pains really well. The print screams isolation and even though it's an ice cave it feels like the man is frozen in time under a wave that is going to crash. When will it fall?


8. Gira by Batuk // Roots of War in Popular Song (forest of no return) by David Byrne

This piece/print is the most topical/urgent of my selections with regards to content or subject matter...It speaks of war and it's more of a diagram/graph than an illustration, it speaks to the heart through the brain. Our song Gira, is an anti-war protest song, calling for the old men who always start these conflicts to stop being so greedy and give the youth a chance to actualize their greatness.


9. Taste the Floor by Jesus and Mary Chain // Apart Typewriter by Todd McLellan

A golden oldie soaked in fuzz and distortion, to me the song is perfect chaos, as are Todd McLellan's prints. Noisey and ordered.


10. Libalela by BLACSWET // Powerpuff Girls by Amy Stein

A song of devotion paired with a print that is so sweet and tender to me. I have known unconditional sibling love as well as bitter sibling rivalry and must say that I prefer the former. This song is for your to sing to your best friend, sibling, lover, parent...someone who you only wish the best for. Pray for them. <3

The 411 on Spoek Mathambo
 Spoek Mathambo (born Nthato Mokgata 14 May 1985 in Johannesburg, South Africa) is a South African artist, producer, DJ, film maker, songwriter defined by his fusion of musical influences and his coining the terms Guzu (based on Zulu guitar music) and Township Tech (electronic club music) to describe two styles of music he produces.

With two solo albums under his belt (not to mention his collaborative projects Fantasma and Batuk), and a documentary on South African electronic music, Spoek Mathambo is a true music activist, showcasing and stretching the limits of electronic music and hip hop. On his new album Mzansi Beat Code, he pushes it one step further, abandoning vocals to focus on production, creating a sophisticated yet densely woven landscape which mixes various South African house schools (Bacardi, iGqomu, Sghubu), Classical House, Techno, Rap and folk music Kwazulu Maskandi. Armed with a Roland sampler and his laptop, Spoek heightens offbeat rhythms to build sound collages where percussion, bouncing guitars, and a bewildering array of samples (excerpts from phone conversations, radio interviews, speeches, sketches, old TV shows etc) intersect. “The album interludes and skits play with ideas of media. I record a lot of sounds with my dictaphone, steal clips from YouTube ... Everything clashes to express things that are so specific and local yet global...nostalgic yet right now, or at least yesterday”.

Responsible for spearheading a wave of South African electronica in 2006, Spoek Mathambo is part of the legacy of all those South African artists who have constantly invented and innovated in often precarious conditions. "I play music for future generations. One day it will be my turn to be an ancestor. The important thing is that this legacy remains alive."