Somewhere on this Earth, there is an artist based in Pietermaritzburg who produces unique music. This is what tells us Somewhere on Earth, the latest EP from Mxshi Mo, who delivered three tracks of mutant Gqom for Radio Chiguiro. The French label gives a sequel to this EP by gathering six talented remixers to reinterpret these dark tunes. In their own style, the artists offer Gqom, Techno, Midtempo, and Experimental versions, sublimating the mystical atmospheres of the South African producer. For the occasion, Couvre x Chefs premieres the remix of AIIOM – half of the duo DéeRR – and invites you to listen while discovering the universe of Mxshi Mo through this exclusive interview.
It’s very hard to describe your music, there is a bit of Gqom for sure, but also other elements that are kind of hard to identify. What are your main influences and how would you define your music?
My influences are House Music, and when I say House Music, I mean everything from Techno, Deep-House, Afro-Tech, and Deep-Tech. Then, there are also some elements of EDM, Future Bass, Dubstep… It’s a hybrid of those genres, with South-African elements such as Gqom, and Kwaito. It’s definitely a fusion of that, but obviously, there are other influences that I pick up along the way, like Jazz, to create some tension. The reason why I am highlighting EDM is that it’s the way I am structuring all my songs: intro, breakdown, build-up, etc.
You worked with Scratcha DVA and Obeka, so it looks like there is something in common with UK bass music. Why does it work so well according to you?
Actually, there are a lot of similarities with the UK genres. I think it’s because of the cultural diversity they have, the same way as South Africa. This is something we have in common. Also, when I listen to Kwaito now, it shares a lot of elements with artists such as PM Dawn or Robin S. The bassline and the way it is structured, has the early UK house thing. Most of our kwaito was influenced by the 90s UK sound, that’s what producers were listening to at that time! That’s what I noticed as well, wondering why South African and UK artists are working so easily together.
You released some EPson the British label More Time Records, and more recently with the French label Radio Chiguiro. Why don’t you work more with South-African artists or labels?
I live in a small town, there is not much going on. The only thing I can do is to work with artists via the Internet. In Joburg, they have the established movement and the music industry, already grandfathered in, years ago. In Pietermaritzburg, there is nothing much, there is no scene. Also, the Gqom guys are very secretive with their techniques. I don’t have any contact, and they are like 30 minutes away from me! It’s crazy. I had to find another way, and I was sure there was one. And also, mobility-wise, it’s not like I can go out at night, mingle and speak to them face-to-face, because of my disability. Due to my retinal pigmentation syndrome, I don’t go out, I have to stay inside to watch a movie, do some work, or read a book, that’s my routine. I actually collaborated with three South-African artists but it was actually through Scratcha DVA and More Time! They are 1 hour away from me but it had to go through the UK, you understand!
Do you think your music is misunderstood in your country?
Yes, 100%. It happened a lot that, if I got a response from one of these guys, they’d say they didn’t understand my style and they’d ask me to do something else. They want to do something that works for them. I am always trying to push the envelope. The artists I listened to, like Bonobo or Eskmo, pushed the envelope, they didn’t care! So, why should I?
Have you ever thought about moving to Durban or Joburg?
With what I’ve been able to achieve, I am happy to be where I am. Now I know that I don’t have to be physically there in Durban. I can work for example with Radio Chiguiro in France, being in my city and still being effective. I feel like going to Durban now would be a waste of time, unless there is something proper and legit for me to go to work.
Your first EP on More Time Records is called 3201, which is a tribute to your hometown. What’s special about your city, do you have a particular story?
What I have noticed is that, when it comes to art, there are a lot of artists from Pietermaritzburg who made it globally and relocated. There are a lot of things I picked up from being isolated from the music industry and the nightlife. I wouldn’t have achieved it anywhere else except here. I am just embracing the void and the loneliness! Here I can hear my thoughts, it wouldn’t happen in a big city.
Is there a temptation to do Amapiano, being in South Africa?
I have always been upstream. When I do make Amapiano, there is always my spin, like in the collaboration I made with Thai Chi Rosè. There are elements of melodic House because I am listening to a lot of stuff from Germany, like Ben Böhmer. But I will never make a pure Amapiano song.
Your last EP is called Somewhere on Earth, released on Radio Chiguiro. Is it like a soundtrack of an imaginary place?
Somewhere on Earth, there’s me, and this is what I do! The titles of the tracks are actually a reference to my environment. For example, in “Jungle Fever”, there is a lot of forest and green around my neighborhood. Also, when it comes to African mythology like voodoo and magical witchcraft, the forest plays a huge part. It’s like a portal to another dimension. In my mind, it’s happening between space and Earth at the same time. It’s influenced by the spiritual aspects of my culture, as well as technology. “Mount Nowhere” is because there are a lot of hills surrounding me. I live in a province called KwaZulu-Natal, it’s countryside, there are some hills and mountains that you don’t know the name of. When you are at the top of it looking at the landscape, it gives you that sort of tranquility.
There are six remixers on this EP. What do you think about the result?
I think they nailed it! My influences come from where they’re from, and I believe that their influences come from where I’m from. There is a meeting point! Also, it created some connections. I already did a remix for AIIOM, and we are now aiming to do a 4 tracks EP. The concept is very visual, I am very excited about that.
Brodinski is kind of big also, did you know him before this EP?
Actually, when the label told me that Brodinski was on the lineup, I was sure I knew this name. I remembered downloading a project from a rapper in Atlanta, produced by him. Then I read some interviews at that time, but I never thought I could work with him one day! We are still in touch, we may do something together.
Somewhere on Earth Remixes featuring Brodinski, La Dame, BJF, AIIOM, R3ign Drops, and Epock will be out on June 30th via Radio Chiguiro, pre-order on Bandcamp, or on the player just below.