The house music scene in South Africa recently found itself thrust into the limelight after Resident Advisor did a big feature on it and, as many readers of the piece and fans of SA’s house masters will know, the scene there has been thriving for quite some time now. One of the key artists to have sprung up from South Africa’s house scene is a man whose soulful, tribal rhythms have permeated into the lives of many, many house lovers around the world. Culoe De Song is his name, and MEOKO felt blessed to be able to ask him some questions recently…
Can you tell me firstly when music first filtered into your life?
Music has always been a big part of my life, right from the beginning.
What’s your earliest memory of music?
In the early 90s I was always singing to myself and out loud…you know, all the big songs!
At what stage did you start to gravitate towards making music yourself?
I was 16 when I started learning how to play vinyl and began making music for the first time.
Who/what inspired you to start trying to make your own music?
Well there were so many musical inspirations, both internationally and locally here in SA. More importantly, I really feel like I was destined to do this… my name actually means Culolethu “Our Song”
How did you get started? What instruments or software did you use?
I used FL Studio. I can’t remember the version, but that was my first contact with making music and mastering the idea behind the art.
When did electronic music and house enter your life?
It first entered my life through all of the house music compilations in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. I was exposed to all of the cassettes and pirated CDs of the countries biggest DJs. I used to love recording the mixes from the late night radio shows that played a lot of tribal house.
Who were the first house artists you listened to during this period?
Soha, Masters At Work, Osunlade, DJ Gregory, Ame – the list is endless!
What was the house scene like in South Africa at that time?
It was well known I guess, but very much favoured by the youth and the ‘cool’ adults. It’s still pretty much the same thing today, but there’s more young beat makers emerging all the time.
Have politics in SA ever had much of an effect on the club scene?
I guess people would generally party within their circles or cultures. A bit more natural than political, but either way that’s what I’ve seen.
Who were your local heroes and inspirations? Where did you go to hear house music?
I’d hear house music everywhere. Radio & taxis that would drive on with loud sound systems. Pioneers like Oskido, Bop, DJs at Work, DJ fresh had big albums that had music that I really respected.
Nowadays the South African scene has had the light shone on it with people like yourself and Black Coffee et al gaining international recognition. What effect has that had on you, and the scene in general?
It’s been awesome. The scene is buzzing and a lot more young blood is influenced by music to a point of activity. Travelling the world has opened me up and inspired me to explore my talents in music making and DJing. The art is infinite.
Do you feel a certain responsibility for the scene and its growth/development? Do you work with any up and coming artists?
It’s important for me to tell other young artists about my journey and share a bit of how I do things. Knowing the circumstances of what I do and the discipline it requires, they then have a choice to pursue or not. That’s development…you watch, listen and decide.
With regard to that, who’s exciting you from SA’s younger generation at the moment?
I love a lot of music I’ve been hearing from our shores but I’m very much enlightened by the drive & willingness of the duo “black motion”. We need more young people to have a good attitude towards the craft. Also emerging producer “Da Capo”, I love the solo energy from him & he will attract more. I wish them all the best.
What about the rest of Africa (big place I know!) – what are the other hotspots, if any, for house music?
I’ve played in Botswana, Swaziland, and Lesotho & Mozambique. Great vibes there! But I hear Angola is also booming right now!
Thinking back to the beginning, how does it feel to have come so far?
I feel bold; I’ve got so much to do. The more you grow, the more you realise the infinite journey. But I feel great anyway. God has blessed me, I’m grateful.
There’s a real strong tribal and soulful element to your music, where does this come from?
I’m Zulu by culture. There’s a certain rhythm that comes with that.
Have you ever attempted to make ‘minimal’ or less emotional styles of music?
Yes. I’ve made different kinds of music; it has added more value to what I’ve done before. People have a choice with my music. Even though real fans will always feel my natural element regardless of style.
What’s next for you? Any big projects on the go?
Right now in South Africa I’m working on “exodus” my third studio album. I’ve just released “Stig Boardersman” with Innervisions and I’m working on other remixes but mainly surrounding my album.
Where do you see the SA scene going? It seems to be really holding its own right now.
Time will tell. But, I feel greatness.
words by Marcus Barnes