Having been on the South African electronic music scene for less than a year now…
Having been on the South African electronic music scene for less than a year now, Maramza has express-queued his way from our periphery to the centre of our vision with his convergent mix of dub-breaks, trap, juke and lush afro-future bass. Sure, the name ‘Maramza’ may have found itself under the spotlight quicker than most due to it being the newest moniker of Red Bull Studios head honcho, Richard Rumney (also Richard the Third). But by extension the music speaks for itself. In the quickened pace of today’s internet music culture, it seems as if one project/moniker isn’t enough, especially in the realm of DJs and producers. Considering the speed at which songs are being produced and the endless stream of new sounds emerging around the world, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to develop and maintain a singular, consistent sound without wanting to experiment or progress. Of course, if you are going to juggle acts the transition needs to be a smart one.
Having evolved from the likes of house and kwaito, afro-future bass is a mould based on cyclical and mobile afro-centric bass styles. It is yet another example of the afro-centric aesthetic filtering its way into popular culture – which has been apparent in both fashion and music for a few years now. However, this is currently only obvious at the fringe of society in more alternative and progressive subcultures. The aesthetic therefore supplies its context with an almost automatic sense of its being progressive without feeling exploitative – perhaps owing to its limited popularity. It thus maintains an authentic sense of integrity. Naturally, this only applies if an artist’s skill results in an execution that is sincere and earnest, rather than coming off as appropriation. For this reason in particular, Rumney’s addition of Maramza is both smart and appropriate.
Besides a less than impressive track on *gravy002, Maramza has delivered time and time again with singles and collaborations leading up to this, his debut EP. The two most notable works are his collaboration with Moonchild, ‘Inkwekwezi’, and his contribution to the recent naasMUSIC P.S.Bar compilation in the form of ‘Crazy Bout U (U Do Me Wrong)’. Both exhibit an exquisite ear for the right production processes and necessities required to result in tracks that are both progressive and aesthetically pleasing, whilst remaining sincere. Hungry Ingcuka (Ingcuka translation: Wolf), released through Cape Town bass music label Bombaada, is no exception to this.
The themes of power-hunger, greed and excess are wild at play throughout the EP, telling a scaled-down story not unlike that of the more grandiose Wolf of Wall Street. The opening track, ‘Sekwa Sithi’, features Cape Town’s most prominent kwaito duo, Ruffest. It provides the setting of a driven and power hungry youth culture. Although many will be ill-equipped to understand Ruffest’s lyrics, the ambitious tone, driving synths and larger-than-life kwaito vigour are universal in nature. ‘!Wan!Tall’ opens with the repetitive pitched-down vocal sample, “I want it all…money, fast cars, diamond rings”, which is interspersed throughout the track. The use of the sample and corresponding synth build-ups successfully connotes the haunting realisation one might have after falling into the trap of success where nothing is ever enough.
‘Boom Like’ is calm with more wavy, euphoric synths representing a point where the illusion of having evaded greed and excess allows you to live in a perfect world of luxurious complacency. ‘Drugz’, concludes the EP in an ambiguous mood. It’s by far the most danceable track with numerous dives into an infectious double-time kwaito groove. The synth use between these dives is quite eerie in tone and is accompanied by the repeated vocal samples, “drugs, drugs…the wrong cut” and “have a n***a OD ‘cause it’s never enough”. The combination lends itself to representing the obliteration of the previously installed illusion, resulting in greed and excess as forever successful in consuming their victims, whether it’s through a literal interpretation of drugs or the extended figurative one of wealth.
Metaphorical interpretations aside, the production on the EP is of the highest quality and while the afro-future bass aesthetic still appeals to a fairly niche audience, its rich and progressive nature seems unavoidable. Maramza has tapped into a sound with an abundance of musical as well as social potential. Its capacity for cross-culture collaborations is provided with a convenient, but necessary angle of accessibility.