DJ Spoko: Artist You Should Know

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Possibly the only thing stranger than the politics of the music industry might be the politics of the music industry in the townships of South Africa. My friend Dean went to South Africa a few months ago in search of an artist and in turn came back with another artist and some pretty intense stories about life in the townships.

A number of years back, unknown South African producer DJ Mujava released a nearly ubiquitous club banger called “Township Funk” on Warp records. The track, exemplary of the “Kwaito” sound that was popular in the townships, was a crossover juggernaut landing a story in the New York Times and placement on The Rapture’s “Tapes” mix for !K7.

A substantial amount of time has elapsed since, and a follow up from Mujava has yet to surface, in no small part because Mujava’s secret weapon, the unsung hero of “Township Funk” was another producer altogether, DJ Spoko. Born Marvin Ramalepe, Spoko was a student of Nozinja (the originator of the Shangaan Electro style compiled by Honest Jons and who’s released a 12″ on Caribou’s Jiaolong label.)

Nozinja’s engineering tutelage has paid off in that using a truly makeshift collection of equipment ranging from cellphones to really crusty old PCs and 4-track cassette recorders, DJ Spoko has given birth to a new style of dance music in the townships called “Bacardi House.”

A bassier, chunkier sounding music than Kwaito, it’s essentially become the people’s music. You can now hear it pouring unto the streets out of cabs and off rooftop parties. It’s gotten to the point people come to dance parties hosted by Spoko just to hear (and buy CDs and cassettes) of his new music.

True Panther has smartly released his fantastic first stateside EP, “Ghost Town“, which features the chuggy stunner “Azange”.

This be that music that M.I.A. and Diplo aspired to but never touched. This is “third world music.” This is future music.