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It’s October and so begins the annual countdown to December’s hottest tracks. In the running are Mafikizolo and definitely, definitely Uhuru. Then there is a collaboration between tribal house legends Revolution and those masters of drums and beats, Black Motion and featuring newcomer Yasirha on vocals. Therese Owen spoke to the five of them about their hot new track, Noqatiko.
The five were at Newtown’s Shikisha way before the photographer and I arrived. One of the Revolution twins came to greet me warmly. And even after knowing these house producers and DJs for more than 12 years, I still cannot differentiate between them.
“Ah, come, Therese, who is the one who always phones you?”
“Yeah, it’s me.”
His identical twin comes up with an equally warm smile and gives a wonderful, genuine hug. It’s always a pleasure being in the company of George and Joseph Mothiba. They are two of the sweetest, easiest-going professional artists. Their practical natures and love of music and life dictates that they find solutions, not problems.
After greeting Black Motion’s DJ Murder and Smol, I am introduced to the vocalist on the big collaboration track, Noqatiko.
She is a striking, sexy young woman from the Eastern Cape who goes by the name of Yasirha. She tells me she went to the UK in 2001 where she was signed to an indie dance label. She returned in 2010 and worked with Kalawa Jazmee and also did some acting. Two years ago Yasirha began working with Alexis Faku who introduced her to Revolution.
“I have always wanted to work with Revolution,” she says. “I was homesick in England a few years back and my brother sent me a Revolution CD. I guess when you call on something and want it so badly it happens. Revolution heard me doing a tribal song and decided to work with me. I was so nervous when I went into the studio. It was such a big opportunity to work with them, but they made me relax.”
“On this track I sing in the traditional, rural Xhosa style. Noqatiko is basically the name for someone who wants to start trouble. It is usually female because in Xhosa ‘no’ signals female. When they heard the final mix they knew it was going to be a hit and the first track from their new album, Evolution Deluxe. I just thought it was going to be a track somewhere on the album. Right now it is so nerve-racking. I have always wanted this and it is finally happening.”
Black Motion then tell their side of the story. For their third release they are doing a project called Legends, the Last Chapter which will be released in March. On the project they will be working with and paying tribute to South African musical legends who have influenced the two young producers. They decided to hook up with Revolution and gave them a track.
“We first heard Revolution when we were still at school. They were all over the place doing African beats.”
When Revolution heard the drum beat of the song they called up Yasirha and went to the studio.
“They didn’t tell us what they were doing and when we heard what they had done, they didn’t change it,” said Black Motion.
The resultant track, Noqatiko is a catchy, simple tribal house track that fuses chants, claps and deep African drums all led by the enchanting voice of Yasirha singing in Xhosa.
All five artists gathered for the interview are intensely proud of the track and believe it is going to be a big December hit.
“This song is going to help sustain us and just be that track that everyone wants,” say Black Motion.
The live drums on the album give it a depth that is sometimes lacking on other Afro-house tracks. Will they perform the track live?
“There has to be a point where we play it live,” confirm Black Motion.
“What we record in the studio has to be played live. It makes people understand our sound. A song wouldn’t be a song if we didn’t show people what we play live.”
After the photo shoot which sees the five of them taking direction well from the award-winning Star photographer, Antoine de Ras, Black Motion leave and I finally get to spend time with my darling Revolution twins.
They suggest we go in George’s car because he has a killer sound system and it is time to listen to the rest of their new album, which will be released next week.
The first track is a tribal mix of Lana Del Rey’s Young and Beautiful. They are both shocked that I am not familiar with the track.
They simultaneously swing around to me and say: “You don’t know this song? How?”
Joseph takes up the story: “We were in Amsterdam in transit to Canada and we heard this song. It was begging for a dance remix. We contacted EMI Publishing and they gave us permission.”
They also pay tribute to the late Iggy Smallz and TK with a tribute mix of their massive hit featuring Iggy and TK on vocals – How Do You Feel? Listening to the track played loudly, it is clear it has not dated at all, which is a mark to the Mothiba twins’ songwriting abilities.
Then there is a traditional track, Amandla, done by Unathi. It is one of the rare occasions when the radio and television presenter’s voice isn’t compressed to hell and back.
“Yeah, we think we brought out her best vocals,” grins George.
“On the track she is asking for strength and guidance.”
There is a fun interpretation of the George Gerswin classic, Summertime as well as a track sung in Jola called Jola. The twins say Jola is spoken by a mere 100 000 people in Senegal. They met up with the singer Ndeye through Arts Alive and recorded together.
Evolution Deluxe is one of their best releases and provides a platform to show their ability to diversify. It was Revolution who first started experimenting with African sounds in dance more than seven years ago. They acted on their vision, which was to travel Africa collecting African instruments and meeting artists to produce a unique and thoroughly Pan-African sound. This sound is now proving to be one of the most popular on the market with every big house producer creating songs in the same vein.
It doesn’t seem to bother Revolution that their sound is being imitated. They know it’s the nature of the musical beast.
George explains their philosophy in one sentence: “The secret of this album is not to sound like anyone else.”
Says Joseph: “The idea behind this album is to take you around the world from Lana Del Rey to Nigeria.”
They have done that and more. And remember, you read it here first: Noqatiko will be a big December hit.