Shangaan Electro

18.06.11 Words by: Charlie Jones

With a story this good, failure is not an option. Shangaan Electro, a group from the Tsonga Shangaan people of South Africa, play their music through MIDI and drum machines, ramping up to ludicrous BPMs, and perform dances that look like a mix between pantomime and footwork. Steeped in the rich history of an ancient people, but based on the genius of digital musician Dog, each tone is so coloured that ramping up the BPM, even to 184, never sounds like an onslaught, more a headrush. Or more closely, a head-long rush through a world through the imagination of the dancers, dance leader and DJ.

DJ Spoko was the dance leader, dressed in a tribal robe over a light blue oxford shirt and a headband, declared first thing onstage “When things are slow, things are bad.” Joined on stage by the Tshetsha Boys dressed in orange jumpsuits, clown wigs and feathers on their sleeves, the songs – featuring the soulful, expressive vocals of Nozinja – were songs of pure love and colour, a joyful tenderness for accelerating heartbeats and a will to make life faster and more fun. At one point the Tshetsha Boys ran into the audience, danced with us, at another some Italian guys got so into it, they took their clothes off. Best show of the festival so far, that aside.

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