Electro Hip Hop is Now a Universal Language
So, German cultural organization The Goethe Institute’s Nairobi office teamed up with Berlin-based musician/DJ duo Teichmann brothers to bring together a group of European electro producers with Kenyan emcees to create music. They’ve called the project BLNRB, a portmanteau composed of abbreviations for Berlin and Nairobi.
It sounds like some touristy neo-colonial nonsense that you wouldn’t want to listen to, and there’s been a lot of that already, so no one can blame you if you jump to that conclusion. But, before tuning out, consider two points: First, the only real way to judge if something like this is legit is to listen. Second, if there’s a right way to do this, BLNRB found it. In 2009, the European electro producers shacked up with the African vocalists and rappers and for a couple of months in a townhouse in Nairobi outfitted with two studios and went to work on some hardcore collaboration. That sounds like a premise for some extremely niche-interest reality TV — or, maybe, an opportunity for meaningful cultural exchange.
The Berlin contingent was the Teichmanns plus breakbeat duo Modeselektor and Berlin-based trio Jahcoozi, who are international to start, with members representing Germany, England/Sri Lanka and Israel — European doesn’t mean homogenous anymore. Kenya’s representatives included, but were far from limited to, Afro-futurists Just a Band, hip hop collective Ukoo Flani, and emcees Mister Abbas, Kimya, Lon’Jon, and Nazizi.
The product of this temporary living arrangement is an album of 18 wildly diverse and frequently banging electro hip hop tracks called Welcome to the Madhouse. (The title refers affectionately to their ad hoc residence.) It’s out now on Outhere Records, the label that released the superb South African house music compilation Ayobaness. A second product is a series of imaginative music videos by African directors/production houses like the Studio Ang creation for “Kitchwateli,” a track featuring Just a Band, Modeselektor, and a delegation from the Maasai Mbili Art Centre.
Watch the video and let your ears decide what it’s about:
Photo courtesy of Outhere Records