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A Black Cowboy Riding a Dolphin

by Lindokuhle Nkosi / Images by Matthew Pappas / 25.04.2012

Since late last year, a mysterious unknown artist “of African descent” has been slowly edging his way into our musical consciousness. For months now, all we had was a song, a distorted image and a name – Alekesam. In March this year, an EP was released featuring a Spoek Mathambo remix of the single “It’s not you, It’s here”. The song is loop heavy. Dripping in waxy liquid tones laid over each other layer by thick layer. It’s an R’n B reimagining. An electro happy take on music’s new obsession with emo, on acid. Throughout the initial hype, Alekesam’s people were tight-lipped. Refusing to reveal the artist’s identity.

Two weeks later, a short film named Alekesam debuted at the Tribeca film festival. It’s not an entirely original plot. An estranged father tries to reconnect with his long-lost son. Except the father is no ordinary man. This is South Africa’s own musical demi-god, Bra Hugh Masekela; and the son – E News “reporter” and ESPN Sportscaster Selema “Sal” Masekela. The movie interrogates Sal’s feelings of abandonment, and the race and daddy-issues that emerged when his exiled father decided to pack his bags and return to his “real” home back in South Africa. The short has received critism only for it’s length. Leaving many feeling that the 34 minutes dedicated to the story cannot sufficiently span a 30 year journey, and still do it justice. Some felt that the film took what could’ve been a genuine documentary and turned into a half-hour album promo.

And with that, the Alekesam mystery has been solved. But in retrospect, the signs were glaringly obvious. Alekesam is simply Masekela backwards, and he has indeed been hinting at this from the very beginning, stylistically reversing the appearance of some of the letters in his name. Undoubtedly, Alekesam, or Sal, has a lot to live up to. The EP is a synth-dependant and bass-light, much like the movie. It spells out the emotions for you instead of allowing you to figure it out for yourself. Time will tell if this will be another case of spawn riding on the coattails of more talented parentage, or if Alekesam is actually an artist to look out for.

Until then he is as he describes himself on his blog, “a black cowboy riding a dolphin, shoveling sunshine!”

Grab the EP here.

Learn more about the film here.

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