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Gridlock Grooves

by Dave Durbach / 02.03.2011

Rarely will a local compilation attempt to cover the full gambit of American genres favoured by aspiring South Africans of all backgrounds – from cutesy folk-pop and indie rock to downbeat electro, hip-hop and R&B. Here is one that does, with a surprising degree of success . . .

Local rapper and label owner Capsolys took the initiative and set up this ambitious new project, compiling Jam in the Traffic from music submitted by mostly unsigned artists. The Congolese-born son of a preacherman has two of his own tracks on the disc, as well as a bonus video shot in Maputo. The first of these, “Afrika”, offers some cool beats, but suffers due to Caps’ kak accent and lyrics. Try this on for size: “Like we say in Swahili – hakuna matata. I’m gonna take it easy, and do what I gotta… Like we say in Zulu – we’ve got ubuntu, so I’m gonna take a chill and stay true too”. Ah, so that’s what those Zulus are saying! Caps’ second offering, “How R things”, features South Africa’s skanky pop dance diva, Flash Republic’s Tamara Dey, before resorting to rapping in French. It may have once been his mother tongue in the land of ruthless dictators like Mobutu, Kabila and JR Onyangunga, but it’s also a tired cliche when it comes to second-rate hip-hop.

In the Afrikaans corner, Angelo Collins makes the circle beega with “Sokkie Dans” – a song with more than a tongue in Jack Parow’s cheek. SnS fly the pop-rock flag with their catchy, MK-friendly “Die Ruimteman”. On a folk tip, Hannah Wildflower takes a trip up Dawson’s Creek for the insipid “Open up” – pubescent folk for the girly girls, while Tresor’s “Mama Afrika” sees Blk Sonshine tag-team Maxwell on a deserted Jozi street corner.

The electronic fare on offer is the best of the lot. “Promenade” by Leo Large & Fritzz the Cat could’ve been put out on a Euro-lounge compilation 10 years ago, although this doesn’t make it bad. King B’s “Walking away” offers similarly smooth yet non-descript, downtempo Cafe del Mar style beats. Kibistone’s “Fly with me” sounds like dodgy Asian pop, or any other regurgitated American pop with funny accents. Speaking of Asian wannabes, better than that is baby-faced kids TV presenter turned rapper Master Lu’s contribution. “Daddy Love” is slick, synthesized, dancehall-flavoured R&B.

All in all, Jam in the Traffic is good for a few spins. When you’re stuck behind the wheel there are certainly worse things to listen to – like 5FM. The CDs are available quarterly from all Total garages. And if you think you can do better than the artists who made it onto this first edition, email music@bougerecords.com

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