Connecting Cultures Through Rhythm: An Interview with Batuk

Batuk aims to unify seemingly disparate cultures through their music, utilising rhythmic sound as a universal language. The newly fomed collective is the coming together of four phenomenally talented individuals: producer and DJ Aero Manyelo; theatre director, actress and performance artist Carla Fonseca; singer, producer and fashion designer Nandi Ndlovu; and song writer, producer, DJ and filmmaker Spoek Mathambo. Currently in Mozambique working on their debut album, Batuk are heading to Jozi this weekend for their very first live performance as part of the African Futures closing party – we’ve no doubt it’s going to be something special. We chatted to Batuk ahead of that to find out more.

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Before Batuk came to be, had the four of you worked together previously? What sparked your union?

We are all great artists in our own right, and when we connected, it made sense to collaborate and share our talents to create something new. Aero and Spoek worked together previously, and Spoek and Nandi, but we’ve all gotten to know each other and the collaboration is natural and always growing.

What’s the story behind your name?

It’s a name for a drum, rhythm and drum culture is central to our collaboration. The idea is basically to unify seemingly disparate cultures through shared rhythm culture.

You’re currently in Mozambique preparing your album. What has the experience been like so far?

The experience has been magical, meeting a lot of great artists of different ages, and we’ve had the fortune to collaborate and share with some people.

What do you want people to get out of your debut album? Are there any central themes or topics you’ve explored?

We have very diverse topics on the album, from personal stories of love and loss, to turnt up party anthems and charged questions of civil war and the tragedy of murdering albino children.

Two weeks ago you dropped your first release, ‘Daniel’. Tell us about your musical influences and how these have been shaping your sound?

We all bring our different influences to the table…our focus right now is electronic music with a strong African flavour, with Latin and soul elements.

How would you describe your music to someone who had never heard it before?

Imagine the best party you’ve ever been to…that moment when you’re dancing with your eyes closed and nothing else matters.

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How do you approach the music-making process? Have you been experimenting with any interesting techniques and instruments?

We are always experimenting and collaborating with different musicians and there are no rules…so yeah, we’re full of interesting techniques…we recorded a corrugated iron roof as percussion yesterday.

The term “creative collective” alludes to possibilities outside of music. What sorts of things can we expect from Batuk going forward?

Pantomine!!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Our album is gonna be mind blowing. Stay tuned!!!

Catch Batuk live at the Alexander Theatre on Saturday, 31 October. For more, follow them on Facebook, Soundcloud, Twitter and Instagram.

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Photographs of Batuk by Tao Farren-Hefer.

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