Merging sound, art and lived experience: The Afro-future electronica of Jakinda

Soundcloud is a strange space. Most days, you’ll spend hours scrolling down its cluttered tangerine timelines and come out with nothing more than a migraine. There are times though, that you’ll only be a few clicks into the soundscape before you stumble across an artist who completely changes the way you approach music. Jakinda is one of those artists.

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Jakinda Mshindi Boya is a 20-year-old, Cape Town-based conceptual artist originally from Johannesburg. His work, a harsh and simultaneously hypnotic blend of Afro-future electronic music, is as much a newly-forged musical identity as it is a merging of performance art and sonic alchemy. Take the track ‘OMG’, off his debut EP I Can’t Sleep for example. Cyclical, trance-like percussion opens up the track before shrill keys and a copious bassline enter the mix to transport the listener way, way beyond the spectrum.

Then there is ‘RUNNNN’ with its militant drum patterns and high, ululating vocal samples. Or even his recent remix of Babes Wodumo and Mampintsha’s ‘Wololo’ which strips the original track down to its bones in place of bare, tinny sounds hammering on relentlessly while a choir of discordant sounds filter in to form a cohesive sonic narrative. Jarring as it may be, Jakinda’s music won’t fail in pulling you into its hazy realm.

Having grown up wanting to go into visual art exclusively, it was the works of the fine artist, graffiti writer and sometimes-musician Jean-Michel Basquiat that opened his eyes up to further artistic avenues.

“In my entire life studying art at school, I never came across his work. He was one of the greatest artists of all time, but more importantly to me, he was black and he was never included in my curriculum. So Basquiat was super relatable for me,” explains Jakinda.  “Basquiat also said that he was jealous of Madonna because music is a much more accessible form of art than visual art, which I found very true and very relevant to Cape Town and how inaccessible fine art is.

“Art is and always has been exclusive and elitist and I try and break those boundaries down through sounds.”

Jakinda’s entrance into the world of music would begin in September 2015 when the artist started teaching himself how to DJ on a laptop. He would later pick up producing and mixing on CDJS through the help of a few friends and the rest, as it goes, is history.

To ask Jakinda to cite a few of his favourite artists and influences would result in a long list of names including the likes of Kanye West, Bon Iver, Christian Tiger School, Fever Trails, Aero Manyelo, DJ Lag, Rudeboyz, Ethiopian Records and Culoe De Song. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find Jakinda draws a lot of influence from gqom, house, Ethiopian electronica, and what he refers to as Cape Town electronic music.

The result then, is an artist who tip-toes along the distorted line through Western and African worlds, using music as both an artistic outlet and a tool for further interrogation, learning and of course, unlearning.  

“My whole persona as an artist is to express this mix or clash between Europe and Africa,” says Jakinda. “It’s comparable to how as a black artist I express myself and my ‘African story’ through a European language, because I mainly speak English and that’s a result of colonisation, assimilation and so on. So my music reflects this complexity. I want to make electronic music, but to me, it doesn’t really sound authentic or true to my self-expression without the hard-hitting African drum patterns I love to dance to.”

It’s an exciting time for electronic music in South Africa, and we have new artists like Jakinda to thank for it. Artists whose work is politically weighted, filled to the brim with passion and thought, bursting at the seams with innovation and subsequently spread across a variety of mediums.  

“I want my music to be futuristic and experimental but I also want people to be able to dance to it. I want to be able to play electronic music in the township without being called a coconut; I want to show people that electronic music isn’t ‘white music’,” concludes Jakinda. “My music is hugely influenced by politics and the power dynamics that form our society and ultimately form us as individuals i.e. socialisation. So my experiences as a black person in Cape Town, the exploitation of my parents by the capitalist system, my education, the various movements around decolonisation and afro-centricity as well as Afro-Futurism. That’s where I got the idea to label my music as Afro-future electronica.”

Find more by Jakinda on his Soundcloud

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