Scratchclart fuses Gqom and Grime on new EP, ‘Afrotek’

In Magazine, Reviews by Editor

Image courtesy Hyperdub

The sound of South Africa’s dance music underground is having a moment like never before. The township born forms of Gqom and Amapiano have infiltrated the landscape of European electronic music, with more and more producers turning to the rhythmic patterns and lurking, grime adjacent bass thumps in their own work. It’s fascinating that this ‘outsider’ music should find its most enthusiastic fosters in the countries largely responsible for the state of social turbulence and systemic inequality from which these forms arise. It’s difficult not to consider the possible lapse into appropriation, but many are finding connections between European forms such as grime and jungle that have developed from Afro diasporas and these styles from South Africa’s fluctuating underbelly. Scratchclart, or Scratcha DVA, is one such artist. The British DJ and producer cut his teeth with garage, jungle and grime but recently he has been increasingly informed by the sound of Gqom. His latest EP for Hyperdub, Afrotek, continues an evolving number of experiments with the motifs of Gqom and Amapiano, fusing these with his signature U.K styles. 

Download Afrotek here

Afrotek follows in a recent line of collaborative EPs on which Scratchclart has been developing this specific hybrid style. Notably on this EP, Scratchclart looks to Pietermaritzburg Gqom pioneer Mxshi Mo who appears on the title track. This in turn is probably the EP’s most distinct and triumphant moment, and a service to its namesake. It’s the most evolved Scratchclart’s adopted style has sounded, and a promising departure for Mxshi Mo. A skeletal mutation of Gqom’s signature sounds, the track carries a laser-sharp futuristic edge. The synths are icy and mercurial, and the percussion sparse and crunched out. With a bass throb pulled from the pages of grime and sci-fi synth stabs, it’s the most successful synthesis of South African dance with Scratchclart’s U.K instincts, and the result is a strikingly forward thinking iteration that makes a strong case for the future of Gqom’s euro hybridisations. 

The rest of the tracks on Afrotek are more faithful formulations of South African dance music. Scratchclart’s soul solo outing on the EP, Sleeper, is a simmering Amapiano cut that finds itself on the dustier side of the style. It’s dark and ethereal, with a bouncing modulated bass line and ominous crashes. Flex, the EP’s opener, layers Baltimore producer and vocalist :3LON’s vocals atop Sleeper’s lurking instrumental, adding the final ingredient that turns the track into a textbook Amapiano banger. Bless The Earth features a roster of collaborators, with vocalist Mez adding a distinct Afro-Caribbean cadence to the textured production of previously released track Banx Skanx on which Scratchclart shares duties with Scottie Dee and DJ Polo

Scratchclart’s more straightforward explorations into Gqom and Amapiano dominate Afrotek, and it’s understandable. Before innovation comes imitation, and it’s worth it with Afrotek (the track) now existing as the current placeholder to Scratchclart’s sonic journey. Connecting the dots between diasporic frustration and the African lived experience is an essential exercise in global decolonisation, and with his current arsenal of collaborations it seems Scratchclart is doing so by way of the most universal language we know; music. 

Listen to Afrotek with Mxshi Mo below

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