Mugogo!: electronic music from the coast of Kenya
When Swiss beatmaker FlexFab was doing a set in the coastal town of Kilifi, Kenya, a young Kenyan rapper Ziller Bas grabbed the mike and delivered his "Swengflow". The chemistry was immediate and six months later the two artists are set to release their debut EP Mugogo! A dancefloor must.
Pablo Fernandez, who's been working under the moniker FlexFab for a decade or so, likes to work outside his comfort zone. He's lent his beatmaking skills to Kenya's Muthoni Drummer Queen, Batuk from South Africa, rapper Rozzma from Egypt, Malaysian singer The Venopian Solitude...
In August 2019, a Swiss music non-profit, Flee, invited him to East Africa for a series of exchanges with local musicians. During a gig in Kilifi, some 70kms north of Mombasa, Baraka Shujaa, an MC going under the name Ziller Bas couldn't resist joining in.
"The beats were so good, I was so excited I had to jump in," the 25-year old rapper said on the line from Kilifi.
"This freestyle session with Ziller Bas was magic, the kind of moment that only happens a few times in your life," FlexFab said. He found a way to return to Kilifi in January this year with a mobile studio. In just two weeks they recorded 14 tracks, a documentary about their story and three videos.
Their EP Mugogo part 1 has four tracks for hot club nights.
Ziller Bas lays down his vocals in his very own Swengflow: a mix of Swahili, English and his native Giriama.
The title track Mugogo has a hypnotic beat, with traditional percussion from shakers known locally as kayamba which Flexfab recorded live when doing the final mix.
"I didn't sample music, all the songs are original," he said. "There's some synthesizer, a lot of electronic things but a big part of the job I did at the end of the project was to add some live percussion."
"Mugogo means great, like the king, someone magical, noble, with dignity," Ziller Bas explained. "It's derived from a leader here in Mijikenda called Karissa Maita."
Maita was a former tourism minister and an MP from Mombasa's kisauni area known affectionately as "Mugogo, wa pwani": Mijikenda for "Big Man of the Coast". He was a popular politician who defended the interests of coastal peoples, encouraging them to speak out about the politics of exclusion.
The track Sawa Sawa means OK in Swahili: an upbeat, positive song "about feeling good," Ziller Bas said.
Vituko meanwhile is "very poetic and more political. It talks about challenges in the hood, in the ghetto here, how people live. It's giving people hope, talking about difficulties and telling them they shouldn't give up."
Due to the coronavirus the duo are releasing this first EP with four rather than the initial seven tracks and Mugogo part 2 should be out in the Autumn.
"When the crisis is over I hope Ziller Bas can come to Europe to do festivals with me and spread the project live. It has to be live, to be enjoyed with the people."
Mugogo part 1 is out on 12 June. Purchase it here.
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