It’s time to continue our look through the Boomtown District releases and as I’m going in reverse order, after the Town Centre stage is our ‘gold-plated gated community of pleasure and leisure facilities and a playground to the rich and famous of Boomtown’ otherwise known as Paradise Heights. Of course if you’ve never been to Boomtown this description of such luxurious surroundings at the festival might be misleading, hell even those who have been get a little confused, but it is of course sheer theatre and more of a statement on the grotesqueness of society’s greed and excesses than an actual 5 star fancy area (sorry for those who rather liked the sound of it). One thing that is definitely high class there though is the music (obvs).
Paradise Heights evolved from a previous district called Mayfair, where the main music served up was Electro Swing, or perhaps ‘Vintage Remix’ would have been a better description. Times have moved on but there’s still a healthy following at the festival for the sound so it’s very much still being represented in the Paradise Ballroom (mostly at the Swing & Tingz Vs Swing & Bass Takeover on Saturday night). There’s also plenty of Funk, Soul and Hip-hop in the district but what I really wanted to focus on here was a few of the artists playing on the Tropical Tea Party takeover, which takes place at the Paradise Ballroom on the Thursday night and Friday. There’s bands and DJs from all over the world, but here’s a special focus on 4 of the African artists playing, they’re coming from across the continent and cover a number of different sounds and styles.
I’ve always hesitated when it comes to bringing Afrobeats into Boomtown as it’s a largely commercial leaning sound where lyrics often tend to favour a machismo, materialistic outlook which doesn’t fully sit right in the context of what we’re about, but at the same time it’s genuinely refreshing to see West African music have such a big influence globally and there really is some quality Afrobeats music coming out that I can’t help but love. I know many people at the festival feel the same, so it feels like the perfect introduction to test the waters with a more conscious artist such as Stonebwoy, whose sound is heavily influenced by Reggae and Dancehall. In fact, he’s probably better known as a Reggae artist and last year’s ‘Epistles Of Mama’ album featured Kabaka Pyramid (who is playing on the Lion’s Den this year), Pressure Buss Pipe, Agent Sasco and I-Octane, as well as soca star Fay Ann Lyons, Nigerian singer Burna Boy and fellow Ghanaian chart toppers like Sarkodie and King Promise. He also had a single out with Sean Paul around the same time. He’s one of the most exciting artists from Ghana right now so I’d highly recommend catching him and if you’re feeling the Afrobeats then also check out UK artist Silvastone earlier in the day and on the same stage.
It was another of the acts on the Tropical Tea Party line up that schooled us on this Malawian singer and multi instrumentalist. The guys behind the incredible Beating Heart project, who this year are playing under their DJ and production alias Saronde (check their latest single complete with Jimpster remix here) are putting out an EP from him later this year and it’s utterly stunning.
For those who don’t know, Beating Heart have been getting a broad range of exciting electronic artists to remix 1950’s field recordings from across Africa. The likes of Rudimental and My Nu Leng to The Busy Twist and Clap! Clap! have all been involved and although the Faith Mussa EP steps away from their general modus operandi, it’s still a refreshing mix of traditional African sounds with a more club friendly approach to the production, which is so bloody good, not to mention uplifting, that it would be criminal if it didn’t reach a wider audience when it drops in July.
Last year one of my highlights was Gasper Nali in the Hidden Woods and just like his fellow countryman Faith will be operating as a one man band for the show. I’m looking forwards to hearing how he brings his songs to life that way, and although I’ve not yet seen it, I can guarantee you there will be plenty of smiling and dancing when he plays. So if that’s your vibe then 3pm on Friday afternoon (Paradise Ballroom) is a must for you.
As well as being the first artist on Beating Heart’s South African project, Muzi has been making a name for himself as one of South Africa’s most exciting young electronic producers. Now based in Berlin I believe, Muzi’s sound is an eclectic blend of club sounds, stretching across the globe and pulling in influences such as Grime, Kwaito, Techno and Trap. He has been working with an equally eclectic list of collaborators, from fellow South African experimentalist Okmalumkoolkat to Chris Martin, producing a collaboration between the Coldplay frontman and Sho Madjozi (which I’m pretty sure hasn’t been released yet), to the Super Furry Animals singer Gruff Rhys for whom he remixed ‘Bae Bae Bae’. The pair also feature together on the latest EP from Damon Albarn’s Africa Express project (alongside BCUC who I shall be covering when we get to Copper County). Muzi also showed Stormzy around South Africa for a short Noisey documentary, which you can watch here.
Gqom is another style of music that I love but have hesitated to cover at Boomtown. I originally thought it might be a little too niche and moody for a festival field, but I think we’re ready for it!
If you’re unfamiliar with Gqom, I highly recommend this BBC World Service documentary from Emily Dust who will also be playing on the Friday night. In fact I’m pretty sure she’s played some Gqom at Boomtown previously, but DJ Lag is the Godfather of the scene which comes from Durban in South Africa, but has managed to become a major influence across Africa and Europe. Even Major Lazer kicked off their ‘Afrobeats’ mix with a few Gqom tracks and included “Gqom Queen” Babes Wodumo on their Africa Is The Future EP.
Although Durban acts such as Rudeboyz and Distruction Boyz have started to take the music around the globe, DJ Lag is the number one ambassador, having recorded mixes for The Wire, Mixmag, Noisey, The Fader and even an Essential Mix which you can hear below.
Paradise Heights is also where you’ll catch me DJing this year. I’ll be going B2B with Count Bassy as part of the Tropical Tea Party takeover in Paradise Ballroom and also joining my Super Soca Show crew for an all night Soca session in Hotel Paradiso on Saturday.