- Nozinja is the South African mobile phone repairman behind Shangaan electro, a dance genre he pioneered from his hometown Limpopo. We first heard the sound back in 2010, when Honest Jon's released a compilation of the same name, figuring the twitchy, uptempo music as a distant cousin to footwork. Nozinja was the scene's ringleader, producing most of the artists on that compilation. He's since become a popular name in his own right, making tracks for Caribou's label, collaborating with Tessela and signing a deal with Warp. Which brings us to Nozinja Lodge, his first proper album. If you're familiar with the Shangaan sound, then Nozinja Lodge won't necessarily surprise you. But in the five years between the Honest Jon's collection and this one, Nozinja has gotten savvier, offering improvements on the formula that do for Shangaan what DJ Rashad did for footwork on Double Cup.
Last year's "Tsekeleke," full of strange sound effects and breakneck synth runs, showed a more synthetic side of Shangaan, conjuring images of impossibly fast dances. On the rest of the LP Nozina goes from extreme to sultry, finding new space within the genre's loosely-written rules. The LP is even more diverse than the compilation that made way for it. He pushes Shangaan to the breaking point on "Baby Do U Feel Me" and "Vamaseve Vatswelani." The former is particularly delirious, laced with hardcore-sounding divas, while "Vamaseve Vatswelani" is a more forgiving take on a similar idea, with call-and-response vocals that make the slippery drum programming easier to latch onto.
Vocals are prominent on Nozinja Lodge, from the digital squawk of "Tsekeleke" to the beautiful love song "Nwa Baloyi," which opens the album with tender chants of "my baby/my sweetie" as the drums patter underneath. Nozinja brings in a number of Shangaan vocalists, which gives the album a lively and communal feel, adding new layers of emotional complexity. The tender singing on the closer "Jaha" renders it remarkably laid-back for 160 BPM. It's a good example of the variety here: Nozinja's sound palette is all over the map, from the calypso-informed swing on "Mitshetsho We Zindaba" to the sunny reggae bounce of "Nyamsoro." And on "Vomaseve Hina," he slows it right down to 120 BPM and loads up the house template with giddy drum fills.
It's tracks like "Vomaseve Hina" that make Nozinja Lodge more than just a Shangaan showcase. When Honest Jon's plucked the genre from regional obscurity in 2010, Shangaan felt endearingly rough, the kind of music traded between towns on homemade media. That was, no doubt, part of its allure, along with the otherworldly rhythms and odd electronic elements that made it an analogue to the then-rising footwork sound. But here Nozinja takes it in new directions, sometimes at new speeds, showing that the genre's appeal goes far beyond its origins and its rough-around-the-edges fidelity. Nozinja Lodge is joyous, colourful dance music from one of the electronic scene's most eccentric and promising personalities.
01. Nwa Baloyi
02. Mitshetsho We Zindaba
03. Baby Do U Feel Me 3
06. Vamaseve Vatswelani
08. N’wanga I Jesu
09. Vomaseve Hina
10. Wo Va Jaha