The Shangaan people don’t like violence. As a movement, they aim to look after one another through music. As the godfather of the polyphonic South African euphoria known as Shangaan Electro, the signing of Nozinja to Warp Records earlier this year was a genuinely exciting one. His music is a sound he has inherited, but while the torch may have been handed to him, there is no denying that Nozinja is the one making it glow. As we muscled through the crowd to get a glimpse of the Ganesh-like figure on his first string of EU dates, he looked tranquil and serene. Blasting his 180bpm hiccuping beats through the PA system as two unbelievably turbocharged dancers spiralled around their own waists and appeared almost boneless as they embodied the frenzied sensation of Shangaan Electro.
There was something charmingly thrown together about the whole show. Nozinja would spend a few seconds in between songs revving up the crowd before he and his dancers kicked the fever off all over again. Sprinting drum beats, squelchy vocal samples and Kwaito-style bass lines would hurtle forward without letting you pause for breath. For a sound so organic, there was a genuine sense of futurism about the live show. Just like the ultraviolet glow of the video for ‘Tsekeleke’, the supersonic blending of a homegrown ethos with a cutting edge vision is the blueprint for something genuinely hypnotic.
Nozinja plays for around an hour with a highlight being his debut release for Warp, the aforementioned ‘Tsekeleke’. For this, he leaves the comfort of his laptop and joins his spirited twosome for a masterclass in the dance stylings of the Limpopo region of South Africa. The female dancer manages to maintain a heroic energy level throughout before the show ends and she picks up her handbag from the side of stage and wanders off like a last-minute supply teacher. That is the Shangaan experience- extraordinary technicolor coming from monochrome mundanity.
Just as Chicago mourns the patriarch of it’s generation-defining street dance movement, Nozinja proves that the power of movement and the light it brings is far from fading. He steps down from stage donning all sorts of paraphernalia and vibrant headwear. He stops for photos with newly converted Shangaan followers and his eyes are wide. His smile his is mighty. His unique breed of Tsonga-disco mixed with electronic curiosity is making people move, and that’s all it ever aimed to do.
Words: Duncan Harrison