- Electrical and necessary

Melahuset Goes Off: Larm highlighted innovative artists from South Africa, Uganda, Ghana and Norway, in music forms such as skhanda-rap, gqom, global bass, afrobeats and amapiano. Next week, Mela will publish a short music film about the spontaneous meeting in Oslo during by: Larm-uka.


By Shiba Mazaza and Endre Dalen

(First published in Samora Forum no. 1/2020)


Afrobeats, the sound of Ghana and Nigeria, takes ownership of how Africa sounds, but it's just "them". We have our own expressions in South Africa. The fact that I can rap in six different languages - just in one song is completely crazy for many. This diversity makes South African artists very special and this must be communicated to other continents, says the entrepreneur, record company manager and one of South Africa's most popular rappers KO

During City: Noise Week, the streets of Oslo were filled with people who wanted to see new music. If one takes into account the ever-changing cultural diversity that has done Melahuset to such an Oslo cultural institution, there are few places where such a mixed audience can gather and meet, also under by: Larm. Melahuset has arranged one Off: Larm event two years earlier, to then become part of the official program last year, and this year the event was reincarnated as Mela Goes Off: Larm.

Norwegian and South African dialect rap

- Visiting Oslo was absolutely overwhelming, because there I got the opportunity to share my art and my history, as well as my heritage, with completely new people. Having the opportunity to stay in these new surroundings is an inspiration in itself, says Venda rapper King Lutendo, who presented his dialect-heavy rap on Melahuset stage, in addition to participating in a panel discussion the following day. King Lutendo was discovered by Apple Music and Platoon last year, and has since reached audiences across a wide geographical area, despite its local twist on hip hop.

For South Africans, the Venda culture is still not fully explored, and in Oslo, King Lutendo and KO were interviewed by Joddski and Don Martin on the radio program Superstars on NRK P13. The meeting with the Norwegian dialect rappers, on Bodøværing and østkant targets, respectively, emphasized the power and the need to document the performance of one's oral history. King Lutendo also met Haugenstua rapper Fela, DJ Soulbase and R&B singer Siri Black in the studio one of the days, to produce and record new music together.

Spontaneous encounter between hybrid cultures

The event was a particularly exciting meeting between like-minded people: What started as a loose conversation has become a very brave - and completely different way of arranging spontaneous events, for both Melahuset and the other parties involved.

After only a few months of planning, the effort could create ripple effects for artists from Ghana, South Africa, Uganda and Norway. The result was a two-day showcase with artists such as Nyege Nyege DJ and artist Catu Diosis, the founder of the record company SkhandaWorld KO, the venda rapper King Lutendo and the Johannesburg DJ Da Kruk. Fela, the DJ duo Iskald Sound who also had guest artists such as Baba Soul and Bafana Nhlapo on percussion, as well as Ghanaian-Norwegian King George, were the artists with local roots in the program.

In two conversations, some of the artists from the program met entrepreneurs and artists such as Kristian Riis and Dylan Berry. Here, artists and creatives could discuss how entrepreneurship sprouts and grows in Africa, while Akuvi, a new Norwegian shooting star in the cross between neo soul and afrobeats who have lived and made music in Cape Town, was part of a conversation about "the dynamic diaspora".

- I studied politics in South Africa and found my identity on, among other things, open-mic shows, and eventually produced an album, but when my visa in South Africa expired, I had to return to Norway. It was really scary. People are not as open to creativity in Norway, as in South Africa, or Ghana where part of me is also from.

Catu Diosis toured around Europe this winter, and was one of the DJs who got the most attention during the Nyege Nyege festival in Uganda last year, where she mixed gqom with afrobeats, house, and self-produced songs with occasional rap.

- Linking up with King Lutendo and also DJing for him was magical and an inspiration - it created an intimate connection between us. I digged to perform with him both on Melahuset and at the spontaneous after-party at the Khartoum Contemporary Art Center. I do not quite understand how I would otherwise have met a venda rapper from South Africa, much less how I could get the chance to work with one. I also met DJ Soulbase from Oslo who I had very good contact with. What appealed most to me was the unity that was built around the magical music. The new ties between the artists made Mela Goes Off: Noise electric and necessary, says Catu Diosis.

On mission from Melahuset curated Shonisani Lethole, Trond Tornes, Endre Dalen and Shiba Mazaza, Mela Goes Off: Larm 2020.

Photo: David Dundas

Published March 18, 2020