Native Soul - Teenage Dreams (CD)
The South African electronic music scene was only able to find its stride from the mid-90s onwards. As Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners famously walked their first steps as free citizens in the first half of the decade, cultural boycotts of South African art were lifted by many countries. Almost simultaneously, music from other countries became more easily accessible locally. This not only meant that electronic music could be imported into the country, but also that global trends would influence the South African music scene, helping to birth Kwaito music and launch the careers of producers and DJs who are now luminaries.
In South African slang, “born free” denotes someone who, born after the onset of democracy, did not experience apartheid even as a child; “ma 2000” is a term used for young people who were born after the year 2000. Both of these terms are often used patronisingly, with connotations of flimsy immaturity associated with them. Ironically, in the layperson’s view the socio-economic adversity of apartheid is still valued above only having experienced democracy.
In common parlance, the two producers who make up Native Soul would be considered “ma2000”, by virtue of their age. Kgothatso Tshabalala is 19 years old and Zakhele Mhlanga (DJ Zakes) is 20. Their debut electronic music album, Teenage Dreams, is not easily dismissed as a project that shows their age, though. Far from it. Teenage Dreams presents a youthful, experimental sound, but the arrangement of each song and how each of the project’s composite parts are put together demonstrate an artistic maturity beyond the two producers’ respective ages.
A cousin of Tshabalala introduced the two in 2016. Native Soul was formed in 2019. Until then, each of them had been producing music in a variety of styles including hip-hop, different types of house as well as amapiano. They decided that with Native Soul, their focus would be on amapiano—an electronic music movement which, by then, had begun to dominate both mainstream and underground music scenes in South Africa. (Text by label.)