The Afro Digital Migration:
House Music in Post Apartheid South Africa
The Afro-Digital Migration Volume I
With the support of a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study grant, I visited South Africa, determined to understand The Afro Digital Migration: House Music in Post Apartheid South Africa. I wanted to explore how house music took root in South Africa and shaped its national identity. The impetus for this research was my belief that electronic music in the African Diaspora is an under-explored cultural product. As a DJ, I was driven by the clean production and seamless mixes I heard; as a dancer, I wanted to witness the intricate body movement inspired by house; and as a scholar, I wanted to figure out how, in the face of state-sanctioned surveillance and harassment, the music flourished. Most of the DJs, musicians and producers I connected with in Joburg, Cape Town, Newcastle and Durban, mentioned Frankie Knuckles as being their introduction to house music in the late 80s/early 90s. Clive Bean adds, “We were listening to this music at the height of [apartheid] resistance.” House music was a part of the soundtrack of social change and was the underground answer to the chains of restriction imposed by the Dutch/British minority who occupied South Africa through the system of apartheid. In fact, the Bronx, The South Side of Chicago and South Africa were all united by the stank of disenfranchisement and the electronic music inspired by the lived reality of people in all three places amplified the inequalities that connected black people around the world. The result of my study was a music compilation I produced using music from local and internationally known South African house music producers. Please listen to the Afro-Digital Migration: House Music in Post Apartheid South Africa Volume I and Volume II.
The Afro-Digital Migration Volume II
The SoundTracking Our Lives Tour South Africa
In 2013, I was nominated to receive support from the Astrae Lesbian Foundation Global Arts Fund and granted the resources to produce The Soundtracking Our Lives Tour (SOLT). SOLT simulated the migration pattern of house music from the United States to South Africa, launching in New York, traveling to Chicago and Detroit, and finally, concluding in Johannesburg. I spun alongside other women DJs, or participated in conferences related to the cultural significance of house music in each city. The purpose of the tour was to highlight and document the work of women who have played a role in the evolution of house music and its transmigration, and are currently active in its development. Additionally, it established historical memory, a rich archive of creative and networking resources, and artistic exposure for the women involved in the development of house music.
“It is music and dancing that make me at peace with the world.” --Nelson Mandela
I arrived in South Africa for the SoundTracking Our Lives Tour a few days after the passing of Nelson Mandela. I was honored to be asked by local South African producers and DJs to take part in an event celebrating his life work and achievements. Event flyer below.