Let them talk about Spoek Mathambo, because he has been places. But so have a lot of people.
What sets Spoek apart is the style in which he is doing it. A singer, rapper, producer and DJ he throws any empty stereotype out the window through his sheer refinement and impeccably dry wit – a combination that reflects an alluring enigma and reveals a quiet reserve that is indicative of his profound intelligence.
The first thing that comes up is his peculiar stage name, chosen purely due to “a lack of South African names”, and his origins which range from Soweto to Sandton. He is currently launching his latest, and first compilation, album and will be doing a tour that includes Durban on 8 December and Cape Town on 22 December. His third album, Future Sound of Mzansi, comes hot on the heels of his second album Father Creeper which was released in March this year. “In 1975 it would be normal to release two albums in one year and this [album] is more accessible, it’s my side of pop”. He defers from selecting a personal, stand-out track “I really hand-picked from a catalogue and it’s hard for me to pick a stand-out. Different people will enjoy my music.”
He stands out in this way, bridging gaps and crossing genres. He successfully pulls off the wide scope that he approaches and in asking him how he would categorise his music, particularly considering the fusion and the range, it is evident that he moves ahead knowing precisely what he is doing and what his aim is: “It’s lots of different things and the catalogue is getting bigger…on this particular album it’s more dance floor, dubstep, hip hop, house…the broadest would be club music”. His distinct sound has inspired the label of Afro-futurism and he expertly explains and combines the Africa and the future of the label: “My being a dude from Joburg is prominent in my music. I always strive to be progressive; even it is referential to old music, I’m still trying to push it forward.”
Where does a man with such a versatile sound derive his inspiration from? “So many, just so so many.” The broadness of this vague statement is turned entirely on it head with a long and eclectic list that includes Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Derrick May and of course SA artists such as house producer DJ Cleo. He has a positive enthusiasm for South African music “It’s awesome and it only gets better every day. There’s a long and proud history. I’m excited to hear new bands, it’s a healthy time…at the least, I can say it’s very fertile”.
In his approach to his work and in his manner of talking about it, he is a man both succinct and clear. Spoek and the music he purports are vital to the industry, because they are exactly what keep it fresh and growing; but what would he be doing if he weren’t doing music? “I wouldn’t be doing this interview”. Jokes aside, he thinks a while, not contemplating a life without music very easily. “I might have tried to be a writer”. There is most certainly a creative verve that pulsates through his life and is manifest in the different aspects of the industry he applies himself to; but he admits that “after high school I studied medicine. I tried to fight the creative impulse.” Luckily, this was an impulse he gave in to.
Spoek on Facebook: www.facebook.com/spoekmathambo