Richard Mthetwa, who writes and performs under the moniker Nozinja, is an electronic music producer and artist from the Limpopo province of South Africa, and the forefather of a sound that effortlessly meshes the traditional songs and sounds of the Shanagan people, the frenetic, rapid fire Chicago footwork sound and modern electronic production techniques to create an entirely new and head-spinning electronic music genre, known as the Shanagan electro sound.
Over the past decade Mthetwa has expanded his profile across his native South Africa, Africa and most recently throughout the Western world, first through self-distributed CDs and DVDS sold in cell phone repair shops; then through collaborations with a nubmer of artists across Africa, which further expanded the sound. But it was one of his surreal self-produced videos that became a viral hit on YouTube, and as a result the South African producer was featured on a genre-defining compilation, Shanagan Electro: New Wave Dance from South Africa, which was released through Honest Jon that brought international attention from a variety of tastemakers, adventurous listeners, musicians, DJs, dance music fans and African music lovers. Two years later, a remix album featuring the work of Actress, Theo Parrish, RP Boo and Mark Ernestus received attention across both the US and Europe – in some way, it proved that Mtethwa’s sound based around elements of traditional African instrumentation could be retooled for Western tastes, and that infectious dance grooves are universal. And as a result of those releases and a number of live shows, Mtethwa became friends with Caribou and Daphni creative mastermind Dan Sanith, who later released a pair of Nonzinja-produced EPs on Snaith’s own label, Jiaolong.
After several European tours, Mtethwa signed to Warp Records, who will be releasing his full-length debut effort Nojinza Lodge in June, and to build up buzz for the album, RP Boo created a mix of unreleased Nozinja Shanagan electro sound tracks – and as you’ll hear it meshes the ebullient tone of African music, most notably genres such as South African Shanagan and Sierra Leonean Bubu music through chanted lyrics, and breezy, ethereal synths and pairs them with rapid fire, skittering percussion that channels the spirit of Afro-futurism, chiptone and EDM simultaneously – and in an infectiously fun fashion.
Catch Nozjnja open this years Red Bull Music Academy NYC Festival on May 1.