Rough kuduro and gqom from Hyperdub's breakout star.
Since he debuted on Hyperdub in 2018 with the Enclave EP, Angolan producer Nazar's music has been highly conceptual. But it's also direct, almost violently so, wrought with history both personal and political. Enclave and its stunning follow-up Guerilla explore the legacy of the devastating Angolan Civil War, which tore the country apart for more than 25 years. He takes the lithe rhythms of kuduro—one of the country's national musical traditions—and inverts into something that swoops and dive-bombs like a fighter jet, full of dread-inducing bass, jarring samples and the sounds of warfare.
Though Guerilla is a heavy album, it's also danceable at its core, a sleek gunmetal-plated version of the music that comes out on Lisbon label Príncipe. (His artist name comes from Justice's "Waters Of Nazareth," which hints at his taste in dance music.) Nazar's RA Podcast highlights the slinkier, groovier version of his sound, interspersing his own tracks with highlights from DJ Maboku, Brodinski and, notably, A.k.Adrix, a fellow kuduro producer also taking the genre in new directions. What's most interesting is when Citizen Boy's gqom, from South Africa, weaves its heaving martial rhythms in with the athletic kuduro around it. Nazar highlights how dance music can convey serious feelings and ideas without compromising anything, and how the dance floor—physically or in your mind—can be a place for catharsis as much as escapism.
What have you been up to lately?
I've been up to nothing other than trying to enjoy life as much as I can in the circumstances we're all in. While being more productive than I've ever been before.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix was recorded on the typical setup found in most venues across the continent. One Pioneer DJM-900NXS2 mixer and 2 CDJ2000NXS2s. Recorded in Rotterdam, at a place called WORM which is a cultural centre and venue focused on diverse art including experimental and underground. The place where I actually had my very first show overseas via the Pantropical series.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
Simply to recreate what would've been a club night if the pandemic wouldn't have happened. Imagining myself performing and improvising to a packed crowd as if I was in London, Berlin or Rotterdam, where I really was at. And that's what led me to record the mix at WORM. I had one of my favourite venues to myself.
Some extended loops and a few build-ups and sudden drops are some of the marks I used to engage with this non-existent crowd. Just having fun.
You call your sound "rough kuduro," inspired by the history and current realities of Angola. Most of the mix is made up of your own material, but you also include some gqom from Citizen Boy. Do you think there's a connection between kuduro and gqom? Or is there anyone else making kuduro-inspired music in line with your own?
I believe that Gqom and Kuduro share a connection in their respective inception. Geographically and socio-economically. These genres were birthed in the poorest and most deprived parts of the town. You can imagine the hardship of those who make it at its purest, through the raw energy the sounds exudes.
Other artists making kuduro-inspired in the line with my own... Adrix is the first that comes to mind. Although totally opposite to my maximalist sound, which is why I find his work fascinating.
Your album was inspired by your family memories of civil war in Angola, and it's quite intense and sometimes violent. What role does violence and aggression play in your music, and do you still consider it dance music?
I've always been drawn to create intense sounds and try to make sense out of raw emotions. It's helpful to stay level-headed, being able to let that violence out through club music. It's therapeutic I'd say. It's still dance music because I actively seek to make it danceable. Being danceable doesn't necessarily banalise the subjects I aboard with my music. In many African societies, dance is present in many aspects of life, from birthday parties to funerals. Hence is why I never had issues why making my songs the way they are no matter how profound the theme I'm dealing with are.
What are you up to next?
More music, challenges to myself. To mature as individual thus the music that follows me this process.