10 Durban Acts to Watch in 2017
Bob Perfect takes a look at the next wave of Durban musicians dragging us into the future.
The Durban music scene feels like it’s in a transitional phase where the youth are taking the reigns and riding into the future, dragging the rest of us along with them. If you listened to Kanye, the ‘listening to the kids’ bit, not the ‘give Trump a chance’ bit, you’d know this, because you’d be listening to this shit anyway. These are mostly acts who are bubbling on the underground; they may not have radio hits yet, some might never make it to the radio, but each has been making a name for themselves and leaving a mark on the Durban industry over the last year. If they keep up the hustle, and keep putting out good music, these are some of the acts that I think will make the biggest impact on the Durban scene in 2017.
Since returning home from working and studying in Cape Town, MISSU aka Sean Ross has become an integral part of, and a stand out star in, the Durban music scene. The multi-instrumentalist and producer has found his creative juices flowing since he’s been back in the 031, putting out a number of dancefloor-fillers and making a name for himself with his fun, upbeat live performances. Well, that and a shit-hot music video for ‘Sunday’ by Hylton Jandrell. The young Cheshire cat (he’s always smiling) shows no sign of slowing down his output in 2017, kicking off the year by dropping a gorgeous collaborative futurebass-inspired slowjam with Trè Flips and Red Robyn (more on them just now) called ‘Colours’. Give a listen to that below and then if you want to get to know MISSU better, check out the interview I did with him for Noisey.
You know you’re on the right track when the legendary Ready D mixes and scratches on your mixtape. Otarel holds such an honour with her jazz-laced hip-hop offering, Dirty All Stars. The fierce rapper from Eastern Cape has been laying waste to Durban stages for a minute, and has been building a fan base one live show at a time. Almost weekly, I see someone in my timeline posting about how dope Otarel was the night before. That’s because Otarel goes HARD yet applies delicate touches that give her catalogue depth. She’s a single mother and as the product of a single parent household, I find ‘The Rugged Two Step’ especially relatable and inspiring. Otarel raps circles around many of SA’s biggest rappers, and is someone you should definitely be listening to.
According to his EP Sounds Empty Pockets Make, a year ago Robin’s pockets were empty and his chain was fake. Things done changed this year though. Last week the young rapper’s ‘Somdanger’ video was trending on twitter, and today he announced that he’d be showcasing his talents at SXSW. That should bump up those CD sales out of his backpack. I found S.E.P.M to be an honest and relatable release that I don’t think enough people have listened to. Somdanger is a notable change in direction; they’re calling it neo-kwaito which seems about right and it’ll be interesting to see if Robin continues with the sound. Maybe a step away from more traditional hip-hop will give the youngster a step up in a saturated market.
Red Robyn has everything it takes to make it as a musician. A phenomenal voice, professional training, an understanding of self, and a drive to collaborate with as many like-minded, talented individuals as possible. In less than a year, the ethereal crooner has put out music with Snapbvck, MISSU, Taylor Made, Skatta, and her boyfriend and Blvck Crystals bandmate, Jaedon Daniel (There’s probably a few more I’m missing tbh). Not a bad start but that’s exactly what it is, just the start. The young songstress has multiple releases lined up for this year, including an EP and a whole host of singles. Ambition and talent are rarely matched but Red Robyn possesses an abundance of both. Check out her latest single ‘Wild Dream’ with Skatta and get to know her a better in the interview I did with her for Bubblegum Club.
Mouse are the nicest dudes who make some of the heaviest music that two musicians who met on Gumtree can make. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the grungy, fuzzy, garage rock duo. They came into the scene bright eyed, full of passion and making a hell of a racket, and have grown rapidly as a band. They’ve steadily gotten better at their instruments and more creative with their songwriting, which is helping them gain traction and get regular bookings around the country. I’m starting to see them on flyers for Joburg gigs as often as I do for Durban gigs. Clearly, they’re doing something right. Last week they put out the first song from their upcoming ‘Trap’ EP, Danger Danger. As expected, it’s high voltage stuff.
While ByLwansta grew up in Kokstad, we proudly claim him as a Durbanite now. 2016 saw the independent artist rise from being an “internet rapper” to a charismatic live performer who made the cover of Hype Magazine’s Freshman Edition. ByLwansta is coming into 2017 with a solid foundation, and if his Facebook updates are anything to go by, he’ll have a skyscraper built by the end of the year. ByLwansta is another one of those rare cases where ambition and talent are both through the roof. He lives the DIY lifestyle to the max, doing everything himself, from artwork to merch to videos, and has fought hard for every fan he’s earned over the years. How many rappers you know who release their music via stickers? Exactly. ByLwansta is dynamic and hungry, and it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a household name.
Easy Freak are the one act on this list that I assume almost everyone knows. Dominic Hurd and Jude Kendrick make some ridiculously catchy electro-pop. You’ve no doubt heard them on the radio, but if you haven’t seen the duo live, you’re missing out. Dominic channels his inner Justin Timberlake in a way that makes both men and women swoon, and you’d have to have the most cynical feet in the world to not find them moving when Easy Freak plays.
Clara-T has steadily been growing as an artist since we first interviewed her back in 2013. In 2016 she released It’s Fresh Doe, an EP of 7 dope hip-hop tracks which was, indeed, rather fresh. She also dropped a video for The City where she gives a rundown of the ups and downs of life in Durban’s city and calls out some of SA’s most hyped female MCs. It feels like Clara has been heavily slept on, despite putting out award winning work. But that’s often how this industry works, and she knows it. “Maybe someone famous should say it if it’s all the same to you,” she raps on ‘SUPREMACY’. I’m hoping 2017 is the year Clara really gets heard. She’s got an effortless style and you can hear she works meticulously on her lyrics. Check out the video for The City below.
The Dead Trends have the potential to be one of the biggest bands to come out of Durban in quite some time. While it’s still early days for the youngsters, they’ve put out a remarkable EP in Melancholic Melodies (the opposite of Warner Brother’s Merry Melodies), and they’ve been finding themselves on bigger and bigger stages from month to month. The indie-pop quartet sound like Two Door Cinema Club and The Promise Ring getting it on whilst Dashboard Confessional jerks off in the corner. If you haven’t heard it yet, give their EP a listen below.
Jonty Hurd aka Tré Flips is the older brother of Easy Freak’s Dominic Hurd and as the adage goes, talent runs in the family. Mr Flips has put out some hella enjoyable chillwave and trip-hop tracks, including a wavy remix of one of Durban’s biggest hits, Back to the Beach. If you were paying attention, you’d have noticed his name earlier on ‘Colours’ with Red Robyn and MISSU. If you’re into mostly ambient, chilled-out productions, peep Tre Flips’ Soundcloud and let your mind float on the cloud of sound.