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Artwork by Lex Trickett

Music and Technology at Fak’ugesi Festival

Now in its 4th year, the Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival is a celebration of technology, creativity, collaboration and innovation from across the African continent. The festival includes a range of seminars, talks, exhibitions, workshops, hack-a- thons, films, artists, games, innovation riots and music. With highlights including the Fak’ugesi Conference, Making Weekend as well as Fak’ugesi Beat, a new curatorial partnership with WeHeartBeat that focuses on beats, music and technology.

The Fak’ugesi Beats program is multifaceted and includes the week-long Fak’ugesi Beats Lab workshop, the curation of panels at the Fak’ugesi Conference and the Fak’ugesi Beats Bloc Party which sees the festival outcomes come to life. Red Bull Studios Johannesburg at the Tshimologong Precinct will play host to the workshop which includes Soulection’s Hannah Faith, videographer Foxy Neela, French Soulection beatmaker Evil Needle, Swiss beatmaker Melodinsfonie, alongside the local Mante Ribane and the Dear Ribane collective working on a collaborative piece the result of which will be showcased at the Block Party and also see the work pressed to vinyl.

Two of the panels at the Fak’ugesi Conference will be examining the influence of technology on music. ‘Future Beats’ features Joe Kay, founder of Soulection and pioneer of the Future Beats sound, Evil Needle and trap jazz pioneer Masego. The conversation will look at how the digital age as influenced new genres in music and what this means for musicians and artists as a whole. The second panel discussion ‘Sonic Visions’ will be an examination examination of collaboration between film, design and music. With a panel that features singer Nonku Phiri & Rendani Nemakhavhani who collaborated together on a music film, Foxy Neela, Hannah Faith, Mahaneela Choudhury-Reid of WeAreInBloom, and Benoit Hicke of the French F.A.M.E Festival the aim is to have a playful conversation that engages with the audience.

The Free Workshop Program at the Making Weekend allows the public to gain hands on experience in areas from programming and creating gaming controllers, to robotics and music & film. Led by French/American artist Yann Seznec, the workshop ‘Room to Play’ explores the world of DIY musical controllers and instruments. Making use of everyday objects the workshop will challenge attendees to reimagine what a an instrument is and placing limitations on its function thus challenging the design strategy of commercial controllers. “How do you make a digital instrument that’s more difficult to play? And then thus what kind of questions does that open up?” asks Yann Seznec.

According to Seznec DIY musical controllers and instruments have had a large impact on the performance of electronic music. “It means that you can do electronic music performances that are more meaningful to an audience. One of the big changes in electronic music in the last 10/15 years was that everything could be done on a laptop. With the downside of it being pretty uninteresting. I think what’s nice about DIY instruments is that it brings new methods of performance to the world,” notes Seznec.

The Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival will culminate with the Fak’ugesi Beats Bloc Party which will feature the outcomes of the festival’s various collaborations as well as a selection of some of the finest local and international artists including Masego, Joe Kay, MNDSGN, Melodiesinfonie, Evil Needle, Hannah Faith, Nonku Phiri, Christian Tiger School and Petite Noir. “We’re trying to setup an international beat festival and present artists that we feel are making headway internationally and deserve platforms and deserve to be heard. So we feel like we’ve put together a really beautiful lineup,” says Dominique Soma of WeHeartBeat. “We’ve worked with artists that apply the traditional analog way of music making in terms of playing traditional instruments but then creating it in a digital space or through a digital process,” she adds.

Unique on the continent in its offering, the Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival highlights the importance of the cross-over between culture, creativity and technology in Africa. With the addition of Fak’ugesi Beats the festival is examining the relationship between music and technology and this program will expand over the coming years. “We’re still looking to explore the relationship between the two spaces in the long term. Over the next few years you will see that crossover coming to life a little bit more,” notes Dominique Soma.

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