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The Guest List: Themba drops 10 rooted gems that inspired his debut album Modern Africa, Pt I – Ekhaya

Listen to the afro-influenced sounds of Kenlou, Hugh Masekela, Stimela, ​Fela Kuti & ​Letta Mbulu

  • Arun Ramanathan
  • 1 November 2021

When it comes to house music, Themba is a torch-bearing bastion of present-day Africa.

His global reputation was secured in 2018 with his highly acclaimed debut single ‘Who is Themba?’, which instantly became an afro-house modern-classic. Ever since, Themba has been invited to grace some of the most prolific stages around the world, including hosting summer residencies in Ibiza and across Europe with Black Coffee, whilst garnering support from A-listers like Adam Beyer, Pete Tong, Hot Since 82, Damian Lazarus and Masters At Work.

Themba’s ambitions are to respectfully fuse and showcase the wide array of African musical roots and talent through his love for house music. Over the last two months, the Johannesburg native put out four poignant singles in a build up to his debut album Modern Africa, Pt I – Ekhaya which dropped in early October.

Modern Africa, Pt I – Ekhaya is a seven-track release that kicks off with ‘Colours’ that immediately sets in all the right warm tones that resonate throughout the album. ‘Sound Of Freedom‘ follows and sees Themba collaborate with Johannesburg artist Thakzin for a heroic ten-plus-minute, electronic-jazz-infested jam. Two other stand out tracks from the album are ‘Izindlu’, a vibrant track entrenched in African culture through drums and chants, and the latest single ‘Ashamed’ is accentuated by Brenden Praise’s soulful vocal treatment.

We wanted to know to what depths Themba had to dig for the inspiration he poured into Modern Africa, Pt I – Ekhaya, and while we wait in anticipation for Pt II, the South African house connoisseur dropped us these 10 rooted gems that have the stood against the waves of newer and more popular genres.

Stimela 'Whispers In The Deep'

This is my all time favourite afro pop record! Loved it from when I was a child. My Dad used to play this album to death and since before I was 10 i’ve been a fan of Stimela.

Hugh Masekela 'Thanayi'

Hugh Masekela is arguably the best trumpet player of all time. The tracks on the album that have the trumpet are heavily influenced by him.

​Stimela 'Go On Living Your Life'

The use of the piano and the other music elements in this song have always been a favourite of mine.

​Letta Mbulu 'Not Yet Uhuru'

The way the drums are programmed in this song makes it sound like an old school break beat song. The vocal inspiration is also the reason why I brought Lizwi onto the track 'Izindlu'.

T-Kolai 'Exodus' (Andalu Vocal Mix)

This is the first house version of an African song that I fell in love with. 'Reflections' on the album was some what inspired by this song.

​Fela Kuti 'Zombie'

Pretty much self explanatory — Fela is the KING and on the second part of the album I have something I’ve done with this song particularly in mind.

​Miriam Mekaba 'A Luta Continua'

This record has a deep meaning to it like all other African records from the time. The lyrics in the music has so much meaning that I didn’t want to make fluffy music so if you listen to all the songs on the album they all have deep meaning.

​Kenlou 'What a Sensation'

Louie Vega & Kenny Dope are the kings of drums for me. They were so on point — I used to buy all their records without even listening to them at the store. As you know the music I like and make is nothing without the drums.

Selif Keita 'Madan' (Exotic Disco Mix)

Another well executed House version of an African song. The original inspired the music direction. I wanted to make music that others would reinterpret in their own way.

​Stones & Bones feat. Toshi 'Amahloni' (Manoo Remix)

This record changed how I view modern day remixes for house records. Manoo not only kept the essence of the original but he elevated the track to a dance floor smash that you can still listen to in the car or on a chilled day.

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