Of all the producers Honest Jon’s have enlisted to provide reworks of artists from their Shangaan Electro compilation, Rashad & Spinn and RP Boo must surely make the most sense; if there’s any form of Western dance music that even comes close to the frenetic pace of South Africa’s Shangaan scene, then it’s Chicago juke and footwork. The parallels between Shangaan and juke are obvious: aside from the 160bpm plus speed, both have the need to make people dance furiously at their core. Shangaan artist Nozinja, quoted in the press release for the original Shangaan Electro compilation says: “Shangaan dancers, they dance, they can go on for almost an hour with that speed, without getting tired. When you see them dance you feel like they have got no bones”. This description could easily apply to the best footwork dancers, whose legs often seem made entirely of jelly.
Although Shangaan is fast, like the dancing that accompanies it, it’s by no means rigid, and both remixes tease out the gelatinous qualities of the source material whilst reinforcing them with a bit of Chicago muscle. Rashad & Spinn, perhaps juke’s most visible exponents of the art, take Tshetsha Boys’ “Nwa Pfundla” and replace the track’s sweet marimba tones with a robust 303 bassline. Even for two producers who don’t pull any punches, it sounds like they’ve injected steroids into the source material, albeit with loose hi-hats whose shrill tones ensure that any potential stiffness is avoided.
RP Boo, one of footwork’s pioneers, creates a remix that is altogether more threadbare. With no melodic elements to speak of, it’s down to the rhythm to carry the track, turning it into a loose, rattling bag of bones, although it’s his decision to include his own samples in the remix that proves most interesting. The repeated refrain of “Africa soul is coming” and “footwork” in amongst the original Shangaan vocals may not be the most subtle way of highlighting the commonality between the two genres, but it is effective, and proves that it’s something well worth exploring.