Remember the good old days when tribal house music was dominating every househead’s playlist, when the production of most South African producers was filled with unique drum patterns, African chants, and all those pure African instruments?! When snares with heavy reverb were some of the most used effects, those were the tribal house music days.
I’m sure we all remember and still adore tracks like The bright forest by Culoe de song, The calling by DJ Bullet, Marimba soul by Infinite Boys and Drums of the north by Da capo. This list goes on and I am pretty sure I wasn’t able to remember some of the best tribal tracks when I wrote this article.
Often referred to as afro tech, afro deep and many other names, the name that undoubtedly sticks though is, Tribal House Music as it was the most used by South Africans in reference to this style of house.
At its prime, Tribal house music had two extremely talented and influential producers, they always stand out the most when Tribal house is the topic of discussion. These producers are; Culoe de Song and Da capo. Tribal house music was once pretty big and had many good producers, but Culoe and Da capo were always the favourites of many househeads and deejays.
Culoe de song is often considered one of the pioneering artists of tribal house here in RSA. He was around when tribal house was in its infantry stage in terms of popularity, producing many good tracks, including “Webaba” from the revolutionary “A Giant Leap album (2009)”. During this time, he inspired many artists, and Da capo was one of these artists.
Da capo is also (deservedly) considered a tribal house music pioneer as he took Tribal House during its prime and made it even better, releasing ridiculously good ep’s such as Return to the beginning and Various selections volumes. This quickly earned him the king of tribal house music amongst the fans. Da capo’s mentioned that his main inspiration was Culoe de song in an interview he did with an international radio station when he was 19 years old.
Other notable producers on the scene then included mushroom boys, DJ bullet, Gemini boys, infinity boys (I mean who can forget tracks like Machangu and marimba soul).
However, as time went on, many of these producers explored and experimented with other styles of house, and that’s when the popularity and quality of tribal house began to decline as many of these producers ended up changing their sounds to other subgenres of house music.
For example, Da capo’s sounds started to lean to the deep and techy side, while Culoe de song’s music (example being the album; Elevation, 2011) was starting to sound more mainstream targeted.
These meant that only inexperienced and underground producers were left to look after the Tribal house scene and, many of these underground and bedroom producers were not properly resourced, experienced and trained, which meant that their music had potential and talent but lacked the quality and professionalism. This led to the decline in the popularity of tribal house we see today.
Tribal house is not necessarily a style of house music limited to South Africa, it exists internationally with names like ancestral deep and, with older and heavyweights producers like Abicah soul and Bodhi satva dominating. The style of Tribal house music that the likes of Da capo and Culoe de song produced is different to what’s available on the international market, this is evident with the instruments used and the main feeling of the songs.
I love Tribal house music because it is to South Africa as tech house music is to Europe, therefore it has to live forever. The South African house music scene is extremely dynamic and always changing, it is also heavily influenced by trends and producers tend to produce the style of house music that is currently “hot” or trending. This is not right as it limits our creativity and ability to explore and thus expand.
Tribal house music will forever live in the hearts of South African producers and will make a return eventually because What’s good never dies.
With Culoe de Song indicating a return to his original sounds by blessing us with a more afro album (titled: Washa) last year, and with underground producers like Demented soul pushing the genre, I believe tribal house will see its light again.
what producers must keep in mind is that no matter what style of house music you are pushing, people will eventually notice you if your craft is good. The more diverse our house music is, the more we can refer to South Africa as the king of house music and mean it. But for now, we are not the kings as our music lacks diversity. For us to be kings we must own all of these sub genres of house music.
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Make sure to listen to my TRIBAL HOUSE music show as I take a journey back to the good old days of tribal house music. Click on the links below to download or stream.