While Amarekere is ASAP Shembe’s debut album, he’s already earned a name and loyal following from himself with his Inkinga EP and by picking interesting songs to feature on. Pretty much everything about ASAP Shembe’s music is interesting, to me at least. He positions his sound as “a 90’s stimulated South African sound with ultramodern aesthetics,” and I’m annoyed because it’s so accurate. There’s more to it of course, but this is very much future shit that feels familiar. Every song except the opener and the closer are produced by ASAP Shembe himself and you can kind of tell. There’s an underlying darkness to his music that seeps under the skin whereas xSipping’s production on “Ubani” and “Kamalandela”, feel more hopeful. Don’t get me wrong, “Ubani” is a moving opener with impassioned cries over gentle piano keys and “Kamalandela” is a triumphant closer. They help add depth to an already deep album. I hear a song like “Giyani”, and I feel a bit unsettled. It sounds like a stretched tape layered over a trap beat that was made in a bathroom from the movie SAW. These are compliments by the way.
It’s not all morbidity and darkness though, while “Enyokeni” also kicks off with an eerie feel it eventually breaks into a digitised audio version of paradise. The title track “Amarekere” sounds like it uses a dial-up modem to lead its thump along and the haunting and desperate “Gqom Queen” has to be one of the stand out tracks on the album. Creating good music seems to be about constantly reimagining the past and the future. Musicians are forever consuming the sounds that have come before them whilst thinking of new ways to turn them into something unheard of. The goal usually being to create a unique piece of art that represents who they are, resonates with others and hopefully also pushes the art form forward. It’s not meant to be easy but somehow, with his debut album, ASAP Shembe makes it seem effortless.