In her SoundCloud bio Canadian DJ OWABOWA explains that she wants people to “get in their bodies and connect with each other on the dance floor and beyond”. The exclusive mix she created for us is a reflection of this emphasis on connection. We spoke her to find out about the time she is spending in Johannesburg and the interesting links she has made between sounds from around the world.
What brings you to Johannesburg?
I’m in Joburg for 3 months for music and dance. South Africa is my favourite place in the world for music – I first fell in love with it when I stayed in Cape Town 10 years ago and “Township Funk” was being blasted everywhere. South African music is almost never played in North America and I want to change that. I’m looking to start a record label and platform in Toronto that broadcasts contemporary South African music to North American audiences. I would love to facilitate South African musicians and dancers to come perform in Canada. I played a gig in Toronto recently where the crowd went wild whenever I played South African sounds. People were coming up to me asking me “What is this?” and “How can I find it?”. There is so much talent here that deserves exposure and audience around the world.
Your bio says you draw “links and lines between South African and Canadian music”. What other interesting links have you made between different sounds from around the world?
There are a lot of similarities between the drumming in South African music and traditional First Nations (Native American) drumming. I’m interested in the intersection between electronic and traditional music, and exploring the relationship between different indigenous cultures all around the world via electronic music. Groups like “A Tribe Called Red” are doing this in Canada and have had major uptake and global success. “Tropical bass” or “global club music” have been suggested as ways to describe the current movement in electronic music towards sounds from the global south (dancehall, afrobeats, baile funk, batida, gqom, reggaeton, cumbia). While labels like “tropical bass” are problematic, I think the trend toward highlighting and playing music from the global south is a ultimately a positive one.
Your background is in dance – what do you make of South African dance culture?
I love South African dance. I’ve been learning pantsula, gwara gwara, benga or bhenga, and Zulu dance with an amazing dancer named Tshepo Mohlabane in Katlehong. I’m a street dancer – started in breakdancing – and I’m drawn to the culture of street dance in South Africa, from the outfits to the moves to the lifestyle. I love how everyday movements are interpreted into dance moves, turned into a language expressing history, politics and culture.
How are you starting to see your vision to bring “people together of all races, classes, genders, abilities, ages, and sexual orientations” manifest?
Music brings people together – we know this. In a world that is becoming increasingly divisive politically and economically, music and dance break down barriers and bring people together that would perhaps never normally interact. Music is where I find hope, healing, and community in these dark days.