Let the Roof Shake With DJ Lag’s Amanikiniki

Taken from DJ Lag’s Grammy considered EP Uhuru, “Amanikiniki” is a collaboration with Newlands West-based Unticipated Soundz. The track, whose music video was directed by Christ Kets, like the rest of the Uhuru EP is a return to the early, raw sounds of gqom with “Amanikiniki” in particular referencing the uThayela sound which Unticipated Soundz are known for. “A lot of the studios the guys recorded in were made out of [zinc] tiles and they knew that the kick and bass were right together when the tiles shook” explains Chris Kets. The track was first produced by Unticipated Soundz, the collective which DJ Lag has signed to his Ice Drop label, at their home studio in Newlands West, with the vocals being done by the younger sister of Unticipated Soundz member Mr Beats. “We worked on the track from there, me remotely from the US, and ended up with the version that went on Uhuru says DJ Lag, going on to say that “Amanikiniki” is difficult to translate but thatit’s a vibe. A crazy vibe and I think it translates in the energy of the song. If you watch the video and see the way people are dancing, that is Amanikiniki.

The video which was shot at Unticipated Soundz’ home studio in Newlands West, as well as in DJ Lag’s stomping grounds Clermont. Parts of it were also shot at the DJ Lag’s event Something for Clermont at Uhuru (the birthplace of gqom), which was streamed on Boiler Room. These various shoot locations show the journey of the “Amanikiniki” from its birth in studio to Unticipated Soundz playing it at their Boiler Room debut. At the same time, the video tells the story of Lag and his journey with gqom, which has taken him from underground clubs in Durban to stages around the world. A major theme in the video is cellphones; a nod to where gqom came from and is going as well as how the consumption and creation of media has changed. This can be seen in the beginning when the vocals are recorded on a phone as well as at Uhuru where the crowd is filming the show on their cellphones. This is further reinforced by the actual format of the video which was shot in a cellphone aspect ratio and premiered on IGTV. “They’re using social media and WhatsApp, all these different tools, to distribute their music, so let’s use that to distribute the visuals,” Chris Kets says of the decision to go mobile-first. “I think it is important to give content to people directly at source and what is more direct than me sending it to my fans on their phone?” asks DJ Lag.

The video features the dance crew Corruption Squad, a crew from Clermont that was put forward by the community due to their proficiency at the uThayela dance style. It also features animations by Stuart Kets, which give the video a raw and gritty aesthetic. “What medium we’re using is also part of the concept. He plays a lot with analog effects and glitch art and running through old and new software and playing with things like rhythm and that viral nature of watching it through your phone. Is your phone breaking, is it the screen or the video?” notes Chris Kets. While the sound of “Amanikiniki” is distinctly underground, DJ Lag isn’t tying himself to one sound as evidenced by his collaboration with Beyonce as well as Shekhinah. “I like trying out new sounds and somehow it just works out. I like to think that my sound can be flexible.” The international interest in his music hasn’t changed his approach to music either. “I don’t make music with a specific audience in mind. The music that I make is for everyone and with the hope that it will find the right people, regardless of where they are based. It is always the most fulfilling part of what I do when I play in a new city to see people reacting to my music with so much enthusiasm regardless of the place, country [or] type of event.”

With a whirlwind year behind him, DJ Lag has no intention of slowing down. “Next year I am wanting to release a full album. For now, I am just making music and then we will select the best.” Besides his album, DJ Lag also has other projects in the works. “I’m working on a track that I produced for Three Ships using the sounds of their distillery. We recorded this in Cape Town and it was so interesting walking through the distillery and picking different sounds and imagining them turning into a track”. Coming off the back of collaborations with a number of talented vocalists, DJ Lag is hoping to do more. “I’m looking forward to seeing what other collaborations can happen next year.” With a number of shows before year-end, DJ Lag is looking forward to some downtime. “I have a few more shows for my Uhuru tour in the US. After that, I’m back in SA and then I’m going to India for the first time to play at Magnetic Fields, a festival over there. I’ll be ending the year off at The Search, a festival just outside of Cape Town. I’m actually excited to spend some time at home this summer though. It has been a long year of touring!”

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