uBeyond Sci-fi Beats Life - Bubblegum Club

uBeyond Sci-fi Beats Life

One sentence has hardly been spoken to completion before Neo Mokoatle begins to refine his initial thought. He starts another, holding a now concentrated idea to the light, before discarding it in favour of a concept or greater truth that has revealed itself to him in the process of his speaking. His speech matches his musical practice as the composer, producer and sound engineer uBeyond — in constant evolution but discarding nothing.

uBeyond’s latest of four Lofi EPs, Sci-fi, Beats & Life, was released independently at the top of 2024, but Thandabuza – Instrumental and Dark Mist on the four-pack project have been in varying stages of creation since 2021 and 2015 respectively. Thandabuza – Instrumental is a slowed and stripped-down rendition of a 2021 Amapiano release which had Yanga Yaya on vocals. 

This latest version has a Jazz sensibility — with the piano’s chord structure reminiscent of Robert Glasper in parts, a lilting high hat, and the use of foley sending an auditory location not dissimilar to how Benjamin Jephta, Thandi Ntuli, Sisonke Xonti and others have done in their work.  


Dark Mist listens like the reprieve of an electronic Jazz album or the backing music to the closing scenes of a sci-fi film. “Dark Mist was one of my favourite joints that I made in Cape Town,” uBeyond says “That song probably has six versions that I listen to personally. I watch a lot of sci-fi films and series. At a later stage, I’m gunning to do full-on movies. My sound would do even better in movies.”

The futuristic soundscape that is primary in the EP’s title and gives the project sonic cohesion has emotional roots for uBeyond. “When she was alive,” he remembers “my mother and I would watch the Sunday movie on SABC or on (VHS) cassette. She would always introduce me to the old sci-fi stuff.”

The lasting memories of experiences shared with a mother, who passed away when he was just 11 years old, bring an ironic nostalgia to uBeyond’s African futurism. “Growing up, I started to get immersed in science fiction. I ended up having so much love for it and a different way of thinking. Most of the time when I read library books, I read science fiction books.”


The EP’s opening track, Imbizo 2054, is this theme at its most literate. Lead and accompanying synthesizers drift over layers of Zulu chants, building to a quick climax where the traditional and speculative meet. Here, uBeyond is imagining the traditional Zulu gathering or ceremony of the future as the basis for how that occasion might sound.

Creating a meeting place for traditional and popular music has been a creative quest for uBeyond since his mother passed away. When he was suddenly living alone Kwamashu in Kwazulu Natal, a family friend, Mr Phakathi, had ensured that the artist’s mother’s dying wish of having him attend a decent school was followed. 

uBeyond was transferred from Dr JL Dube High School, Kwamashu to its brother school, Northwood Boys School, in Durban North. The change in schooling also meant that the Afropop, Gqom, traditional Zulu and other musics he had been surrounded by growing up would become a counterpoint to the musics he would be exposed to at school. 


“Most of the guys (at school) were listening to different genres. Some of the stuff I hadn’t heard before. They had these small USB MP3 players and I would ask if I could rip some of the music during break. That’s where my love for Nirvana began. My music taste got really diverse and I would introduce some of the guys ekasi to some of that.”

uBeyond locates his solo projects squarely as Lofi. For the uninitiated, though, his style of Lofi discourages passive listening, adding layers of texture and variation to the mellow beats that are the bedrock of the Lofi style of music. At its core, Lofi is a utilitarian music that provides sparse decoration and accompaniment of time. 

Speaking about the Lofi listenership, he says “People press play and go about their day,” adding that what differentiates his music is “when I make something, I do it with intention. Also, my background is mostly in pop music. So I come with that pop philosophy (to Lofi), I still want to create something memorable and that elicits emotion.”



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