Xzavier Stone journeys into Joburg and Amapiano - Bubblegum Club

Xzavier Stone journeys into Joburg and Amapiano 

Known for his bold yet spirited work—Zürich-based artist, producer, DJ and vocalistXzavier Stone, can be recognised by his subtle and deft spins on rap and R&B music. Stone has a penchant for playfulness and experimentation. “Threading severe electronic music and sound design with harmony and an off-kilter sensuality, Stone offers up a mystery and tease that glints through the manifold positions his music touches.”  

If—as French poet and author Alphonse De Lamartine once said — “music is the literature of the heart, [commencing] where speech ends”— then Stone’s literature of the heart is at once moody and epicurean, as it is light and playful; it is at once deeply familiar, as it is excitingly new. Here, I think of Stone’s “Jamaica Rain” release featuring Justen Leroy, in feeling-and-sounding juxtaposition with his “SilverTab” release. I also think of “RYDE INTERMISSION” featuring Paxslim, as a song that synthesises Stone’s sonic poetics of the moody and the playful, of the familiar and the not-so-familiar.  

First encountering music from South Africa in the early 2010s, when he befriended Spoek Mathambo and Gazelle’s Xander Ferreira and Nick Matthews during their European tour, Stone’s own sonic practice has since been greatly inspired by what he calls “the vivid energy of South African artists’ work”. In a full circle moment, Xzavier will be on residency in Johannesburg from March-May 2023. The immersive experience will allow Stone to engage with—and experience—the distinct sounds emerging from the city’s music scenes. He hopes to collaborate with individuals whose work lives in this space and to amalgamate the historical and sonic motifs with his own music production and its aesthetic.  

I spoke to Xzavier Stone ahead of his residency in Joburg, thinking through play as a radical act, and playfulness as a gesture of disruption, what draws him to South Africa and its music, and more.  

Lindi Mngxitama: Hi Xzavier, as a means of introduction, can you tell me and our readers a bit about yourself, your artistic practice, and the fragments/threads that make and inspire it? 

Xzavier Stone: I’m an artist/producer/vocalist/DJ/director/creative director from Zürich, Switzerland. Throughout my practice as a creative, change is a current. I find joy in recontextualizing and cross-referencing elements that I truly adore that range from R&B, US Hip-Hop culture, to life experiences and fantasies. I’m into “world building” within my creative universe, which encompasses more than music. For my sophomore album, I DARE YOU, I’ve created an ambient scent, which serves as an extension of the album. 

Lindi Mngxitama: I want to talk about your residency in Joburg taking place from March to May of 2023, where you will be “experiencing first-hand the unique sounds emerging from the city’s music scene and engage with the artists producing these sounds. [Hoping] to collaborate and amalgamate the history and sonic motifs of these styles with the aesthetic of [your] own music production.”   

What are these sounds? What draws you to them and what do you think they might be telling you—as someone not from the city—about Johannesburg as a historical, socio-political, and cultural organism if we are to listen to the sounds, and if we are to listen beyond them?   

Xzavier Stone: I’m intrigued by the rhythms and syncopations of said music, and since groove is something that always has a specific mystique to it, I’m keen to dig into those while I’m here. Up until now, I can only imagine and express what it feels like as an outsider that’s why I’m excited to figure out, what all these sonic elements mean to people from here and how they came about as I discover the city first-hand within these three months. 

Xzavier Stone

Photograph by James Bantone

Lindi Mngxitama: You have a particular interest in Amapiano, saying, “What I’m currently amazed and inspired by in terms of contemporary South African music is the surge of Amapiano. Its luscious sound is something I want to engage with first-hand, put a different spin on it and see where this might lead.”  

Without forgetting the importance of specificity of location—and of locations within that location—where the origins of Amapiano are concerned, do you think it may be useful to also think about it as a type of Black youthful creative expression, which unsettles the construction of borders?  

Xzavier Stone: I’m sure that’s the case. Amapiano puts South African music on the map. For example, you can see how every other major music festival in Europe has some South African DJ or performer on the bill — in that sense barriers are being broken down, which shifts the global focus towards what’s going on here. 

This story is produced in the context of an editorial residency supported by Pro Helvetia Johannesburg, the Swiss Arts Council.

Xzavier Stone

Photograph by James Bantone

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