Self-Portrait: Nandele

The Mozambican capital of Maputo might not be on your musical radar yet, but it should be. One of the artists at the forefront of the underground scene is Nandele Maguni, a beat maker and producer who’s forward thinking vision is helping to put the city on the map.

Inspired by the diversity of the scene around him and the will to experiment, Nandele pulls from many different influences. You’ll likely hear echoes of electronica, dubstep, psychedelic, experimental and hip hop, but at the core of his creations is the drum — like he says “if there is no drum, there is no heart.

Having notched up several releases on home turf with Kongoloti Records, he recently made his debut on London-based label Cotch International with four sludgy tracks that blend elements of EBM, electro and dubstep for hypnotic and mind-bending results.

Alongside an interview about his approach to production and his love of drums, Nandele strings together an original material mix that shows the breadth of his work over the last two years, from tracks from his audio visual project Muave to edits, remixes and soundtracks for theatre, music and contemporary dance.

Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory

My earliest was when I was 5 years old listening to Fela Kuti and Ginger Baker on vinyl, while my father was explaining to me who Fela was, the context of his music and how important it was and still is for the world.

Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?

No, I am a fan of music. I had to learn pretty much myself; I had to do my research, study the greats and their discography and through that learn how to play the drums and, later on, learn how to make beats/music using software.

What led you into music production?

I think when I first heard Wu Tang Clan, and Rza beats I was always curious how he could make music sound so obscure, but when I got into Massive Attack and Portishead, that’s when I knew that there were a lot of possibilities to produce music using computers and other devices. But my main motivator was J Dilla, the way he could chop things up with the MPC — that blew my mind.

Are there any producers or artists who have inspired your production?

There’s a lot of artists that inspire me to this day. Guys like J Dilla, Rza, Nicolas Jaar, Tricky, Proofeless, Nick Slim, Aphex Twin, Arca, NIN, Deftones,  A Million Things, DJ Shadow, Bjork, DJ Muggs, Mndsgn and Flying Lotus, just to name a few.

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio?

Yeah, I write the ideas I have in my notebook and I do some research, field recording and chop up samples. I really don’t like going to the studio to record or produce music. I like to produce in some weird places. I carry my laptop with me most of the time. The Final Fantasy EP was produced in friend’s houses and some of the tracks at my friends João Roxo’s Anima office.

Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

Yeah, most of the time it’s just a rhythm that plays in my head and I do my best to translate it into a beat, or it can just be a conversation or something I read or I saw in the news — it can be anything. I really don’t have a process. It all changes with the mood, space and time.

Are you the type of producer to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

I am very impulsive and that can lead to perfection. It’s the feeling that drives me, that’s why when I can’t record the idea on my phone, I have to take notes of the idea just to remember. When I start a beat I’ve got to finish, when it’s done it’s done.

Can you talk us through how you might construct a track?

It doesn’t have a particular sequence. My track ‘Roaches’ on my album Likumbi started with a nightmare I had about cockroaches and when I woke up I started making the beat. On my FF EP, ‘Virose’ started at my Maybira’s house listening to this old Mozambican traditional music; I got home chopped that sample up.

How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?

Most of my music is sample-based, but ever since I joined the electronic orquestra I have been trying all kinds of things: plug ins, virtual synths, some drum machines and korg toys. I still sample though, but I am sampling other things. I make my own samples; Mozambique is just a wonderful place for field recordings — everywhere there is sound.

What’s the most important bits of kit that make a Nandele track?

I think I am a kind of hypnotic type of beat maker, and the makonde cadance and the mapiko rhythm is hypnotic. I think that’s how it makes my tracks heavy, just like the drum and other types of traditional African drums, they sound like electronic music to me. If there is no drum there is no heart.

This mix is comprised of 100% original Nandele material. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

This mix tells a story of what I have been producing over the past couple of years, some stuff are on soundtracks for movies, some for theatre and some for contemporary dance, and some rare remixes and some tracks of my audio visual project Muave. I would say it’s my sound portfolio.
The remixes and edits are special to me because it’s where I can see how I can stretch things and give different perspectives to the original, but my favourite track is ‘Impact 61+’, this track I produced with my son, 9 year old Rafael Salvado Maguni.

Anything on the horizon for you? Any releases we should know about?

I am working on the first album of my audio visual project Muave, plus a Proximal Distal residency with Bettina and Dion Monti, and various dope artists that I wanted to work with for quite some time. I have the Soar Residency with some dope artists from Zimbabwe and Botswana and I am composing music for a theatre piece that premieres this December in Portugal. I am producing the second instalment of my Argolas Deliciosas ( the J Dilla Hommage), which will hopefully come out at the end of next year with Cotch International.   

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