The Immersive and Eclectic Sounds of Batuk
South African Electro/House duo, Batuk, has been stitching together disparate sounds from across the continent to create a powerfully compelling act that has seen producer Spoek Mathambo and vocalist Mantiega travel across the globe. Spoek Mathmbo is no stranger to international success. Having previously been nominated for MOBO Awards multiple times and winning a Cannes Lions, the Township Tech pioneer has elevated his talents and has had his talents elevated by the formation of Batuk.
Just weeks away from the release of their second album, Kasi Royalty, we spoke to the duo to get a glimpse into the life of one of SA’s most exciting exports.
Words: Tshiamo Seape
Mantiega, what is your musical background like? How did you get into the industry and how did you end up teaming up with Spoek?
I grew up singing in church and at school. By the time I nine years old I joined a choir called East Rand Children’s Choir. I took part in my first international tour with that very choir. We toured several countries in Europe. My interest and love for music has always been around.
Spoek approached me a few years ago, after watching one of my theatre productions, and invited me into the studio. The rest is history.
Spoek, what about Carla first caught your eye?
In 2014 I watched a theatre production of Carla’s called Sent, and I was completely blown away by her stage presence, her technique and her vocal ability. I knew that I had to invite her into the studio to experiment with sound.
Mantiega, Spoek is obviously a pioneering figure in South African music, but how closely had you followed his career prior to working together?
I’ve always been a huge fan. I have very fond memories listening to his music with groups of friends and having the time of my life. His music, his aesthetic, his brilliance, is not something you can look over. I was, and still am, a big fan!
- Were there any nerves the first time you recorded?
Are you kidding me? Of course!! I was totally nervous! But Spoek has the ability to encourage and empower artists he collaborates with, so very soon I felt more comfortable and free.
What does the name Batuk mean?
It means Drum in Portuguese.
Your videos have a great attention to people and cultures; they are like a visual diary of the continent. What is the significance of this element of your artisity?
If we want to be completely honest with our work then we need to express what we know. Every idea and aesthetic is an extension of what we are, and we are proudly African, proudly South African, proudly from our individual Kasi’s. Our truth, our cultures, our neighbors, our languages, our traditions and our back yards are very significant and important to us.
At CSA, we’re very interested in uncovering the next generation of African creatives, so we want to know who are some lesser known artists on your radar that are worthy of more recognition?
Giovanni Kremer Kiyingi, from Uganda.
Who are some of your favourite collaborators and what makes them so interesting to work with?
Our favourite artists to collaborate with is a group called Groupo Zoré from Inhambane, Mozambique. They are a group of elderly men and women, aged between 50 and 90, and they have the most powerful energy we have ever experienced. They play various drums and sing like you won’t believe. Really powerful and inspirational, most especially because they are our elders…their music making is a special gift to witness and learn from.
Your second album, Kasi Royalty, is due out in May, which is very exciting. Where does this project depart from your debut?
Kasi Royalty is proudly South African. The rhythms, the inspiration, the language, the slang is all from Mzansi. This album is a gift to our home country. In our first album ‘Musica da Terra’ we collaborated with people from so many different countries across our beautiful African continent and it was such a magical journey. In our new album, we celebrate our South African voice.
You’ve also been promoting the album with a world tour – tell us about some of the highlights from performing abroad so far.
Performing abroad is so much fun and just a blessing. Every show has been sold out so far and we always end up completely sweaty and full of joy after our shows. The love has been very overwhelming and we are so encouraged by this. That is the highlight. The crazy and loving energy from the the people who come to support our shows, they are our highlights!
Australia, France and China are very different audiences, so do you ever alter your live shows in any way to cater to different cultures?
Absolutely. We know what each city wants, we do the research. We know our French audience very well so we understand exactly what they want. However, this will be our first time performing in China, so we will just give it our all and hope that they receive the passion we give out. We are also very fun and flexible on stage, so whatever they enjoy, we will milk.
How would you describe a Batuk show and what do you want audiences to take away from your shows?
Full of ENERGY!! After every show, we always have a lot of people come up to us telling us that they feel good inside after watching our show. That is the whole point of all of this. If people can walk away from our shows feeling energized and happy, then we have achieved our goal.
Thank you once again for this opportunity and we wish you the best of luck with the remainder of the tour.
THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH!!!! Hope to meet you in Jozi soon!
You can see Batuk as they wrap up their world tour in Asia and Australia before they head back to South Africa.