Working quietly behind the scenes producing tracks for some of Cape Town’s most excited talents, Elu Eboka has become the subject of well deserved attention in recent months. After spending some time with the young producer I was happy to join the chorus of admirers.
As fans of his musical output, and the creative company he keeps, we relished the chance to learn more about the artist and his work
Words: Tshiamo Seape
Who is Elu Eboka, and what do you do?
I’m a music producer and composer based out of a studio in Cape Town.
Where is the strangest place you go looking for inspiration, creatively?
I think films influence me a lot. You can draw a lot of parallels between a good song and a good movie, and they’re both mediums of storytelling. How can some fills me 2 hours long and so engaging yet others leave you wanting to after 20 minutes? Besides a good story (or a good melody), there is structure arrangement and editing that communicate the story and make it engaging. A great lead actor is like a great vocal performance, the films’s production aesthetic is like the “vibe” of a song…the similarities are there id you look for them, and I’ve learnt a lot about producing from trying to understand film making.
Your Podcast, Sunday Service, which you host alongside your sister, Tinuke, is quickly gaining a following and I’m interested to know what the impetus for starting it was?
It happened fairly organically. My sister and I are very close, and we grew up in a house where “family time” was less about going o holiday or going for dinner but rather sitting and discussing/arguing with each other. It made us all critical thinkers, and the podcast is just an extension of that, focused on creativity. The second part of it has to do with creating and archiving conversations of young black voices learning from and about each other. Having conversations outside of politics and social issues that put individual goals and ideas on a pedestal.
A lot of what you talk about is SA culture, trends and how imitating international practices does more harm than good within the South African context. However, where do you think local creatives are thriving in spite of Western influence?
I’m against taking foreign concepts and ideas, but I do believe you have to be able to deconstruct what it is and why it is successful in other countries in order to understand it well enough to adapt it to our own style and audience. I always think of an industry like Nollywood and how by all production and technical standards, it shouldn’t be as immensely successful as it it. The audience that it caters to has access to Western films, so the comparison is there. But, Nollywood knows that its audience cares more for dramatic entertainment and caters for it. The conflicts come from romantic or financial problems intertwined with traditional customs and practices in a familial setting.
There is no excessive violence or gratuitous sex as those audiences are mostly conservative by Western standards. By accident or by design, I think it’s an interesting study in how to adapt something to your own environment.
Who would you like to have on Sunday Service that you haven’t already managed to get into the studio?
My best friend, Mo Mothebe. He’s a stand-up comedian and screenwriter. Outside of my family, he has always been somebody I share these conversations with. His insight into the pursuit of the craft is always interesting and it doesn’t hurt that he’s the funniest guy I know.
When speaking about culture, as broad as that term is, it’s always going to be subjective but you still need to have some credentials to back up your opinions. Why do you think you and Tinuke are the right people to host a podcast like Sunday Service?
I think we’re the right people because we’re not in any way qualified as cultural academics. We’re just citizens of the culture with opinions, and that’s what ultimately drives the culture. One of the first things we decided before starting the podcast was that we would never address the audience. There is no “hey guys, thanks for joining us” or “today’s special guest is”…We wanted to present the podcast as a private conversation that the audiences gets to listen in on, not a discussion/lecture that we’re bringing to the audience. It’s a subtle bu important distinction because we recognise that we’re not experts at all, just participants. To us, the conversation is just as important as the conclusion we come to.
What are the conversations you’re tired of hearing?
Any conversation that brings us problems and no effort to find a solution.
What songs are currently in heavy rotation and what should we be looking forward to?
As far as album’s go, Pusha-T’s DAYTONA is still doing it for me. It had all the elements that make a great album; there is a constant sense of momentum driving you from one track to the next. Sonically it sounds like nothing else but still very accessible, and the production, both technically and creatively, works with the persona of Pusha-T as an artist. It’s phenomenal.
Beyond that I’m currently listening to Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and Sinner Lady, Gorillaz – The Now Now, Three 6 Mafia – Kings of Memphis vol3, serpentwithfeet – blisters, Mitski – Be The Cowboy and (always listening to) Prince – Purple Rain
What brands are you really feeling at the moment?
This is going to be some nerdy producer stuff, But KORG has been doing some amazing stuff in the last year or so. KORG is a Japanese manufacturer of synthesizer keyboards and other musical gadgets. It has the retro-nostalgic feel of older gear (which is trendy) but still looks ahead of the curve in terms of its design and interface.
Most notable projects your working on right now?
I’ve just been signed on to produce an album for a South African hip hop artist. I’m not sure if they want anyone knowing, but it’s going to be with full band production recorded in my studio. We’ve just finished getting down pre-production ideas and recruiting all the session players. I’ve worked with and recorded bands, and I’ve made beats and recorded with hip hop artists, so its going to be a fun challenge blending those two worlds.