It's our third installment of our Artist Focus series and this week we bring you Hyenah.
In 2014 Hyenah, an enigmatic persona exploded on to the deep house music scene with a debut EP (The Wish) on Freerange Records which floored every major dance floor from Berlin to Johannesburg. It was charted and played by industry heavyweights including Dixon, Âme, Rampa, Jimpster and Black Coffee just to name a few. With it’s level of rotation a second EP soon followed later that year (Tale From The Dirt) which further solidified his name into deep house soil. Drum driven grooves and energetic rhythms are the core to his sound, but the man without a face keeps us wondering about whats coming up next. House Knights catch up with Hyenah to get to know more about him.
HK: Hyenah thanks for taking up some time to talk to us, normally we’d start asking you about who you are and where you’re from but in this case we’ll skip those questions. Let’s talk about your debut EP on Freerange (The Wish), how did that come about? Because out of the blue we were introduced to Hyenah without warning or introduction.
H: I guess that’s the best part of debut releases: they come unexpected and out of the blue - something that never happens again. I was just very lucky that Jimpster saw the potential and the right people supported it from the beginning. In my opinion good music should be able to speak for itself and that’s why I like the idea of entering the scene without any introduction. Once you know who is behind a certain track people start to listen to it differently. I wanted a clean sheet, free of attributes. Just the music and some visuals.
About the music: The wish was just what just felt right at that time. Some South African vibe, a bit more in your face and with a slight techno-feel, still soulful and with proper percussions and a nice story. Pure energy and lots of soul. A raw beauty is what I wanted to create.
HK: Your tracks are being charted and played by some of the biggest names in the industry, how did this make you feel knowing that your work is being acknowledged by your peers?
H: Obviously I am super happy about the feedback I got for The Wish. First of all from Jimpster and Freerange who believed in me almost from the beginning, second from Manoo, who also believed in the track and produced two amazing remixes that gave it an extra push. When all the rest happened, I was just overwhelmed: Black Coffee quoting it as the most underrated track of the year and playing it all the time, Culoe de Song dropping it in many of his sets, Dixon, Ame, Mano Le Tough and all these guys playing it all over the world. All these guys are heros for me. Insane! I am just as happy about the second release though. All these guys reacting the same way a second time is just nuts. Thanks a lot to Rampa for his remix of „Tale from the dirt“. He created a real masterpiece.
HK: Your music is deeply rooted with African infuences, is this the core structure we can expect from you or is Hyenah multifaceted when it comes to his production?
H: In the very near future I am not going to get super deep into scandinavian folk music or traditional vietnamese harmonies. The Hyenah is an african creature. So my power is gained from the african groove. It is the foundation of my existence. Obviously there will always be other influences that add up to the magic. The raw beauty I was talking about is what I am about at the moment. We will see what the future brings though.
HK: This year your gigging has picked up momentum, recently you played at Djoon in Paris and have dates coming up in Berlin and Barcelona. How would you compare playing to European crowds to let’s say that of South African crowds?
H: The South African crowd is so special! there is no doubt about it. Many of these heads musically really feel what I feel. We enjoy the same things: the groove the harmonies, surprising elements that appear and disappear out of nothing the plain deep longer lasting arrangements . And there I would find a certain easiness and state of just being relaxed while letting the music evolve so that dancing is just the most natural response. Europe sometimes has a bit more of a stiff and observing vibe and clearly not everyone there has a physical approach to dance music but a rather intellectual.
HK: Music theses days is more accessible than ever before, are you more selective with projects you take on and the frequency of your releases?
H: With my two releases out, one new EP in the pipeline and one remix to be released this month I can’t really say I am taking on too much. I am mainly focusing on quality. I - and obviously a label that I like - need to believe that these tunes are really needed in this world. That is why I mainly want to work with labels that I highly respect. I want the tough selection to filter to great from the maybe not as impressive tracks. As a producer it sometimes is hard to judge.
When it comes to remixes, I really am being very selective though. I would not try to remix a song that i am not a 100% sure about being able to contribute something in my eyes essential to the composition and sound. I do prefer tracks with musical elements. Frankey & Sandrino’s „Starchild“ had exactly those elements. Pure „tracks", that are amazingly engineered but without musical elements are less interesting for me. If a track is great the way it is and I feel like I wouldn’t have done it differently, I won’t take on a remix either. You know, remix normally means just as much work as an original. so I rather do my own originals if the track I am supposed to rework does not give me the ingredients I need for my magic.
HK: If you were being taken to an island and were only allowed to take 3 items with you, what would they be?
H: Phew. I guess it depends on the island, its weather and food conditions and the time period I’d have to stay. All in all company is probably not the worst thing to have some company on a lonely Island… maybe some pretty one of the opposite sex that I feel attracted to. And she feels attracted to me too. Intellectually it would be nice to be on about the same bandwidth too. Am I being too rational here?
HK: Have you had any strange requests in recent gigs?
H: Nope. Besides people asking me to take off my mask. So far people are very respectful with the Hyenah. Maybe because they know it is dangerous to take the wrong turns, you never know what might happen… Sorry. I do know though that these requests can be very, very funny.
HK: Hyenah, thanks for your time, are there any projects / gigs you’d like to tell us about happening in the near future?
H: Yes! Please do watch out for my upcoming remix for Frankey & Sandrino’s „Starchild“ on Drumpoet Community. It should be out the day before my gig with Black Coffee at the legendary Watergate Club in Berlin / Germany on the 23rd of May. You can already check it on Soundcloud. And in September there is going to be the next release of mine: An EP on Dennis Ferrer’s NYC based label Objektivity. There is one secret I can already tell you about that release: It will include vocals by South Africas very own Nonku. I can’t wait to unleash that dragon, believe me!
HK want to thank Hyenah for the time taken our for this interview. Please note, this segment will only be streamed until further notice, downloads will be enabled once consent from the artist has been received.
Don't forget to check out Hyenah's remix of Frankey & Sandrinos ''Starchild'' dropping this month on Drumpoet Community.
Stream the track here:
Connect with Hyenah:
In our second instalment of the HK Artist Focus we are proud to announce Jazzuelle in this section of the show! Soon to be performing at Antiquated Souls on the 1st of May we got the chance to chat to this talented artist making waves in the industry!
HK: Welcome to our humble podcast Jazuelle, we are excited to have you on our show. As we start our conversation, the best place to start is in the beginning of the life of Jazuelle. Where are you from and where did you grow up?
J: Thanks for having me. I was born in Cape Town, and lived in between Cape Town and Aliwal North because my family was mixed between Sotho speaking and Xhosa people, so I travelled a lot by bus up and down the two cities
HK: Was it a musical decision to move to Johannesburg? and if so why?
J: Oh definitely mate, Jozi’s ambience is very liberal compared to that of Cape Town or Aliwal North, I found freedom here to express myself honestly without being forced to play or release what I don’t feel, otherwise I’ve always been detached from popular culture so I don’t think id be different anywhere else right now.
HK: You have a strong influence of electronica and Jazz that you fuses together beautifully in your unique brand of deep house, who were your influences growing up and your influences now?
J: Thanks for the observation man, I think I just get in studio and do what I feel, aiming for the most imperfect results too. My biggest inspiration is the great Steve Reich, the man is a legend… he pushes boundaries where others fear to go, and I think that’s what it’s all about, pushing sonic boundaries, discovering who you are in the midst of it all… these days though, the likes of Max Graef,] Moodymann, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Erdbeerschnitzel, Glenn Astro, Leon Vynehall and Francis Inferno Orchestra … these guys never bore me, so much depth, warmth and honesty in the music…
HK: As an obvious music lover, is there other music you listen to besides house? If so what do you listen to and who are your favourite artists at the moment?
J: I’m pretty open minded about music, I can an open mind, but I listen to a lot of experimental glitch, ambient, nu jazz, neo soul and afro jazz too, typically the warmer it is, the more intrigued I get… I love depth in music, so I’m prone to listen to anything that tells a story or paints a picture; it can be full of love or dark and melancholic, as long as there’s emotion. Right now some of my favourite artists or bands are; Moon Ate The Dark, Leon Vynehall, Erdbeerschnitzel, Glenn Astro, Francis Inferno Orchestra, Little Dragon, Bonobo, Herd, Koop and many more, too many to write down for this interview… (smiles)
HK: Your label Cityscope Recordings has come a long way, but you have also released on other major labels such as Foliage Records and Atjazz Record Company, to name a few, those are all huge accomplishments, but which would you say is your proudest moment in this industry?
J: Well it happened now recently actually, signing my first record featuring a poet in Joburg called Lazarusman on Get Physical Music out in Berlin, this is really big for me, I don’t really aim to put music out on the biggest label but there’s no contesting that Get Physical is one of the biggest right now in the electronic music Diaspora in Europe and so this will definitely change my career forever and introduce me to millions of potential fans out there so I’m really proud that.
HK: You have also performed in many different places with many different faces, is there any performance that you will never forget?
J: Oh definitely mate, performing at the recent Sonar (A taste of Sonar JHB) at the convention centre in Sandton, I became the first black guy to open sonar in Johannesburg but playing alongside The Pet Shop Boys, The Bloody Beetroots, Black Coffee too was the icing on the cake, was really proud of myself when that happened
HK: If you were being taken to an island and you could only bring 3 things what would they be?
J: Ha! A crate full of books I’ve read and haven’t read, the love of my life and a fender Rhodes piano (laughs)
HK: What is the most outrageous thing a fan has said to you or asked you?
J: (laughs) at a gig I played, I was standing next to two young guys who were talking about me and my music and didn’t realise I was standing next to them, they were arguing about where I come from and based, one was fiercely sure that I was from overseas somewhere in Europe, and the other was sure I was born in PTA, (apparently) that’s where the deep house ‘legends’ are born in Mzansi… and I was standing right next to them as they argued about me. Found it really flattering though… (smiles)
HK: You will be performing at Antiquated Souls on the 1st of May, is there any other upcoming projects or performances you would like to share with us?
J: I’m really excited about playing at the antiquated souls show, got some surprises in store for there… I’ve got few collaborations that I’m busy doing right now, with Charles Webster, Fred Everything, Da Capo to name a few, all of which will constitute to my first studio album but don’t want to give too much away right now, will be announcing everything gradually during the course of the year, also will be off to Europe for some time in June too to play a really big festival, will also announce that properly in time… can’t give anything away just yet.
HK: We thank you for being part of the HK Artist Focus, we hope to hear from you soon. Do you have any advice or messages you would like to end off with for your fans who would like to follow in your footsteps?
J: Oh yeah mate thanks for having me and looking forward to playing at Antiquated Souls. Well the universal thing I can advise, especially to the young guys getting in the scene is be honest about this, and do it cause you love it, not cause you want money or girls or a private jet, do it cause you love it, and naturally the path will extend and take you further, if you believe. So believe in yourself, work like your life depends on it, and let the universe take care of the rest…