Sketchy Bongo is without a shred of doubt one of South Africa’s most talented music production virtuosos.
And after a run making waves and churning out summer smash hits with the likes of Shekhinah, AKA, Da L.E.S, Aewon Wolf and Jimmy Nevis amongst others, the 27 year old Durbanite has finally liberated a full body of work.
Unmasked is a 14 track synthetic dovetail of Sketchy Bongo’s unique vibe exploring different sounds to create a rich, solid listen who’s listener will not be easily pinned down as a strict lover of a specific genre.
Much like the stylistically masked Wolf Pack producer himself, the album’s identity creates a new niche for Sketchy – bringing together EDM, Pop, Dance and Hip Hop amongst others – weaved seamlessly and blended into one addictive, groovy, acoustic and beachy listen.
During a time when there’s an ongoing debate on whether or not Hip Hop has finally dethroned house music as the country’s leading commercial genre, and whether or not Durban will soon become the new hub for the local music business, this album goes beyond those conversations to appeal to people who love having a good time listening to a solid record.
You’re likely already in love with tracks 13 and 14, Let You Know and Back To Beach featuring Shekhinah. Both songs garnered both artists national recognition and plenty commercial success, and as well awakening the masses to the emergence of an alternative Durban bred sound that blended genres that had not be explored as much locally.
Both tracks were loved for their relaxed, soulful mid tempo dance vibes. They were also somewhat beachy, something fresh for a country who’s been listening to music cooked in studios where there’s no beach anywhere near.
Well, Unmasked is this feeling.
Blast From The Past with Shekhinah strategically opens the album. We’ve come to know of the unfailing magic that comes out from Shekhinah’s powerhouse soulful vocals and his masterful instrumentations and the opening song solidifies that. Naturally, the song is ready for the Top 40, the beach, the taxi boot and the club. It’s beautiful, relaxed, groovy, soulful and addictive.
We are gonna go ahead and name Walk On The Clouds one of our favourite songs so far in 2017. The marriage between Tresor’s beautiful and haunting vocals and Sketchy’s distinct assembly of organic reverberations is so perfect it’s almost hard to believe this song waited this long to born.
But because Sketchy Bongo has refined the art of exploring different genres and introducing them to his world without much drama, we are also treated to some trap on track 3, Having Fun featuring Durban rap group WTF, as well as Wolf Pack homie Aewon Wolf. The song is a bit of a detour from what we started at the beginning of the album, but the catchy hook makes that worthy.
One of my personal favourites in this album is Love Me In The Dark with Kaien Cruz, so much that I had to keep it on repeat a few times before resuming. First of all, you just have to find out more about Kaien Cruz! Her effortlessly beautiful, yet simple, clean and authentic vocals work well with the dance tune. The song has a very easy going feel, although the kicks take a bigger spotlight on this one than the previous songs. Reminds me of All About It with Jimmy Nevis, a song I will forever thank for good times on the treadmill.
The producer’s collaboration with dance twin brethen duo Locnville on Blue Moon is sure to extend his reach to new spaces, and will sure score him him bigger deals than that MTV Base exclusive. The album now takes a turn to pure electro, complete with robotic vocals. You know some Shimmy Beach gigs in Cape Town are coming.
It’s back to EDM again on Sheen Skalz on Get Right. Rap and EDM, yes! Again, another personal fave. Simply grand in world class production, rich enough to be play listed at your party when you want guests to have a good time.
Furaha Lakini Maskini was entirely surprising. We’ve mentioned here how Sketchy Bongo is clearly unafraid to put his skills in full use exploring different sounds and finding a smart way of fitting it within his own, but the collaboration with Gemini Major and Aewon Wolf takes us to that blend of dance and organic African traditional instrumentation for an authentic continental jam.
All in all, Unmasked is a grand, solid debut album from Sketchy Bongo. Go and get it, you will not regret!
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