Africa Distinct 005: Ralf GUM (GOGO Music)
Welcome back to yet another instalment of Africa Distinct.
Today’s show welcomes a very special artist, who is not necessarily from Africa but has adopted this sound into his own iconic pieces of work. This in itself has made South Africa his second home away from Germany. Having worked with some of the best artists both from Africa and around the world, such as the legendary Monique Bingham, Kafele Bandele, Robert Owens, Kenny Bobien, Dele Sosimi and the late South African jazz legend Hugh Masekela, he has built a phenomenal career spanning over three decades. As label boss of the mighty GOGO Music, Ralf Gum has delivered music which has shaped and played a pivotal role in the South African music scene. With anthems such as Take Me To My Love, Little W. 12th St. and Complicated, just to name a few, he has proved to deliver timeless music over and over again.
Fast forward to 2019, the maestro has his fourth studio album – “Progressions” which will be out on the 1st of March followed by an album tour kicking off first in South Africa (1 March – 22 April), Europe (26 April – 4 May), one week in North America and to finish the tour on the 18th of May in London.
For more information on Ralf’s tour dates check http://ralfgum.com/tour/
To conclude it gives me the greatest honour to welcome the legend himself to 005 of Africa Distinct.
Welcome home Ralf GUM!
Tell us a little bit about the album?
“Progressions” has been in the making over the past 4 years. It contains 10 songs with 10 amazing vocalists, some of them being regular cohorts like Kafele and Monique Bingham, but as well new talent I haven’t been working with before such as Mafikizolo, Tony Momrelle or Paul Randolph. Initially, I wanted to make an album aimed straight at the dancefloor, still soulful but with a rather minimal approach, but during the production process the music became more complex and most songs lost their initial approach. This, as my natural desire for “music” kicked in. Finally, “Progressions” became a hybrid of the aforementioned and I am quite proud of how it sounds.
What can we expect from Progressions that is different from Never Leaves You and In My City?
I call it an album of change. Change in many aspects. I challenged myself to find a different sound, based on new drum samples and percussions, which mostly are newly recorded and I changed a lot of work-routines to achieve this. As well I had to move my studio 4 times during the production period and along the way the album changed sonically. Therefore it is different from its predecessors while keeping my signature. My aim was to refine and redefine my own sound and there’s even more focus on strong lyrical content and well-written songs on “Progressions”, too.
What have been the main influences that got you started with music?
It was early electronic music, which really drew me in. There are of course many other influences from World Music to Jazz to Pop Music, too, but it was the likes of Kraftwerk, Techno and Chicago House & Acid that really got me. And finally being able to travel to New York in the early nineties made me fall in love with the four to the floor House Sound forever.
Tell us about your relationship with Monique Bingham, who has featured on so many of your amazing records? Where did it all begin?
It all began with an email to her in 2006, asking if she’d be interested to work with me on a song for my first album. Luckily she said yes when she heard the “Kissing Strangers” layout and luckily we share in many ways a similar mindset, and especially when it comes to working on music. We both believe in taking our time to perfect things, in her case it’s mostly the words which take their time and in my case the tweaking, redoing, rearranging, re-programming and rethinking of playbacks. I hardly have a straight way to a final production. Therefore we get along very well and a good relationship, of course, helps to achieve a good creative result.
How was the process writing Progressions compared to the previous ones?
It is the first record where more of the music was recorded in South Africa. My sound always contained a lot of live instrumentation and I am still working with various German musicians remotely, with some of them thru my co-producer Nivalito. With this record, I wanted to be able to take influence on the outcome as much as possible and hence recorded much more in my space. 4 songs feature South African artists and another 2 were recorded in South Africa, which is more than on any other album before. Now that I finally have a great sounding studio room, I guess this trend will surely intensify in the future.
Out of all the places in the world why has South Africa played such a role in your own iconic sound and music career?
A lot of people in South Africa simply feel House Music, which made it a great country to perform in, but as we fell in love with many more aspects of SA and its people, my wife and I decided to relocate in 2012. The possibility to play enough gigs to feed the family without having to take a long haul flights obviously saves me a lot of time and enabled me to put even more effort into production, while still being more with family. I always trusted my sound and continued to refine it, without looking too much left or right. The success in SA helped me, as much as the birth of my children, to find myself.
Which up and coming artist are making waves in the scene that you would want to work with?
My playbacks usually develop before approaching possible featured artists, so it is mostly the ideas which will determine the right vocalists. Therefore I can’t name a specific one and there literally are many.
What was it like working with the legend himself Hugh Masekela?
Of course, it was an absolute highlight in my career to record him. He was a highly professional studio worker and a very calm, humble and humorous person. I will forever be grateful that he gave me the opportunity to meet and work with him. What makes it even better, is that he really liked what we did together.
What can we expect from the mix you made for us?
The mix contains various tracks and artists I would currently play in sets. Even not all music is South African, I gave the mix an African touch and included as well a few album songs.
What is your absolute favourite track at the moment?
This is a difficult one, but it must be one of the “Progressions” album songs. The reactions on the long player have been everything and more than I was hoping for and it simply depends on my mood which one I’d go for.
“Progressions” is out now on GOGO Music. Check it out »
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