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Hyenah and the global rise of Afro House

Fairplay drop three remix versions of Latlal on their latest release from Zatar Music. The original appeared on Phonique’s new label in August, and now the Jordanian duo called in some big guns to add a spin to one of the tracks of 2022.

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Hyenah is a resident of Watergate’s famed RISE afro house parties. With releases on Freerange, Rise Music and Watergate Records Hyenah created his own signature sound over the past years and released his debut album ‘Love In Time Of Crisis’ in 2022.

His remix of Fairplay’s Latlal balances the incredible vocals of Mariem Hassan with shuffling beats and a driving groove that draws from across the African continent. 

Thanks for talking to us today – how’s the year been treating you so far? 

Oh, thanks for asking. It feels really good to see our documentary “Above & Beyond, The Global Rise of Afro House” finally being  out on DW this January: 

We, the RISE team, always wanted to showcase the real Afro House scene and its protagonists to the world for some time. 

So together with Naomi Philipps – an amazing director, we came up with the idea of a documentary. It was shot entirely remotely during the pandemic. We were reaching out to our colleagues around the world, interviewing them online, jamming along and accomplishing this portrait together over the course of a year.

First of all, we want to get to know you “from the beginning”. How did your history with music begin?

Since day one music has always had a strong impression on me. From going out to Rare Groove events at the age of 15, where just 7”s were played to attending concerts, the main impact to me was always coming from the groove. Besides the bass kind of rejected any distracting instrument parts diluting the rhythm elements, haha. The groove kept leading the way through different genres ever since until Africa’s scene took me in and taught me its musical secrets.

For you, what is the magic of music? The thing that makes it such a big part of your life?

I followed the music’s calling, deciding that there can not be a plan B, so that I HAD to channel all my energy into creative processes –  Almost like meditation, music always took me to different places in my thoughts. The fact that today people from different cultures reach out to me, allowing me to join their circles, making me travel continents to play my songs, still seems magical to me – and still is the greatest gift.

How did you hook up with Fairplay and Zatar music for this remix? 

About 5 years ago I played a tour in Brazil and a colleague of mine mentioned that he had recently played in Jordan. This country sounded so remote to me back then, but the idea of what Jordan would be like never stopped leaving my mind. Fast forward 5 years I landed in Amman, finding myself received with open arms. The Fairplay crew just welcomed me into their inner circles, introduced me to family members and treated me as if I was one of them.

Were there any specific challenges you had to overcome, or places you wanted to take your version of Latal? 

I carefully choose whom I remix and that is based on the overall vibe I feel when listening to the original version. The idea to remix Latlal was a no-brainer. All elements already had a quality that made the remix process very intuitive. The only challenge I experienced was to make sure the emotional vibe of the original remains intact but will get even emphasized by my approach and the additional musical ingredients. 

Last year you released your album. After working on it for so long, how does it feel now it’s out in the public realm?

In the club world, a released song or EP often is just a short-term project with a limited expiry date. On the contrary, an album is a luxury asset that needs time to grow, needs focus and wants to stay for a little while, even though it might not show up in the DJs playlists. To me, an album shows that the artist is serious about her/his work. 

I am especially proud of the accomplishment of “Love in Times of Crisis”. The album was my companion during the lockdown and assured me about the end of the tunnel. It allowed me to stay connected with the world out there. 

You collaborated with various artists on pretty much every track on the album – is collaborating when you feel most inspired? 

I chose those artists, on the one hand, to give credit to the not-too-well-known talents out there (better don’t miss out on Nanghiti, Patricia Baloge and G-Wash10!) and on the other to showcase our scene in all its different facets. Our label Rise Music has always seen itself as a  platform and commentator on the topic Africa meets Europe with the goal to highlight artists from both sides and to bring them together. At our Rise parties, I never stop to be excited seeing 2 scenes joining forces and about the energy emerging from that.

Can we expect a follow-up any time soon? 

Two remix EPs of my album will come out soon on Rise, a remix for the Burning Man legend Sabo is about to be released and another EP on my friend’s Keene’s imprint Cacao records is on the way.

What does your current studio set up look like? Lots of hardware, or are you mainly ‘out of the box’ type producers?

I always loved hardware and the hands-on approach to music making. But over time I realized though, that the biggest freedom in my job comes from working from wherever I am. Now I am always able to collaborate without having to go back into the studio, may it be in Mexico or Kenya. 

I practised envisioning where I want to go musically using all those amazing tools and plugins available on the way. 

What is the best advice you ever received as an artist?

You need to follow your own artistic path to avoid becoming redundant at some point, even if that needs a lot of patience.

Thank you.

It matters little whether you are an artist or a visitor, the love for music is the unifying factor.

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