DJ Travella – Mr Mixondo
Before hyperpop was consecrated as a genre of itself, there was singeli. The hyperactive, breakneck club music born in the underground scene of Dar E Salam can be looked at as a sort of precursor to what hyperpop has done in the West. Years before 100 Gecs threw auto-tuned hooks against hi-NRG or Lil’ Texas proposed American hardcore, the Tanzanian underground were raving to racing gabber loops at velocities of up to 200bpm, embellished with helium pithed auto-tune choruses and refrains. Popularised by Sisso Records, a sort of PC Music collective of agitators if you will, singeli was brought to the world’s attention by Nyege Nyege Tapes in 2017, just as hyperpop began emerging. Now, as the latter arrives at where singeli has been for some time, cue 19 year old producer DJ Travella. With an ecstatic fusion of breakbeats and hi-NRG rave, Travella’s singeli defines itself by chopping and pasting these sounds with influences from dembow, hip-hop, and traditional Tanzanian percussion toward a distinct ‘hyper-singeli’ sound. His debut album Mr Mixondo makes its intention clear: to both subvert and evolve singeli into increasingly new and uncharted territories.
For those who are familiar with the singeli of Sisso Records, Mr Mixondo is a departure for the style. For the most part, Travella almost entirely reinvents the form, stripping it of its vocal refrains and pop inclinations and instead proposing a singeli that is driven by pure sonic chaos. Crazy Beat Music Umeme 1 is a triumphant introduction; a haze of electronic noise through which Travella’s signature motifs dance in and out. It’s an exhilarating and skull shaking opening. Whereas the singeli of the past followed a reliable looped structure, Travella’s (compact as it might be) diverges off course with little warning. Sounds crash and fall off each other, ideas arise and dissipate as quickly as the beat itself. This results in some truly exhilarating moments. Beat Kikosi switches itself every few bars, elements entering and existing to reveal the mechanics of the track in a way that’s entirely manic yet euphoric. On Chapa Bakola Music Bass, layers of distorted percussion and bass cut to reveal a metallic rattling at the track’s core, as patches of its former self tune in and out of frequency as if Travella is turning the dial of a radio. The hi-NRG synth cacophony of Crazy Beat Music Umeme 2 practically cuts without warning to expose the track’s bhangra breakbeat skeleton for a moment so enthralling, it may prompt you to live the entire experience all over again.
It’s immediately clear that Travella’s modus operandi forgoes any conventional structure. His mission is disruption, and everything follows suit. This can make for some painstaking messes, such as the 8-bit jumble of Tambasana which doesn’t quite land as well as the chaos of Crazy Beat Music Umeme 1. It’s when he allows the ghosts of the forms he plays with to creep in that he does his best disrupting. Good Beat and FL Beat are almost footwork but also distant from it, while tracks like 21212 and Dope2 come close to gabber, but their alien strangeness keeps them in orbit someplace in the future. This particular cyber-futurism is a major motif for Travella. Many of his sounds are inspired or pulled from sci-fi ideas of dystopian lands and cyborg creatures, its bleeps and machine sounds locating Mr Mixondo in a time beyond the present. It’s in the strange bloops of Good Beat or the whining, cyberpunk sirens skyrocketing to the moon on Dope2 and Kaz0. London Jomon Beat is a bizarre triumph, simultaneously a Y2K eurodance throwback and East African sound system parade.
With Mr Mixondo, DJ Travella presents one of the most striking debuts of the year. At just 19, he’s already propositioning himself as a visionary. The chain of influence of left-field dance music is always interesting to consider, thinking about how styles inform each other and evolve as a result. While hyperpop and other post-club forms arising in the UK and US might only just be coming close to what singeli has been doing, artists like Travella are essential to the continuation of this cycle. Though it may take some muscle for those uninitiated to singeli to find its groove, Mr Mixondo is an album well worth giving your time to.
Listen to Crazy Beat Music Umeme 1 from Mr Mixondo below.
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