Q+A: Five minutes with Hyenah

When it comes to Afro House, few other artists have been as essential in establishing the sound outside of Africa than Hyenah. The masked producer and DJ is easily one of the most identifiable players in the genre. As the founder of the iconic Watergate’s groundbreaking African house night RISE, Hyenah’s love for the sounds of African dance music has seen him create spaces for the artists pioneering the form to establish themselves on the European continent. Fresh off the back of a remix for Fairplay, out today on Zatar Music, we caught up with Hyenah to chat about Africa’s current dancefloor dominance, and his approach to remixing.


Hyenah, welcome to The Playground.

Hello and nice to meet you! 


Set the tone for us. Where did your journey with music begin?

It began with Jazz, Soul, Rare Groove… Classic Black Music. Every genre that has a hypnotic groove had a strong impact on me from day one.


Your style has found its roots in Afro House. What drew you to this style initially?

Man, it’s just so fresh! People in Africa are reinventing the groove every few years. It’s crazy. Originally I was mostly connected to South Africa. It still blows my mind how they do it down there. Every two years there is a new style that is just super unique… Afro House, Afro Tech, Gqom, Amapiano… Compared to micro optimisations and recycling in House and Techno it feels like these guys are taking major leaps again and again. I have so much admiration for that. On top of that, I love that it’s all about the groove and the soul. You can enjoy Afro House in every situation and in every state of mind. Even if you have never heard it before. It’s still magic to me, how any crowd intuitively responds to that sound, no matter where I play.


Who would you consider some of your key influences?

There are so many… So it’s really hard to say. It’s mainly the approach of Afro House, I think, the freedom to innovate. If I had to drop some names I’d say Culoe De Song, Black Motion, Enoo Napa, to just name a few.


You’ve been a mainstay at Watergate’s iconic RISE parties. Can you tell us how these parties have helped establish the sound of Afro House outside of Africa?

We – the RISE Crew – have been working hard on this. I mean, Berlin is the capital of Techno. Even though the stereotypes of Berlin are a lot more limited than the situation on the ground. Still, the warm and groove based vibe of Afro House was new to many in the Techno World. There is also a community of PoC in the diaspora in Berlin that we have to give credit to. They had their own parties here and trusted the RISE Crew to enter the Techno space at Watergate. And Watergate trusted us on that too, which we are super grateful for. With this trust we could build something. Other places in Europe were observing that. There were a few labels like Aluku Rebels or MoBlack. But they did not have the opportunity to showcase that sound on a renowned stage. We are proud to have helped push Afro House in Europe. In the end it is a team effort though. It only works if other people do it too – people like Global Fantasy and Madoras In Da House in Greece, Djoon in Paris and some crews in Portugal, these were the early ones. Now there’s more and more. And like this we can slowly build an infrastructure that is growing worldwide. 


What are your thoughts on the current explosion African dance music is experiencing globally, and on Amapiano rising as the definitive sound of dancefloors around the world?

I love it that Africa is building a worldwide standing. A standing that it has deserved for a long time. It’s about time that the West (or North) starts seeing Africa as a place of creativity, progress, modern life and value. We need to get the image of starving kids and civil wars out of our heads. I mean, they exist, but Africa has so much more to offer! 


Tell us about your remix of Fairplay’s Latlal. How did you evolve the track from the original?

In the last years I had more and more shows around the North African and Middle Eastern countries. There’s always an amazing vibe and they really connect with Afro House. So it was about time to work on something that connects to that. Fairplay invited me over to Amman / Jordan and we had a blast! It’s always a great feeling when a remix kind of happens naturally. There are many nice elements in the original that I could easily work with. I wanted to give it a bit more of a catchy late night Afro House feel. Something to leave people with a happy feeling. And I wanted to play around with the Amapiano Logdrum sound. So, voila… 


Download and stream Latlal Remixes here


What is your approach to remixing? Do you sort of use the elements of the original to build something new, or focus on specific sounds to expand on an idea?

I only do remixes when I feel I can add something to the original. Sometimes originals are just amazing. So I could not make them better – or at least more interesting or interestingly different. There needs to be some element that is kind of an anchor for an idea. based on that I try to focus on a certain emotion and stir that up with my signature sound.


What can we expect from Hyenah in 2023. Are you able to share the news?

First there are two EPs with remixes of my debut album “Love In Times Of Crisis” that I released last year. I am very much looking forward to have a bunch of very different people reinterpreting my songs. On top of that, there’s going to be another collaboration with my long time friend Lazarusman on Cacao. and a Remix for Sabo. That’s all I can say… So far. I haven’t been in the studio for a bit now so I am looking forward to being back with a fresh mind. Sometimes It’s good to have a break, you know? 


If you could go back in time and write any song in history, which one would it be and why?

There is so much genius out there and each decade had its fantastic masterminds, a thorough answer would fill pages here. I wish I would have produced Y.O.U.D. by Culoe De Song. It is such a timeless masterpiece.


Listen to Hyenah’s remix of Latlal below.

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