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Baker's Dozen

Beat Codes: Spoek Mathambo's Favourite Albums
Lior Phillips , August 30th, 2017 12:23

Spoek Mathambo gives Lior Phillips a tour of his record collection, crossing continents between the music of his South African homeland, American rap, and British new wave


DJ Cleo - Es'khaleni Unit 5
There was this shop called Reliable Music Warehouse all over the country, and they had this amazing music accepting policy. Another chain, Musica, needed you to run through one of the big distributors and it had to be approved by whoever at the main office for it to make it into stores. Reliable Music Warehouse had a policy where independent record labels and independent distributors could go to a store directly and leave stuff on consignment. So you'd find a real variety of South African electronic music, from the most random corners of the country and the most random people. There were some CDs that were going for two Rand and you could only listen to it once before it would self-destruct. At that time, Cleo was a really big deal for the kwaito stuff, but I really only got into him from the house stuff. Whenever I travel outside of South Africa, people around the world would ask me about Cleo. I don't think he even knew what a big deal he was at the time. People were offering him tours and gigs, but he was asking for ridiculous amounts of money. I think a lot more than he was getting or asking for here, but he must have been like, "It's overseas, I'm going to ask for a ransom."

Did they turn him down?

Yeah, he didn't do those tours. Now he's contacting people at the rate that they asked for, but it's a different time.

I know Diplo mentioned him, or shared his songs. That's probably why people were asking.

All the important global-minded DJs of the time would have some Cleo in their set and a lot of producers would also steal Cleo's ideas or his sounds. He was really influential, and this album had some of the tracks that I liked, like 'Ruthless' and 'More Ruthless'. It influenced me a lot, the idea of making quite a confrontational, tough, brooding sound as opposed to a happy-clappy, smiley house sound. Dancey but pretty heavy.