Way back techno by way of Africa

Now, what if I told you the basis for techno music came from Africa. Then many years later a top techno producer from Germany would discover this, put together a group of musicians hailing from mainly West Africa, then rework their sound with the techno sound of today. Meet Mark Ernestus’ Ndagga Rhythm Force, a group where old is made new and new is made old . Still with me, I hope so?

Basically, the story is, leading German techno producer Mark Ernestus heard the African Ndagga sound at a festival in Europe and was blown away. It caused him to rethink his musical approach. This led him on a journey to Africa, then back back to Europe, to the studio and then to festivals around the world.

The set started simple enough, with the solitary beat of a drum. This was a digital drum beat, like you’d hear in techno and dance music tracks the world over, only this drum beat was played live. Little by little the rest of the band emerged on the stage to join that one solitary techno drum beat. There was a rhythm guitarist, a guy on keys, a few hand drums, a singer and a dancer. BY the time the entire band had made it on stage the music had evolved into a wild combination of tribal beats and more modern dance music.

The musical expression just looked so natural to our group on stage. Things evolved into a bit of showing off. One of our hand drummers pulled out a little shoulder drum which he beat with lighting speed while dancing to the overall groove. The group’s young female dancer began jumping wildly to the music while flinging her limps in exaggerated movements. This too, looked immensely impressive and skillful, but also the most natural thing in the world for our young dancer.

Then in a bit of a surprise move, our dancer took to the mic to point to one of the hand drummers and explain in broken English that “this is my Father”. Once it was established that the father/daughter team were thrilled to be here, the pair proceeded to have a wrestling/dance off to the music, involving wild dance moves and more than a few ground takedowns. Our young heroine proved victorious in battle and shared her joy with the giddy Field of Heaven crowd below.

The music then picked up pace and evolved many times. It went from a drum and bass sound into something more soulful with vocals, then back to a hard driving drum beat that got the crowd energized and clapping along. The end of the set featured something I still can’t really figure out if it was scripted or not. Regardless, it was a whole lot of fun. Our young female dancer on stage seemed to be pointing to somebody in the audience and motioning for her to come up on stage. After a few moments of working this out, our guest audience member joined the rest of the group on stage. She was revealed to be Mami, from Osaka.

However, Mami from Osaka was no random gal from the crowd who now got to enjoy the show from the stage. Mami proceed to join the show on stage. Starting with Mami’s style of dress, (which was African in nature and resembled something the band members were wearing) it was clear young Mami from Osaka knew a thing or two about African culture and Ndagga music. Mami and our spirited young dancer proceeded to get into a dance routine of sorts, jumping, spinning, flailing wildly all to the beat of the music and the utter astonishment of the crowd below. Our dancer sang something in an African language and Mami sang it right back. The fact that Mami could keep up and hold her amazed me as much as anything I’ve seen at Fuji Rock.

The crowd didn’t know how to react, except to lose their minds that one of their own was an African spirit in disguise. It was a wild and wonderful way to start my Saturday afternoon and won’t soon be forgotten.

Text by James Mallion Posted on 2016.7.24 20:20