Quit Safari Challenges The Status Quo

On the road with UK electronic music producer Rival Consoles from 27 February until 8 March, Quit Safari is in search of a new South African electronic scene, self-validation and a good cup of coffee. This tour marked the newly formed label’s first tour on the road, playing shows in Johannesburg, Durban, Grahamstown and their home town Cape Town.

Quit Safari began with a series of podcasts by a group of friends hanging out, talking shit and sharing their music. It now functions as the umbrella label for Fever Trails, Damascvs, Yes in French, Christian Tiger School, Swishy Delta and Selphir. “We all had a similar idea about starting something that everyone could be a part of. It was just the right time, we were all interested in doing the same thing at the same time, so about a year ago we decided that this was a good direction to go in, even though all of our musical styles are different. There is a single thread that runs through all of our music,” explained Bas Van Odenhove. That thread is melody, harkening back to many of the guys’ experience working with musical instruments before they turned to producing.

Postmodern in its essence, many of the tracks produced by the acts on the label are characterised by an excess. The music, despite the differences in the acts, is stuffed full of ideas, references and interesting soundscapes, which Sebastian Zanasi of Christian Tiger School says is part of why they work as a collective. “It’s still accessible to a degree, but that’s why we gravitated towards one another. None of us are straight down the middle, we’re all a bit odd,” he explained.

“Damascvz and Christian Tiger School are in a similar realm, we reference quite a lot of hiphop without actually being hip hop. Fever Trails and Hessein+ sit more in a kind of dance realm. Then there’s Selphir, which I don’t really know how to describe. He’s the one outlier, our wildcard,” Zanasi said, commenting on the acts’ cohesion on shared stages.

The label is founded on a belief in the quality of South African electronic music and on a laissez-faire model. Eschewing the usual, Quit Safari are taking it slow and avoiding the corruption of commercial interests. “We left it very open in the beginning, we didn’t want to get bogged down in corporate identity shit, like all that external stuff,” Van Odenhove explained.

Their focus is on the quality and distribution of the music, not the bottom line. So while it may run like a business, profit is not the goal. “We don’t care if we make no money, we don’t mind giving shit away for free. We’d rather people take the music from our website, get good quality releases versus bootlegging all of our stuff. In the future we’d have to move towards a style that is more business model run but for now we like the way it’s going,” said Van Odenhove.

Touring with Rival Consoles (real name Ryan Lee West) has been a significant opportunity for the label. Management agency Black Major, who represents some of the acts, facilitated the tour with Connect ZA and the support of the British Council. Unlike most international acts, West was just as interested in the South African scene and hearing what’s coming out here as he was in playing for South African audiences. “It was really nice to work someone who was interested in hearing everyone’s work. He made an effort to come up afterwards to say ‘Hey I really liked that’,” Van Odenhove said.

For some of the guys on the label being on tour is old hat, for others it’s the first time. However, a bunch of guys, driving cross-country in a van, Zanasi says is ‘the real tour experience’. “We’re in close confines with the same people for twelve-thirteen hours at a stretch. You get irritated and you make up and become better friends, have smoke breaks at the Wimpy, that kind of stuff. None of us are looking to go wild. Basically we’re just looking for a good cup of coffee.” It’s all about professionalism for the label, who are bent on delivering a good product to their audiences. “As much as we joke we take this incredibly seriously. It’s not often you get to do a tour all over South Africa. We’re here to do a job, to put on a good show,” Van Odenhove said.

Despite the collaboration, a big part of the ethos of Quit Safari is getting rid of a need for validation from international labels. Zanasi explained that pandering to the overseas labels could be soul destroying. “Trying to climb the ladder, it just numbs the process. Screw that, we know this is good. If I make a song and everyone in Quit Safari enjoys it, then I’m completely satisfied,” he said.

The first official release off the label was “Sogan Brashni” from Damascvs with a remix from Selphir. Following in the course of the year is Fever Trails’s EP to be released in the next month and a half. All of the acts on the label have something, be it an EP or an album, planned for release in 2016, so keep your ears close to the ground.






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