Boomkat Product Review:
PAN and Uganda's burgeoning Hakuna Kulala stable unite for this special edition book and album. Lining up an intense selection of vocalists, poets, singers and players - including Ecko Bazz, Swordman Kitala, Florence, Biga Yut and Winnie Lado - Hundebiss boss and sonic alchemist Simone Trabucchi (aka STILL) serves up a generous platter of glossily experimental East African club heat, sprinkling it with a hefty pinch of Italian seasoning.
Back in 2017, Trabucchi focused his creative energy on "I", his debut under the STILL moniker and for our money his most exciting creative project to date. It was a collaboration with African-Italian vocalists and singers that highlighted his country's colonial past, particularly its links with Ethiopia and Jamaica. The result was an experimental offshoot of digital dancehall that Trabucchi continues to expand and explore on "Kikommando", this time fixing his sights on Uganda.
In the summer of 2018, Trabucchi took up a two-month residency in Kampala at the Nyege Nyege villa and invited as many local artists as he could to roll through. Desperate to record as much music as possible in the short time he was there, he ended up manufacturing a time-locked snapshot of the city's vibrant experimental scene. The mixtape's title is a reference to a popular local dish - a mixture of torn chapatti and beans coined by local star and politician Bobi Wine in one of his songs - and this cross-cultural flavor bomb is an apt metaphor for the flavorsome sonic stew simmered within.
The project is imagined as a mixtape, video series and book project, and on the album, Trabucchi uses his skeletal, propulsive productions to guide us thru Hakuna Kulala's flick-book of collaborators. Woozy, Eno-esque FM drones and a pinprick dancehall flutter underpins 'Nkwaata', a collaboration with rapper Blaq Bandana that coolly introduces the album, before Ecko Bazz, who impressed on 2019's fiery "Kyusa Embela", assertively spits rhymes over thick subs and pineal-tickling psych-trap percussion on 'Ntabala (Rolex Riddim)'.
Trabucchi dissolves bleep techno shimmer into dub-drenched, Equiknoxx-influenced rhythmic thickets on the Swordman Kitala and Omutaba collaboration 'Rollacosta', and meets GabaGaza gang's Biga Yut and Kampala Unit trumpet player and singer Florence on the hazy, ethereal 'Ntwala'. On 'The Race', South Sudanese poet and singer Winnie Lado layers resonant words and phrases ("is it the confusion of power and identity?") over dissonant synths, following it up with the cutting 'Ahlam Wa Ish', completely in Arabic.
The book itself is a ‘visual mixtape’ of moving images for each song on the album, a recording diary of sorts, providing a vibrant collection of pictures, colours and textures reflecting the city’s complex and heterogeneous sonic palette.
Kampala just keeps on taking it.