In David Fincher’s 2010 film “The Social Network,” Mark Zuckerberg and his cronies attend a Caribbean night party at a Harvard fraternity. A few people dance awkwardly. Small groups of people cluster together. A loop of Niagara Falls plays on a giant screen. A DJ and a man playing steel drums bob their heads as feedback turns their music into something cringe-worthy.
The party is awkward, but it’s an endearing awkwardness. Despite the pathetic execution of its theme, the party has an irresistible humorousness about it. As the music plays, Eduardo Saverin struts up to Zuckerberg, moving his shoulders back in forth and extending his arms outward. It’s a pathetic little dance that perfectly complements the pathetic Caribbean night theme. He realizes it’s a lame party. Why not accept it and dance a bit?
This scene kept coming to mind as I listened to the newest EP from South African artist DJ Spoko. Born Marvin Ramalepe, DJ Spoko hails from Atteridgeville, a primarily black township located just outside of Pretoria, one of South Africa’s three capitals and home to a primarily white population. He has pioneered a genre called Bacardi House, and he explores this sound on Ghost Town, a five-track EP and his first release in the West.
It’s hard to say what Bacardi House is exactly supposed to sound like. The artist’s label describes it as a fusion of European house music and the darker sounds of Detroit house. If this is the case, I can’t say I understand what Bacardi House is supposed to be. Ghost Town is full of propulsive, summery beats that sound nothing whatsoever like Bacardi House is described to be. But it doesn’t matter. Placing labels on this music only results in confusion for the listener, especially when it turns out the music has little in common with the descriptions it’s given and offers very little in the way of innovation.
The sounds on this EP can be summed up as M.I.A. filtered through a beginner Casio Keyboard. DJ Spoko boasts an interesting worldbeat aesthetic, similar to what M.I.A. helped popularize in the U.S. and Europe. However, there is nothing even remotely original about these sounds that could have been pulled from a preprogrammed keyboard and mastered in GarageBand.
The track “I Remember” features layers of organs obviously produced with a synthesizer repeating an uninspired chord progression to the point of headache-inducing boredom. “Sound Of Our 4Fathers” shares a similar aesthetic, with a monotonous 4/4 beat and airy, choral-like synth chords that sound like something produced by some musically oblivious kid who just got their first keyboard.
“The Social Network’s” Caribbean night scene stuck in my mind while listening to Ghost Town because, despite DJ Spoko’s utter lack of sonic originality, it’s hard not to break a smile at his music and just accept it for what it is. “Azange” and “Batauweng” are fun songs that offer danceable beats and uplifting vocal chants. DJ Spoko’s music would fit nicely in the background of a pool party where no one knows where the iPod is hooked up, but what matters is the overall vibe of the party, not what music is playing. Listening to Ghost Town is like watching a sweaty, nervous kid give an honest, good-hearted performance of a Jackson 5 song at an elementary school talent show. Sure, it isn’t good music. Not by any means. But its pitifulness is worth embracing. It would make Eduardo Saverin happy; it’s the perfect music for pathetic little dances.
1.5 out of 5 stars