Durban, South Africa. A city famous for it's weed, famous for the culinary delight that is the bunny chow, famous for it's endless summer and pristine beaches. Famous for not making anyone famous. Have you ever heard of anyone from Durban? Didn't think so. In South Africa, it's become a running joke that for a Durbanite to ever "make it" as an artist, they have to leave. The talent-drain over the years has been relentless. While the city has always been a hotbed for South African talent, nurturing the likes of Riky Rick, Okmalumkoolkat, and Muzi, it's usually once artists leave the 031 that they find success. The musical migration has been caused by a combination of factors over the years, such as lack of access to the industry, which is mostly in Jo'burg and Cape Town, lack of support from the city and its people, and lack of spaces to perform. Many of those challenges still exist, but lately Durban's come alive with the sounds of music, and the rest of South Africa, and the world, is listening. Gqom —which thump described as "kwaito records falling down the stairs"—has become an international trend, and locally, Babes Wodumo's Wololo has hit the mainstream becoming THE anthem of 2016. Rappers like Nasty C, Aewon Wolf , and Witness The Funk have all become national stars from the humble seaside town, and one of the most successful current commercial producers in the country, Sketchy Bongo, is also from Durban.
It might be too soon to tell, but it feels like Durban music is on the rise, with many artists choosing to stay and build their scenes and their careers in eThekwini. One of the cats working hard to change the way things are in his hometown is Sean Ross, a.k.a. MISSU. The producer, DJ, and live musician found himself in a creative paradise when he recently returned home to Heat City from Cape Town. When he's not working tirelessly on his multiple music projects, he helps book acts at a local venue, BrewHaus, a welcome addition to the local music scene. It also just so happens that MISSU just dropped one of the most shit hot videos for one of the most shit hot songs to come out of Durban in a minute.
The video for "Sunday," which features JONN, is a wavy VFX collage by Hylton Jandrell that perfectly suits the playfulness of a future bass track with a hook of "bruh, bruh, bruh, bruh…" (Just listen to it, it's better than that sounds.) Go on a journey from Durban's beaches to Cape Town's docks, to outer space and back again, and then get to know the talented musician behind the track. We had a word.
Noisey: Firstly, how did you come work with Hylton? You've known him for a while right? Did you know this video would turn out so dope? It suits the song perfectly.
MISSU: Hylt and I went to high school together and have been friends since then. He heard the song when it was released and asked if he could make a music video for it. I had no idea VFX and editing would be as radical as that. We initially filmed for two days, which consisted of me running around on the beach, pestering my cat and falling into a pool, so I had no idea it would turn out like that.
He really knocked it out the park. What made you work with JONN? Did you know him from Durban or did you meet him in Cape Town and see his work with Oh Dark Arrow ?
Yeah, Hylt is truly a genius. I met JONN (Keke Mahlelebe) in Cape Town after seeing the stuff he'd released with ODA and was keen to work with him. We actually formed a band for a while but that ended when I moved back to Durban. I bounced him "Sunday" and he was keen to work on it.
I remember you as the bartender at Unit 11 , an old venue in Durban, but had no idea you were a musician until recently. Probably because you spent the last few years studying in Cape Town. What did you study? How was that experience? I assume you learned a lot, found yourself, etc.
Haha, I feel like I've found my groove more coming back to Durban, actually. Cape Town was great, but it was crazy busy. I was working full time and studying psychology part time as well, with the odd DJing gig here and there. It just felt like I didn't have time to work on creative things. I've been loving being back here and it feels like the Durban music scene is in a cool place right now.
I was actually going to ask you about that. Many Durbanites find themselves having to leave Durban to find success, but you say coming home has helped you find your groove. Do you think it's possible to "make it" as a musician and producer in Durban?
That's a difficult question to answer. Have the musicians who've left found success? I think there may be a bigger alternative scene in Jozi and CT, but Durban has some great artists who are getting recognized. I don't know. The internet makes it way easier to get your music out there. And if you're writing music for an international audience and not just for your hometown, it might get picked up
Speaking of which, future bass as a genre has blown up internationally very quickly with many bedroom producers trying to emulate Flume. What drew you to the genre, and how do you think you stand out from the pack?
I think it was the fact that it was far more eclectic than other electronic music I was listening to. It seems to carry a bit more "feel." Granted, "Sunda"' is a future bass track, but my newer stuff, like the track with Red Robyn, wouldn't fall into that genre.
You're doing a whole EP with her right?
That was the original plan. There is some other stuff we've worked on with Tre Flips as well but we'll see. I've been super busy.
I've noticed you also have a band, with your girlfriend and a few mates, called Bougain Village . I take it you enjoy collaborating with others? How do you manage your time between the projects?
Yeah we actually have our debut show tonight! I love collaborations. It always brings new sounds and often something you weren't expecting. To be honest, there isn't much management, but I just work on both projects consistently. If I'm not working on MISSU stuff for a while I'm normally writing Bougain Village tracks and vice versa.
You've also been helping local venue Brewhaus book acts. What's it been like on the other end of that stick?
Man, it's hectic. [ Laughs.] I prefer being on the stage. But it's been great helping the scene grow.
Haha, fair enough. I was gonna ask, there must be some joy in helping other musicians get stage time? Who've been your favorites so far?
I've been loving hearing the underground producers like Jazteq, oudskul , and BEAT MONKS. There is so much talent that is unseen here. Eli and Immortal are also such treat.
Yeah man, Durban really feels like a hub of talent right now. You got any last words of wisdom?
I'm still learning as well, but I think my words would be for Durban to keep progressing and pushing stuff out there. Fine, our scene is small but there are some great things happening here.