November 28, 2020

How House Afrika Helped to Break Unknown SA Artists

House Afrika helped to break unknown sa artists
Image Credit: House Afrika

You can’t talk about House music without mentioning House Afrika. Sure House music originated in Chicago, USA but without House Afrika, house music wouldn’t be so popular in South Africa.

House Afrika Records was responsible for introducing what was then known as International music.  That’s what it was called back then.

To be honest, growing I was a bit biased and only paid attention to the local stuff (Kwaito in particular), so I only caught on to House music around 1998. But I was still in primary school by then. 

House Afrika was officially founded in 1998 as a record label and immediately announced their arrival with the release of the smash Fresh House Flava compilation.

And twenty-six years later, the label is still going strong while their competitors have either disappeared or closed shop.

This post will look at how House Afrika has managed to stay relevant after all these years.

But most importantly, is how they helped young and unknown artists and producers to break into the mainstream.

House Afrika Owners

In South Africa, House music was largely considered as an underground movement for DJ’s but that all changed 1998, as mentioned.

The label was founded by Tim White, Vinny Da Vinci (Vincent Motshegoa) and Glen van Loggerenberg (also known as DJ Strat3gy in DJ circles).

The Deal with CCP/EMI

House Afrika signed a deal with the now-defunct CCP/EMI Records in 1998. The first release was Fresh House Flava Compilation album, mixed by DJ Fresh which became an instant success.

In fact, the Fresh House Flava compilation Series established House Afrika as a market leader and a major force to be reckoned with. And all this happened before the new millennium.

House Afrika Records continued to thrive and proved they were in this for the long haul with other successful compilations such as DJ’s At Work Series, Midtempo Vol1 (Glen Lewis) 2001, Wicked Sounds 2001, The Oskido’s Church Grooves Series (DJ Oskido) 2001 and many more.

However, until 2007, everything was pretty much predictable. With the exception of DJ Giftana’s (DJ Oskido’s protégée at the time) Clash of the Heavyweights compilation disc,  most if not all compilations were mixed by the usual suspects – DJ Fresh, Vinny Da Vinci, Christos, Oskido, Kanunu, Glen Lewis.

But that was about to change.

Then came Afrodesiamp3.com

Afrodesiamp3 logo

In 2006, a little known website called Afrodesiamp3.com was launched. The website became a second home for many underground producers, DJ’s and artists in the dance music scene.

At the time, digital was still a fresh topic in the South African music industry and most labels and professionals didn’t really understand it.

However, House Afrika paid attention to what was happening on the online streets. Afrodesiamp3 allowed “established” labels to release and sell music on the platform, so House Afrika Records also jumped on the bandwagon.

When digital stores started to spread like a wildfire, and with new music becoming readily available, the label focused on promoting raw talent. 

If you were a young DJ and producer at the time, well the strategy was pretty much simple – release music on Afrodesia.com and/or Traxsource regularly in order to get noticed by bigger labels. 

Some of you may not be aware but successful artists such as Mobi Dixon and Chymamusique who both went on to release music under House Afrika, got their start on Afrodesia.com

Other notable names include Liquid Deep and Da Capo

The Sony Music Africa Deal

House Afrika Records joined forces with a new partner, Sony Music Entertainment Africa in 2010. It was the dawn of a new era for dance music and the label.

Underground producers who had proven themselves were now given an opportunity to release their music on a much bigger scale.

Liquid Deep was unknown until they dropped the runaway single, Fairytale which featured on the House Afrika Sessions Volume One 4 Disc Album. Although the duo was signed to BBB Records, House Afrika and Sony Music were responsible for introducing them to a national audience.

Successful albums by Roque (Lockdown), Deep Xcape (Pandora’s Box), Mzansi House Compilation Series, Amapiano Series followed suit.

All these compilation albums introduced names such as Da Capo, MFR Souls, Kabza da Small, Semi Tee, Pencil and Zingmaster (Tshwara), and many more to the hard-to-please buying public. All the mentioned artists first had to release music independently on the internet until it was picked up by House Afrika Records before handing it over to Sony for marketing and distribution. 

Sony Music with house afrika signing Mobi Dixon
Image Credit: El Broide. Pictured (Left to Right): Spiro Damaskinos (A&R and Electronic Music Director for Sony Music), Mobi Dixon and Tim White ( House Afrika Records Co-founder)

Final Thoughts

Love them or hate them but House Afrika Records truly has truly stood the test of time.

They showed us the importance of staying the course and reinventing yourself in order to stay relevant in this fickle industry.

They gave many raw and talented producers and artists a break to showcase their talent and it doesn’t look like they will be slowing down, not anytime soon