Johannesburg’s Spoek Mathambo (pronounced “Spook Mahtembo,” real name Nthato Mokgata) brought his eclectic blend of Afro-futurism and electro-hip hop to Chicago for the first time Wednesday night, playing to an intimate crowd at Lincoln Hall. His songs range from subtly brilliant head-nodders like “War on Words,” to racous, energizing anthems like “Mshini Wam.” He’s also fully capable of getting down and dirty, as evident in the track, “Don’t Mean to be Rude,” during which he wanted the crowd to shake their booties. The infectious beat was triggered by Nthato, which meant he could stop and start it at will, teasing the crowd into movement. The room was by no means packed, and Nthato took advantage of this by talking and cracking jokes.
He ended the short-but-sweet set with his best known track, “Control,” a dark, oscillating cover of Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control.” The 2011 video was directed by Pieter Hugo and is a masterpiece in its use of black and white contrasts. It’s well worth a watch, so check out the video at the end of the slideshow. Before the song started, Nthato spoke through the song’s pitched-down voice effect, saying things like, “This is my party voice,” and making the crowd laugh. He explained how the song is less a cover of Joy Division and more a celebration of South Africa’s House music.
Him and his band of two head to Minneapolis next, then to Seattle for Capitol Hill Block Party, and down the West Coast ending up in Los Angeles in late July. Chicago native The GTW (Greater Than Wealth) opened with his blend of afro-hip-hop and synths.