The Unique Sound of Blaqkongo: Artist With Liberia-Ghana Roots Trending With Unique, Rare House Music
CAPETOWN – Blaqkongo always packs the punch. The DJ and Producer whose roots are from Ghana and Liberia is rapidly becoming one of the continent’s emerging House and Electronic Music talent.
Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
This month, he teamed up with Mr. Blasé, a fellow DJ and Producer in South Africa, for a combination that has become one of the sensational beats of the social-distancing era.
The project is the brainchild of the record label, Odd One Inn which paired Mr. Blasé and Blaqkongo, to produce one song a week during lockdown.
It is a partnership Blaqkongo says enhanced his creative passion. “Mr Blasé and I have been working on music and events over the last year or so. It was at the beginning of the global social distancing period that his record label, Odd One Inn, initiated a project that would see us commit to creating one song each week during lockdown. During the five weeks, we kept our followers engaged with a slew of well-crafted tracks that explored both concepts of easy listening charm, as well as dancefloor heavy-hitters, where of course the electronic music genre is most at home. We explored Deep House, Tech House, Techno and everything else in between. After five weeks, we announced that we would officially release some of the music that has been spawned by the project. It came out on 19 June.”
Blaqkongo’s beats and and music often have creeping effect everywhere he goes. It is a music borne out of his early influence ranging from 90s Deep House and Jazz, to Hip Hop, Bossa Nova and Central & West African Music.
Having lived and collaborated across the world, Blaqkongo has been exposed to a unique chemistry of sounds that contributes to his love of the music and eccentric production.
Beautiful Combination of Funk, Soul, African
Over the years, he’s played in France, UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Ghana, South Africa and Switzerland. He also ran a party called Couch Crew in Geneva that became known for the best Hip Hop and House event in 2016. He currently hosts a monthly party in Cape Town called Casa Kongo, which focuses on percussive, eccentric dance music. On the decks, Blaqkongo is known for his versatility as he moves from deep and feel good to party mode seamlessly. The artist currently resides in Cape Town, South Africa.
Based in Cape Town, South Africa, the DJ and Producer got into 90s Deep House, Jazz and of African percussive music as a kid. Having spent his life between Switzerland, South Africa, UK and Congo, he has been exposed to really special sounds and people that influence what he creates and plays today.
Blaqkongo, whose real name is Brendan Witherspoon, is the son of Lorenzo and Joyce Witherspoon, who credit his humility and love of music early on for his success. His dad, Lorenzo is Liberia’s former Liberian Ambassador to South Africa and Deputy Ambassador to Zaire. Both parents now work for the World Health Organization in Geneva, where Blaqkongo himself worked briefly before taking his music to a new level.
Blaqkongo studied Finance at Webster University in Geneva, Switzerland and obtained a Masters degree in Accounting and Finance from University of Bath, in the United Kingdom.
These days, the artist has reinvented himself by expressing an unparalleled love and appreciation of music through DJ sets and original productions that invoke deep emotions or high energy. Although he maintains a focus on Soulful House, the energy is communicated through any genre he chooses.
The artist says he always knew this is what he wanted to do from an early age. “I got into House Music when I was around 10 or11. I grew up in Pretoria, South Africa and the sound was quite popular. My dad also has a very eclectic music collection and I actually discovered some of my favorite tracks through it. I’d describe House as a beautiful combination of jazz, funk, soul, hip hop, African, Latin and Caribbean music to name a few.”
Symbolizing Full Odyssey
Three of his hottest tracks – A Gemini Moon Phrase, Forbidden Fruit and Love Evolves is gaining a lot of traction on Spotify, Apple music and Band Camp. “Trust in Me” from his most recent EP, 38 Days, 38 Ways, has hit the number 4 spot in the best new Deep House, June, category on the Beatport platform.
So, where did he get the inspiration?
“The release is part 2 in a 4 part series conceptualised around the phases of the moon, and how those translate to the phases of a budding relationship. EP #01 was titled Empathy, as he explains “To get to know someone you need to be able to put yourself in their shoes and that requires empathy.” This current EP is centred on love, highlighting the contrasting dark & light moments as a relationship evolves. Following this will be a release focused on the idea of conflict, even in the face of empathy and love, and the need to find a resolution to move forward. This ties into the 3/4 of the moon, in that it is the final hurdle to jump before completeness. The last release will be one of unity and oneness, symbolising the full odyssey of both the moon and the metaphorical relationship.”
In Cape Town where he is based, the artist says, the scene offers him a unique outlet to showcase his music. Our scene here is small but fun, it’s like a community and you can really make some great connections with people. It’s divided between a variety of collectives which are all LGBTQ friendly. “My professional sojourn has had it’s ups and downs but, pre-COVID, I would be very confident in saying that it was on the beginning of another up, and Covid-19 has definitely slowed down opportunity for gigs but also opening a lot of other windows. It’s a tough time at the moment for all artists and creatives around the world. I’ve lost out on gigs but new opportunities have also become available and it’s been a really good time to network and build relationships with people all over. During the first two months of lockdown, I kept myself busy by hosting a weekly livestream via Instagram, Facebook and Twitch. I plan to release a lot more music and use the time to refine my craft, build more relationships, and keep my mental health in a good space.”
On a continent where music is always changing, Blaqkongo says his beats and music have a massive crossover appeal. “I think the music I create and play will connect with anyone who has a keen ear. I’m not going to play your top 10 hits, but you’ll have a good time and you might get introduced to new sounds that might intrigue your musical senses. To me, music is education but it’s also spiritualI – I think my sets try to bring these elements together to create a unique experience.”
It is this crossover that led to the recent preselection and invitation of Blaqkongo to perform during a World Cultural Evening as part of the Global Youth Forum, scheduled to be held at a West Coast resort in Barbados in 2021.
Like his music, Blaqkongo’s merchandise is sold on Band Camp. His booking agents, Aloe Aloe, are based n Cape Town.