Two Damn Hot EP’s From Nihiloxcia

Each time I play stuff from Ugandan sensation, Nihiloxcia, I dig them more and more. I’ve seen the future of independent record labels and it is Nyege Nyege Tapes and the much desired album debut from Nihiloxcia may prove to be the label’s Exit Planet Dust, the one that unleashes the storm of East African bands that’s being brooding.

Gareth Main writing in The Quietus, called them the best band on Earth right now, mad when you consider they have only released a sprinkling of songs, but man when you listen to them, you get where he is coming from. Who would have thought that traditional Bugandan drumming fleshed out with a kit drum and synths would groove this hypnotically supreme?

Nihiloxcia’s genesis is within the Nilotika Cultural Ensemble. Under the leadership of Jajja Kalanda, the Ensemble provides an outlet for the youth of Kampala, teaching spiritual, musical and tailoring practices to underprivileged communities around the city and performing at various cultural events.

The rhythmic force of the Nilotika Drum Ensemble — a local Bugandan drum set and a troupe of powerful players — began to perform at a club night in Kampala’s blossoming electronic scene, called Boutiq Electroniq (namesake of the first release on Nyege Nyege Tapes by Disco Vumbi) and here the first merging of live Bugandan drums with electronic sounds was made. The DJs at the embryonic Nyege club night would lay down electronic tracks, and Nilotika would jam along. The result was interesting, but only a one-way conversation.

In 2017 Spooky-J, a jazz drummer and producer releasing on Blip Discs, and pq, a sound engineer and synthesist, came to Kampala ahead of the Nyege Nyege Festival, to write, rehearse, and record a set of live recordings that would form the group’s debut EP, Nihiloxica, that was released to widespread critical acclaim on Nyege Nyege Tapes. All the tracks were recorded live at Boutiq Studios, Kampala, the band explain that usually the traditional songs don’t have a strict structure as they follow the movement of the dancers, but their sound follows the movement of the synths instead.

Time will decree it a classic of the genre that it in itself created. It is a manic exploration of the possibilities of fusing these hereto disparate soundscapes. Opener Nilo Chung is cinematic masterpiece conjuring The French Connection city streets with a Bo-Diddley chug-chug-chug. It is followed by the stomp, stomp, shadow-boxing R2-D2 Detroit techno of punkish Choir Chops. Kadodi is just ridiculously good, when someone eventually calls a halt with a post-coital ‘Fuck’, you are sweating, heart pounding, looking in the mirror, asking “Is there any more?” The excellent video for Kadodi, provides some insight into the frenetic joy.

Returning to Nyege Tapes after a year on tour, their second EP, Biiri sees a battle hardened, gig-dripping, road warrior crew, Nihiloxica Mark II. The band are red hot, ripped and burrowing further into the untapped Bugandan past. The tone here is scale-tipping. Recorded live in single takes, it makes you yearn to see the band live.

It gallops from the off with Diggi Dagga, if Nihiloxcia was the neck-kissing, this is the full on orgy. Man, they are good, real good. Like a beating heart. Simpatico. Cannish. At last we’re going back to where we got lost. Try whirling around to frantic Baksimba until the final hi-hat clash. I love the final track Ding Dong, it’s never a battle, always fused, always sensed, but each intuitively hacking away at their own thing.

Damn man, I’m licking my chops for the debut album.