Africa: the actual motherland. Birthplace of humanity, for better or worse.
This article was inspired by the usual quip we get from readers on our site: ‘So, how many African math rock bands do you know of eh? Eh?‘. Well, overlooking the polyrhythms that pervade traditional African music, and classic African jazz and prog rock greats like Osibisa, The Abstract Truth and Fela Kuti: yep, you can indeed find mathy stuff in Africa. Like… good stuff.
And that’s what we are hoping to show you today in this special showcase of African math rock. It’s unfortunately a small showcase but we are sure you will find some new favourite bands, bands that in our opinion have been rather overlooked.
Location：Cape Town, South Africa Key album:Cargo Cults
Probably our favourite African math rock band. Of course, Bateleur goes far beyond the math rock walls, infusing jazz, world and the cultural sensibilities to their sound. The complex guitar work is met with beautiful resonating horns and soft vocals. It’s like the red wine at the end of a long day.
Cargo Cults is a great place to start with Bateleur. It’s short, punchy and contains all the great elements of their sound. Their self-titled effort is equally phenomenal. One of our 2016 favourites. Song Menu to Feed Your Appetite :Mendola Sky
Follow Me Follow You
Location：Pretoria, South Africa Key album:Creature
Possibly a nod to the famous Genesis song of the slightly similar title, Follow Me Follow You is an up-and-coming math rock trio out of Pretoria. The band’s math rock sound is laden with soft jazzy grooves, calling to mind bands like rega and Battles.
Your first port of call with Follow Me Follow You is their 2015 debut Creature, an album we really dug for its lo-fi vibes. A really fun band to get lost with. Song Menu to Feed Your Appetite :Matrioshka Brain
Location：Niamey, Niger Key album:Zoy Zoy
Not math rock per se, but who could go past the lusciously angular, polyrhythmic greatness of Tal National? The afro-pop sextet bring African cultural sensibilities to their wild and highly angular sound, packed to the brim with pounding polyrhythms and exquisite finger licking on the guitar. Every math rocker’s dream is right here. It’s probably no wonder The Quietus called this band ‘afro-math-rock’.
The opening title track on 2015’s Zoy Zoy is just… something else. It’s upbeat, explosive and utterly beguiling; the African version of King Crimson‘s Discipline. Go devour it… Song Menu to Feed Your Appetite :Farila
Location：Johannesburg, South Africa Key album: None! A travesty you say?
I can’t tell you how long we’ve been hanging out for a proper release by Johannesburg’s Kyubey, the name most likely borrowed from the Madoka Magica character. Just check out the hypnotic guitar noodles in their 2014 single ‘Seohyun’, unfortunately the only track we know of. It’s a track that mysteriously arrived in our submission inbox with no description or details. We replied to the sender and received no response. Time will tell what happens with this mystery… Song Menu to Feed Your Appetite :Seohyun
Her Stems Spiral
Location：Cape Town, South Africa Key album:Lights Drip Her Stems Spiral is the experimental solo project of Eyes Like Miirors bassist Shannon Lawler. Lawler brings together elements of math rock, shoegaze, electronica and punk; moulding together a sound that is hypnotic and cinematic.
Lights Drip is probably the best place to start for budding math rockers. The three track EP really taps into Lawler’s imagination, and features beautiful guitar phrasing and really great instrumentation. Alternatively, you can go straight to the noisier and abrasive 2013 full length Princess Poured Out The Pale Winter Moon. Song Menu to Feed Your Appetite :INTROverts On The Outskirts Of Arousal
Location：Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Key album:Awo
Who can go past this whopping mix of prog, jazz and noise rock straight outta Ethiopia? ukandanz are the pioneers of ‘ethiorock’, a genre that, as far as we can tell, comprises wild chord progressions and saxophone that comes off sounding like something out of a John Zorn family hour.
We think there is enough crazy angularity in Awo to warrant it on a math rock list like this. Check it out, it is absolute ruckus. Song Menu to Feed Your Appetite :Lantchi Biyé, Tchuhetén Betsèmu
Location：Pretoria, South Africa Key album:Deep Space Champion Pop
Predominantly situated within the realms of post-rock, instrumental outfit kidofdoom are certainly known for waxing mathematical. Tracks like ‘Space Walk’ and ‘Minor Disagreements’ (below) have a fiery and melodious tone, with a complex mathy component to keep you guessing and incorrectly tapping your feet.
There’s rumour of a 2017 release from this highly influential Pretorian band. Keep you ears open and eyes peeled… Song Menu to Feed Your Appetite :Space Walk, Minor Disagreements