MTKidu: the End of the Begining
by Shane De Lange
The electronic music scene in
I first noticed Mtkidu about a year ago whilst visiting Love and Hate at their studio in
Mtkidu are a
Murray and Nick played a few modest gigs together before the formation of Mtkidu, most notably the “Secret Parties” that were held at the Horror Café and Carfax in
Despite the furor surrounding Mtkidu’s underground events, it was the limited release in May 2006 of TFTD 0.5 (Tales from the Dark: Version Five), their first studio album, that finally began to manifest results for the collective. This album was seen as a breakthrough by many connoisseurs in Johannesburg’s artistic community, simply because it managed to do away with many historical constructs and border-limitations; most notably those that separate fine art, illustration, graphic design, and multimedia (digital animations, interactive interfaces, electronic compositions, et cetera).
Mtkidu’s penchant for cross-pollination can be attributed to the fact that MT is a trained artist (Honours, Wits University) and KIDU studied graphic design (Degree, Wits Tech), and both of them have dabbled extensively with music in the past.
A major feature of TFTD 0.5 is its strong emphasis on ‘multi-media’; blurring the distinctions between Mtkidu’s live performances, web sites and blogs, art exhibitions, collaborations, marketing, interfaces, music and other saleable publications. This is not to say that all traditions must be discarded; the point is that Mtkidu has managed to find a relevant use for traditional mediums within the virtual spaces of ‘new media’, paying homage to the digital medina.
Mtkidu’s process is extremely progressive, tossing any notions of specialization away, feeling free to use any medium that strikes their fancy. Firstly, audio manipulation is done with a laptop, sampler, CDJ’s, Kaoss pads, turntables, and a Casio keyboard. These machines help compose the soundtrack to the world of TFTD 0.5, both in its live and recorded manifestations. Secondly, graphic elements, such as comics and websites, are introduced to convey the visual concepts surrounding TFTD 0.5. Thirdly, audio experiments with cued animations are regularly performed in front of a live audience (simple two-dimensional animations are made using Macromedia Flash). And lastly, Mtkidu manages to conjoin all these projects, mediums, and disciplines under a banner of a pseudo-corporation called Team Uncool, which is also their recording label and art consultancy. This approach to capitalism is fairly reminiscent of Asha Zero’s Roadkillvisiontoiletries, or Matthew Herbert’s “Country X” and Radioboy projects, and adds to the socio-political element characteristics of their work.
TFTD 0.5 was the first production released by Team Uncool, and it contains a number of digital compositions in the form of an interactive Flash presentation, which gives a concise introduction to Mtkidu’s worldview. There are seven tracks on the CD that can be described as a mixture of Hip Hop, Drum and Bass, Electronica, Brit-Pop, classic arcade game noises, and a combination of familiar sounds that are reminiscent of childhood (swings, children playing, and birds singing). The sound that comes from this creepy combination of noises can be compared a prospective collaboration between Aphex Twin and Alphaville, or a concert with Richard Devine and Foreigner in a huge gaming arcade. The interactive presentation on the CD also enhances the ubiquitous experience of TFTD 0.5; creating a strong sense of nostalgia in relation to the past, present, and future. The interface is deliberately obscured in order to increase this sense of ambiguity in relation to society’s borders, geographical positioning, and temporal paradoxes. The album is an amalgamation of Mtkidu’s subversive ideas relating to societal constructs, stereotypes and institutions i.e. white people listen to Alternative and Metal and black people listen to Hip Hop and House. Their point is that these distinctions are severely limiting and unnecessary, obstructing the development of art and design in
TFTD 0.5 can be described as a satire about the current socio-political climate within
The comic depicts a troubled young boy called Klein Baas (meaning young master - a call-back to the Apartheid era) who lives in the inner city of
Mtkidu uses technology and the effects of the media, such as television and the internet, to approach these issues in an almost Futurist, avant-garde manner. The only way Klein Baas manages to cope with his schizophrenic life is to play video games on a cartridge based console, which is once again a flashback to the early 90s (Nintendo and Sega consoles were very popular at that time). At one point in the comic Klein Baas manages to get his hands on a very special game cartridge, called TFTD 0.5, which he stole from a second-hand shop owned by a man named Paul Kruger. When Klein Baas inserts the game cartridge into his gaming console he is transported into an alternate universe. This dimension is called “dark continent” and forms the environment of TFTD 0.5; an immixture of The Never-ending Story, The Ring, Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz. The only difference is that Doris is a boy named Klein Baas growing up in post-apartheid
All the features included on TFTD 0.5 aids in linking Mtkidu’s art, design, performances, and marketing. The spectator is converted into an information pattern, skipping networks, penetrating vibrant, anime inspired, two-dimensional domains, in dark and lively spaces. Mtkidu, Team Uncool, TFTD 0.5; all these identifications form an absorbing display of quirky and sinister visuals, combined with hauntingly funny sounds, and an extremely addictive concept founded on MT and KIDU’s lived lives, growing up in a multi-cultural, multi-faceted, and multi-mediated South Africa.
TFTD 0.5 is analogous to Mtkidu’s historical and futurist, altruistic and self-conscious viewpoint on
Recently Mtkidu closed the book on TFTD 0.5, stopping all performances and halting every manifestation of the project after a few arduous months touring the country with their Nike sponsorship. However, TFTD 0.5 is only the first of many chapters that will be released by Mtkidu. TFTD 0.6 is already being advertised on Mtkidu’s blog, and the next chapter should be released soon, which will introduce new characters to the TFTD galaxy, namely Nandi (Klein Baas’s love interest) and Shaka Zulu (Nandi’s Father). For now Mt and Kidu are focussing on their respective solo careers. MT has had two solo exhibitions this year, at Moja Modern and the Premises. KIDU is hard at work with his band called
For more information about Mtkidu and their upcoming events visit their blog at www.myspace.com/mtkidu.