Space Afrika curate: Manchester’s experimental scene

The duo spotlight the fearless producers, poets, dancers and DJs in the North West.

Space Afrika are Joshua Inyang and Joshua Tarelle, two lifelong friends from north Manchester who connected through their shared love of music. Since 2014, they’ve been making pensive ambient and emotive dub techno. Their albums Above The Concrete/​BelowThe Concrete (2014) and Somewhere Decent To Live (2018) were sparse yet intimate, paying tribute to the landscape of their home city, but also expressing a desire to escape its sometimes depressing disintegration.

In 2020, Space Afrika released their most political record to date. Made in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, hybtwibt?(Have You Been Through What I’ve Been Through?) spliced together field recordings of protests, monologues about state violence and soul music samples to convey a sense of anger and despair, but also hope. All proceeds were donated to Black Lives Matter-related organisations.

Increasingly, the duo are interested in multi-disciplinary collaboration. Since 2019, they’ve been working with Manchester filmmaker and poet Tibyan Mahawah Sanoh, with who they created short film Untitled (To Describe You). The film premiered in November 2020 as part of Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and in Spring 2021, they will release its accompanying soundtrack via Sferic Records.

Here, Joshua Inyang and Joshua Tarelle spotlight the Manchester musicians, artists, dancers and filmmakers who inspire, and often collaborate with Space Afrika.

TIBYAN MAHAWAH SANOH

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We met Tibyan outside [Salford venue] The White Hotel in 2017 and from the get go we’ve been cohesive in our interests. We were super attracted to her visual content, which resonated with us because of its rawness and intimacy. We know home style video isn’t novel but her films have a unique quality – her work is minimal, yet potent in affecting emotion.

Over a couple of years our friendship and working relationship developed organically – we both understand how to translate the human experience: she does it visually, we do it sonically. Me and [Jushua Inyang] Tibyan are also both from a certain part of north Manchester, which for a person of colour, is isolating.

Tibyan also writes poetry, which forms another dimension of us working together. Her writing is very personal, but openly so, in a way that unravels itself; the images come together slowly as the narrative goes on. It’s special.”

NAZAR

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Our first time seeing Nazar was at The White Hotel in 2018. We saw him and [fellow Hyperdub artist] Shannen SP, and they were both going hard. Nazar’s set was crazy, all his own productions, we believe. The embodiment and translation of his personal experience, about [subjects like] his father and the Angolan Civil War is remarkable. He’s definitely one of the most gifted producers in music right now, and he’s a very humble guy.”

BLACKHAINE

Blackhaine is an artist, choreographer, dancer, rapper and geezer – bleeding the North West and Salford with his chest. We were first introduced to him through Tibyan’s film work, combining that piece with a new live set for a show in 2019 in Moscow. A year later we discovered his Soundcloud, which was loaded with heaters like Numb and Moors, offering a peek into his incredible writing ability and cadence. We spun them on our NTS show and then the love grew, and we just got chatting. Our first time we hit studio, we locked in six hours and made two bangers, which was nuts. Every time we’ve linked up from then, we’d leave with more. That’s on [Blackhaine producer] Rainy Miller, too.”

RAINY MILLER

Rainy crept up on us. I [Joshua Inyang] actually remember seeing the buzz around him playing [Manchester venue] Soup Kitchen a little while back, but we didn’t connect until later on when we were introduced via Blackhaine’s work – it was Womb, and the insane production behind it. Our relationship was certified after one studio session. Following him and his Fixed Abode label, we discovered Limbs on a late one, which resonates in a similar manner to Frank Ocean’s Endless or Nights. But Rainy’s gifted with production across various styles and also as a singer. And he’s a proper gentleman.”

LARA MCGRATH AKA THE GOAT DANCER

Lara is a free-spirit, a model, a muse and an all-round lovely and down to earth gal. Her art and her presence is portentous and attractive – redefining beauty standards and body-wear, repurposing materials and objects to achieve high glamour. She’s clearly a GOAT, shape-shifting in form with a bold confidence and extreme elegance that encapsulates the fearlessness that Manchester possesses.

We met her through [Manchester apparel brand] Gramm (shoutout AK!) We’ve known AK from day dot and Gramm brings together a group of people who really believe in the vision and lifestyle, and believe in each other. Lara was one of those people.”

FUMU

We don’t even know where to start with FUMU. He’s a producer, DJ and engineer, and he’s a certified G in the Manchester scene – rugged and raw. We’ve been kicking it with FUMU for years and he’s been blowing minds for the same amount of time. He’s a hardware don in his own lane with probably hundreds of tracks at his disposal. One third of RTZ alongside SocketheadXL and TURINN, he’s part of a collective of artists and DJs putting out OG music.”

CROWW

Croww is an incredible experimental producer making super obscure and intelligent dance music. Prosthetics, out on The Death Of Rave, was our way into his world, as well as through mutuals. Everyone’s tight in the scene, so it’s all love. But it was exciting to find out that such mind-boggling and obscure production was brewing so close to home – the guy had us listening to Slipknot! Croww’s also lowkey and mysterious, yet head-turning live. Sets at The White Hotel and The Warehouse Project with Aphex Twin have cemented his legacy here. We’ll never forget his The White Hotel Presents show with William Basinski – another talented sweetheart.”


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