Local Indie Labels: KuduKudu
Home to Diamond Thug, Amy Ayanda, Hyroine & Albany Lore
In March last year, Capetonian indie folk band Diamond Thug were amongst the handful of South African acts playing at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. It was there amidst the flurry of panel discussions and muso seminars that Danilo Queiros, the band's leader and bassist, got a glimpse of what he wanted his country's infant indie scene to be when it grows up. "I was just blown away by the sheer size of the music industry" recounts Danilo when describing his experience. "I don't think I ever really understood how much of a business there was and how many actual jobs exist within the music industry", he emphatically noted.
Danilo's overseas realizations crystalized on his band's return to Cape Town and he was reminded of the stark contrasts between the well-oiled machine he was fleetingly exposed to in Austin and the sustenance farm village that was the alternative music industry at home. "In Cape Town, it's such a DIY industry, everyone just does their own thing and people just sort of hustle but over there, there were people who perform their roles and everyone does what they're meant to do and they're experts at it," says Danilo.
The following month after Diamond Thug’s SXSW performance was to be the launch of the band’s now critically acclaimed latest album ‘Apastron’- and it was precisely in preparation for that release that Danilo decided to start the label. As the label’s debut project, Apastron was to be the cornerstone that KuduKudu would be built around. “KuduKudu started out of necessity. I had been releasing all of Diamond Thug’s music independently for about a year and a half through Phonofile. Then building up towards our album, I started releasing singles and we started to gain some pretty good traction which led me to develop a good relationship with the overseas distributors. Then I decided that if I’ve got this relationship and I’ve gained these technical skills I sort thought to myself if I can apply the knowledge I’ve learnt to help other artists do better, the South African indie scene will do better, artists will have more money and will be able to put on better shows and we could revive the live scene here. So for me it was more about building the local indie scene than anything else. And as I started doing more and more with KuduKudu, I just fell in love with idea of getting alternative South African music out to the world…” explains Danilo.
The label's expansion beyond the founding band's discography was ignited through Danilo's attendance to a performance by the enchanting singer/songwriter, multi-media artist and RBMA Bass Camp alumnus Amy Ayanda. "I went to watch Amy Ayanda play at Café Roux and she had just recorded her EP(Ab OVO). I absolutely fell in love with I felt like I had to be a part of it. So I approached her after the show and I said- ‘Can I help you try and get this to more people?' and she was like, ‘Sure' and so that was KuduKudu's first project apart from Diamond Thug's album and we got some great results with it: it's received over a hundred thousand streams on Spotify and I'd like to think it did a lot better than it would have if it hadn't gone through the processes we went through to get it to reach as many people as possible." says Danilo.
Ab OVO, Amy Ayanda's heart wrenching dream-folktronica EP released in October last year, was the monumental first phrase uttered in the equally monumental story of KuduKudu. Since then they've maintained the momentum of emotively potent records through the successful releases of artists like Hyroine and Albany Lore, a standard further exemplified by the explosive releases of their more recent signees like Bakai, Manu Grace and The World of Birds.
As to the flourishing model that has garnered their artists over 4 million streams in the year since the birth of the label, it can be attributed to their Robin Hood approach to the economics of the industry. That is, generating sales and donations from developed markets and injecting them into South African indie acts that would've otherwise been tragically under-resourced without them.
"We recently started a Patreon account and what that is mostly overseas supporters of SA alternative music who understand that there's not a lot of money in that here but they love what we're doing. It's people like that who keep us thriving; people who buy the music and the merchandise and who believe that the artist is worth supporting as much as the music is and who understand that for people to make great art they need to be able to make a living from it" Danilo explains.
Here are some of our favourite acts on the KuduKudu label roster.
Amy Ayanda's music resonates with the glory of human emotion. The angelic wispy tones of her voice, delivering verses turgid with a soft-spoken yet brutal honesty. Each one of her songs unfurls its raw beauty in pain-embroidered layers; layers frilled with profound lyrical introspection caressed gently over emotively rich, folky electronica. Her Ab-OVO EP is guaranteed to give you goosebumps from its first note to its last.
Feminist psychedelic rock band Hyroine have an unmistakable penchant for melody. Their music is a contemporary take on surf-rock and ‘sixties psychedelia seeping with Middle- and Far-Eastern influences. Hyroine create delicate folklorically warm-coloured compositions flooded by their flanged guitars and ghostly vocals. Their latest single ‘Fly Over Dubai' flutters with explorative themes of escapism and the meaning of home. We have word that a new release from them is being finalized and we can barely contain our anticipation.
The only solo male project on the label- vocalist and multi-instrumentalist beatmaker Albany Lore playfully creates sun-kissed optimistic neo-soul fashioned from the harmonious synergy of his vocals and production. He first made waves with memorable collaborations with celebrated leftfield electronica artists like Mungo and Thor Rixon but has now carved out his own groove with his effervescent debut single ‘Rest Easy, Genie' which came out earlier this year. The song is a feel-good beats ballad engorged in strong R&B and soul vocal motifs woven through a funky analogue hip-hop arrangement. Judging from this infectious single alone, we can't wait to hear more from this extraordinary musician.