Q&A with Xanga ahead of WOMADelaide 2017

Words by Zoe Walker

We spoke with local Adelaide beat-maker and your chief guide to finding your inner spirit animal, Xanga, ahead of his upcoming show at WOMADelaide. If booty-shakin', jungle-dwelling, higher-level human connection and electromagnetic instruments are all things that you're into, perhaps you ought to buy a ticket to WOMAD this year. But also the fact that there's quite a few talented Adelaidians on the bill should be enough of a reason to go. And, you know, it's WOMAD. So get out there. 

First up what drew you to the exotic genres of music that you produce? Particularly baile funk?

Well baile funk came out of Brazil in the early 2000s and people like Diplo and M.I.A. helped to really bring it out. Before that, though, it was Miami based. You know, songs like Sir Mix-A-Lot’s ‘Baby Got Back’ and that sort of shake-your-booty stuff. That all started in Miami back in the 80s. Then in the early 2000s Brazil basically took over that and mixed it with their more tribal rhythms, Samba, and all these different rhythms.

It became a distinctly Rio de Janeiro thing because it came out of the favelas there. I’ve been to one of the favela parties, it was pretty crazy.

Nice, how did you find the electro scene in Rio?

Very cool, very niche. Baile funk was popular for a while but then, you know, the next thing came along. It was one of those movements in electro music where it had its spotlight and I guess ‘Bucky Done Gun’ was one of the big songs of that style that M.I.A. did. There were heaps of good ones. And of course it keeps morphing, it’s changing all the time, it’s such an interesting thing. You know, there’s a very particular beat that they’ll be doing and MC rap over the top. It’s very specific beats so it is a niche kind of sound. It’s definitely one of my main influences.  

What would you say are your other main influences?

Definitely the Brazilian Samba as well. Loads of Brazilian percussion, my music is very percussion heavy. But also hip hop, you know, rapping over a beat, sampling, as well as pop and African influences. I also get inspiration from listening to other electronic artists as well.

I just want to quickly go back to your experience at one of the favela parties in Rio. Can you tell me more about that?

Yeah, well as I said, it’s a very particular scene. They’ll have live MCs and everyone dances this particular style which is kind of like crumping and humping. But it’s strange because it’s not really sexual, it’s sort of just a movement in that sense. Uncoordinated. There’s lots of beautiful people with their shirts off...

Sounds like a very liberal scene…

Yeah and everyone seems to just know what they’re doing. The music was probably the loudest music I’ve ever heard in my life. They had the biggest sound system ever, it’s like a floor to ceiling system in this warehouse. It was the sort of system they would have at a massive festival or something but this was just in a warehouse. The bass was extraordinary. Even if you’re wearing ear plugs it probably wouldn’t make a difference.

That sounds so wild.

Yeah it was pretty cool.

So have you attended WOMAD before?

Yeah I’ve been there lots, but I’ve never played there before.

Cool, yeah I think it’s a really special festival in that it’s sort of a sacred space. How did you feel when you found out you’d be playing there this year?

Oh I was super excited. It was a bit of a dream of mine, I guess. I was really humbled to get picked along with the other cool artists that are playing.

Yeah there are quite a few Adelaide artists on the bill this year.

Yeah it’s really nice. You need a local presence. You need to showcase the local talent.

And you’re playing at the Electrolounge which is a particularly wacky corner of the festival by nightfall.

Yes, with the bats flying around!

Yes! True WOMAD-goers know all about the bats. Are you going to be experimenting with anything new in terms of your live show? WOMAD is probably a great opportunity to test some weird shit…

Well normally I play solo but for WOMAD I’m going to be with my main collaborator who does a lot of vocals, Shiekh Dijbouti, he’s going to be on stage. Also a professional capoeira dancer and percussionist. We’ll also have more berimbau, which is the one-string instrument from Brazil, it’s kind of like a bow. So yeah, there’s a lot more happening, more instrumentation, more dance. I definitely want to do something special because it’s a great opportunity. I’ve also got some crazy visuals that’ll be projected so it’ll be a whole show, hopefully.

Catch Xanga playing at WOMAD on Monday the 13th at 9:30pm at Electrolounge. Tix and info here.