There are few like Boddhi Satva. An ambassador of the most soulful side of African electronic music, the producer, DJ and music mogul has made a name for himself navigating the continent’s dancefloor-oriented sounds over the past two decades. From Dakar’s Electrafrique party and Nairobi home studios, to Luanda’s kizomba clubs and South African gqom parties, Satva’s influence can be found all over. So it’s no surprise that more than 40 artists are featured on his latest album. And there’s no exaggeration either in stating that his newest instalment is pure musical prowess. ‘Manifestation’ is a 31-track, three-hour tour de force that continues Satva’s career-long endeavour to connect the African continent through club music.
‘Invocation’, released in 2012, was the first instalment of what would become Satva’s triptych. The album announced his special blend of spiritual sounds to the world’s dancefloors, a shockwave still felt when ‘Transition’ was released in 2015. Both presented us with Satva’s main skill: a knack for finding fresh talent and pop music best-sellers and bringing them together. He has done the same in 2022. In ‘Ragga Ragga’, the producer comes up with a stellar squad that includes kuduro star Preto Show, Ghanaian rapper Stonebwoy and Central African singer Tenny. For the dreamy ‘Ususu’, he calls on indie Congolese-Canadian singer Pierre Kwenders and in the sombre Afro house track ‘Love Will (Revisited)’ he makes good use of American singer Bilal’s vocals.
Besides the who’s who, Satva also shows a complex notion of what’s what. The producer acts with the same ambition of genre-hopping popstars leading today’s top charts. But he doesn’t lose sight of what he considers the mainstay of African music: the rhythms. In the amapiano-inspired ‘Será’, bouncy kicks and buzzing chords chime well with the Portuguese-English lyrics by singer Melissa Fortes and ‘Lagos Vibes’, an Afro-pop contender for 2022 summer playlists, giving a generous nod to music coming out of Nigeria.
Satva’s focus on the fundamentals of house holds ‘Manifestation’ together, but also means the album can, at times, lose its momentum. The long tracklist doesn’t help either. Slowly the record slips into background music and only really regains energy when detouring from the four-four path. This happens when Satva revisits the foundations of his earlier works and builds up a mix of minimal and jacking house in ‘Tuko Pamoja’.
With tracks that fit the structures of Western club music — from the intro to the drop and the 16 or 32-bar patterns — ‘Manifestation’ is not an album made by an artist willing to take great risks. But perhaps this in itself is a risky move. African electronic music today differs from the hyperlocal and isolated scenes that Satva helped shape when he started making connections across the continent. His latest compilation is an ecumenic encounter with some of the freshest findings on the African continent, but it also lacks the grit of the broken-tempo and sped-up elements so common in the newest wave of African electronic music. Nonetheless, it’s a beautiful ending to a two-decade oeuvre, and hopefully a page before a new story begins.