The South African electronic dance music scene may not be as prominent as those of North America and Europe, but house music has certainly found a more than worthy representative in native son Culolethu Zulu.
Back in 2008, the then-18-year-old production wunderkind would attend the Red Bull Music Academy held in Barcelona as the youngest participant in the academy’s history. It was the same year that saw him get signed to Dixon's Innervisions, currently one of the most hotly tipped labels in global deep house.
"Dixon was sent some of my works from different people in the electronic space, and then he reached out with interest to release The Bright Forest EP," Zulu tells New Times. "It was an amazing start, and the EP did well."
"I was happy to see that record being perceived strong and techy rather than sleep music, as it was quite cinematic. I love labels and crowds that are open-minded, hence we've worked well with Innervisions."
In the African isiZulu language, iculo lethu means our song, which makes Zulu's Culoe de Song artist moniker a play on his birthname in both Zulu and English. And of course, the African flavors run deep in a signature production sound that is as vividly melodic and soul-infused as its driven by relentless yet elegantly understated Afrobeat rhythms.
As an early protégé of seminal South African DJ-producer and Soulistic Music boss Black Coffee, Culoe de Song is among a budding new generation of artists putting Johannesburg on the international house music map with a modern homespun sound dubbed Afropolitan.
"South Africa is colorful and has a crazy music scene," Zulu explains. "There are a lot of factors that drive people into doing music, and currently, a lot of young people are into this. There's a whole spectrum of artists that inspired us to do what we do, from the genre of Kwaito, Mbhaqanga, disco, R&B, dance — too many influences to mention."
"[My sound] is the result of my upbringing, so it's what you make of it really," he adds. "The cultural influences are probably embedded in my conscience, so I carry that element with me everywhere in the world. It's energy. So somewhere, somehow, it's gonna be evident in anything that I do."
Nothing if not prolific in the studio, Zulu has loads of upcoming new material in store for fans. "There's some [new] works coming out this year," he discloses. "Got a new remix coming out on Defected soon, some new EPs on my own label De Song Music, and my fourth studio album. So there's a lot coming, and I haven't been this excited in a long time."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
While you wait for the new album and EPs to drop, be sure to catch the prodigious Zulu in the flesh when he delivers a highly anticipated headlining performance at the Electric Pickle on Saturday.
"It's been awhile since I played in Miami," he says. "Last I played there, I had just left my teens. And now I have a beard. I'm sure there's new energy from that growth."
Culoe de Song. With Loudsilence and Arremer Jack. Presented by Sub-Motus. Saturday, April 25, at Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. and admission costs $10 and up. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.