The innovative Sunset Gathering label from Mexico, under the aegis of Aaron Sevilla, announced a new musical offering, ‘Isimanga,’ a synergistic Afro-House collaboration between the Belgian music architect Aytiwan and the South African vocal virtuoso Lizwi. ‘Isimanga,’ translating to “Surprise” or “God’s surprising grace,” is not only a track but an experience that fuses the rhythmic soul of Afro House with melodic progressions and the spirit of grace.
Belgium’s own Aytiwan, a stalwart in the Afro House and Afro Tech scene, is known for his eclectic beats and mesmerizing soundscapes that have captured the global dance floors. Following the success of his acclaimed track ‘Iphathi,’ Aytiwan brings his innovative spirit to ‘Isimanga,’ incorporating progressive and melodic elements that promise to elevate the genre to new heights.
To celebrate his latest release, Aytiwan joins us as the newest guest on our Little Talk feature:
WWD: What initially gave you the urge to start making music and DJing? What was some of the first music you were into/purchasing?
It all began in the ’90s when I was first introduced to house music through tapes of sets from famous Belgian clubs. I vividly remember sharing new tracks over the phone with friends, an experience that sparked my love for the genre. The real turning point was my 15th birthday when my uncle gifted me a CD from a Belgian afterclub called Carat. It was a revelation. That CD not only introduced me to the world of house music but also inspired my journey into DJing. At first, the lack of equipment meant making do with primitive software, but as soon as I could, I invested in turntables and vinyl. My purchases were eclectic, but I gravitated towards trance, house, and hardstyle, especially the sounds from Cherry Moon, a club I frequented. The afterclub vibes, with their blend of progressive house and trance, were particularly influential.
WWD: Tell us a bit about your upcoming release, ‘Isimanga’, on Sunset Gathering – what inspired it, and what was its creative process?
The success of ‘Ilanga’ and the completion of ‘Iphathi’ set the stage for ‘Isimanga’. As 2023 dawned, I was compelled to craft a track that embodied the joyous spirit I was feeling, a blend of melodic house and the pulsating rhythm of Afro House. Lizwi, whose enchanting voice I had long admired, was my first choice for the collaboration. I crafted the track with meticulous care, creating synths that echoed the positive energy I envisioned and left space for Lizwi’s creativity. The track’s final version came together during a family holiday, where it passed the ultimate test – it stayed in my sister’s head after just one listen. That’s when I knew it was complete.
WWD: Often, your music contains a lot of depth and emotion; how important is it to portray these different feelings? Do you think this is getting lost in today’s busy market and the new generation?
Emotion is at the core of my musical ethos; it’s the lifeblood of my connection with audiences. Whether it’s through production or DJing, my mission is to translate feelings into sound. The best moments are when I play a beloved track and witness the crowd’s reaction – the smiles, the raised hands – it’s an indescribable connection. The new generation still feels these emotions, but the context has shifted with the advent of smartphones. While I, too, engage in filming occasionally, I advocate for minimalism in this practice, emphasising the enjoyment of the moment. The immediate availability of music has altered expectations, with some club-goers preferring familiar hits over new discoveries. However, amidst the sea of screens, there are still those who fully immerse themselves in the musical experience, reminding us that the essence of club culture endures.
WWD: What do you think sets Afro-House apart from other electronic music genres, and why do you specialise in it?
Afro-House is a genre defined by its emotive depth, combining soulful vocals, percussions, and melodic synths in a way that transcends the conventional house music experience. Its ability to connect and heal, perhaps a nod to its African roots, is what sets it apart and speaks directly to the soul. This connection to the deeper, emotive aspects of music is what drew me to specialise in Afro-House – it’s a genre that aligns with my innermost self.
WWD: Do you have any go-to pieces of equipment or favourite plugins you like to use when making new music?
While my studio space may be limited, it’s outfitted with an array of plugins that are pivotal to my sound. The Arturia suite is a mainstay, offering a spectrum of synths that are integral to my productions. I’m equally fond of Diva and Serum for their distinctive capabilities. The Soundtoys suite is my go-to for effects and sound design, and Sonible’s smart suite has become a game-changer in my mixing process. And let’s not forget the VSX headphones – they’ve transformed my mixing with their ability to emulate different studio environments.
WWD: What’s the last record you heard that made you say “wow”?
Choosing a single record that impressed me recently is quite the task, given the sheer volume of fantastic music that crosses my path. However, two upcoming releases on the Deep In Your Soul label truly stand out. The first is DR Phil RSA feat. Nuzu Deep – ‘All My Children’ (Native P. Remix). The original track was already a gem, but Native P.’s remix adds a touch of magic, intertwining trancy elements that remind me of the sounds that defined my club experiences in the early 2000s, all while Nuzu Deep’s voice carries the track to new heights.
The second is the collaborative effort between PA NGU & A.C.N. titled ‘Shiri.’ This track was a direct hit to my musical sensibilities. PA NGU laid down an idea, and A.C.N. sprinkled his distinctive magic over it, transforming it into a stellar track. Both pieces had that ‘wow’ factor on first listen and encapsulated the essence of what we strive to showcase on the label.
WWD: What’s one artist we should be listening to right now?
Without a doubt, FKA Mash is an artist on the rise. His set opening for the Keinemusik team in South Africa was the talk of the town, and his productions are consistently top-notch. His attention to detail in sound selection is something I deeply admire, and I’m eagerly awaiting the chance to experience his live performance.
WWD: Do you have any tips for anyone getting into music production?
For those embarking on the music production journey, remember that persistence is vital. You may face daunting challenges initially, but continuous learning and practice will help you scale that wall. Find your unique sound, don’t chase trends, and don’t get caught in the trap of perfectionism. Sometimes, a little imperfection adds character to your music, giving it warmth and soul.
WWD: You’re heavily involved with the running of Deep In Your Soul. What can you tell us about the label?
Deep In Your Soul started as an exciting collaboration with my friend Bastiaan (Amerlegna), but it quickly blossomed into something far greater than we initially envisioned. Our first releases exceeded our expectations and catapulted us into a thrilling journey. The label has become a beacon for Afro-House enthusiasts, striving to curate a diverse array of tracks that resonate with the soul of the genre.
Our ethos is simple yet profound: we are not just releasing music; we are nurturing artists. Whether they are just emerging or have years of experience, we believe in giving a platform to anyone who creates music that moves us. This inclusive approach has opened doors to a variety of talents, and the label has been gaining momentum ever since Black Coffee graced the decks with Kususa’s remix from our catalogue.
We’re dedicated to fostering a close-knit community among our artists, providing them with regular feedback, promotional support, and social media content to ensure they receive the recognition they deserve. Our mission goes beyond just the music—it’s about building relationships and sharing a passion for the Afro-House sound. The journey so far has been nothing short of amazing, filled with inspiring talent and heartwarming stories, and we are just getting started. There’s much more to come from Deep In Your Soul, and we’re excited to continue this beautiful narrative we’ve begun.
WWD: What else do you have coming up that you would like to mention?
Looking ahead – there’s much in store. Aside from my own remixes and label work, I’m particularly excited about an unofficial remix of a track by a renowned alternative rock band – a deeply personal endeavour that’s resonated well with listeners so far. Alongside that, I’m eagerly anticipating collaborations with talented artists and remixes from some of the most esteemed names in the Afro House scene. There’s a lot of music waiting to be shared, and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.