Nihiloxica pushes the boundaries between western electronica and Ugandan traditional rhythm. ‘Biiri’ will show you how


Sometimes musicians just need to make music and find new ways to do it. Sometimes different worlds collide to create new forms of expression. Sometimes cultural differences disappear and that boundary line gets erased like it has never been there. I want to talk about a project that respects all the up written points: Nihiloxica!

This project was born in 2017 in Uganda under the patronage of Nyege Nyege Tapes and in collaboration with Kampala’s Nilotica Cultural Ensemble, an organization that promotes drumming and tailoring as a means of ‘spiritual upliftment’ for the unprivileged communities of the city. The story went this way: the Ensemble has organized the Nyege Nyege Festival, an event based on laying down electronic tracks upon which performers would have to jam on. At its third year of activity two electronic producers and players from the UK, Spooky-J and PQ came to see and started a collaboration with some of the Ugandan percussionists. The results led to the print of a limited edition of tapes under the name of Nihiloxica and that remained the name of the project. The second record by the band came out on February 13, the title is ‘Biiri’ and it’s the one I’m going to deal with.

The first limited edition tape by Nihiloxica via Nyege Nyege Music

If we have to tag a genre, it would be Bugandan techno. As told before, these tracks blend electronic beats with Ugandan rhythms like the Baksimba groove (the second track takes the title from it). I’m just reporting what I found online about the rhythm so there could be some mistakes or untrue things about it, since there is no certified documentation: The Baksimba was born as a dance and became a rhythm when a king particularly enjoyed a special beer made from bananas and, drunk (they would say “happy”), started to dance declaring “Abakisimba bebakimoomya”, meaning that who planted made it sweet. Some musicians made a song out of it and used their instruments to make it interesting. Musical accompaniment is made out of instruments like gourd rattles (nseege), cow-horn trumpets (engombe) and four drums, each has its own name (Mbuutu, Nankasa, Mpuuny, and Ngalabi). I think the four percussionists in Nihiloxica use all of these drums. The song structure also has its special parts based on dance, different from western differentiation like chorus, verses, etc: the first part is slow and graceful, while the second part, refers as Muwogola, is fast and builds to a climax. We find all of these elements in ‘Biiri’.

Tracklist: – Diggi Dagga

                 – Baksimba

                           – Dugugwanjuba

                   – Ding Ding

The first song Diggi Dagga starts with straight synth beat, a second beat on the upbeat slowly builds in and leads to the entrance of the drums. How all the rhythms involved layer one over the other is beautiful and catchy without adding melodies. The synths provided by the only western guys in the band don’t even try to create a melody. All the pitch changes are made chromatically or sliding up and down to welcome the next session in the loop. The final climax is all made by a crash that intensifies until the last repetition on the initial beat.

‘Biiri’ album cover

Baksimba obviously is the one which takes the title from the dance. In respect to the tradition, it starts with a game of turns between the drums. When the electronica comes in just adds a bass that uses a Bb as tonic function and its third, gliding to the octave to loop on. Then a second synth layers long notes at a distance of a semitone creating a distorted, creepy atmosphere. The drums speed up to climax and then everything re-starts and loops until a second climax.

As in Diggi Dagga, Dugugwanjuba begins with a straight beat, layers of upbeats slowly come out, some breaks once in a while and then speeds up when the synth comes in, creepingly setting the entrance in a world of darkness. The scale chosen to set the mood is probably Eb Phrygian because every measure takes those right notes, keeping the Eb down in the mix and resolving to it at the end of the measure. A slow slide up at the end of the song makes everything going upwards, while the whole song has been kept on the low register.

Ding Ding has a stunning dark soundscape contrasting with very fast and articulated percussions, and it’s extremely open by the point of view of the harmony. The notes represent a tritone so the song could take every path possible after it, but Nihiloxica decided to keep it unresolved, using synths to just make more sounds without any further precise direction, leaving the album open to continue this experimental path the band has dug into.

These people show how music hasn’t been all written and there’s much more to give to the world. The keywords are fusion and contamination, where fusion doesn’t mean

The band’s instrumentation. So little but damn, they sound so loud!

“easy-jazz for elevators” but the crossover of two worlds, apparently distant but actually closer than ever.

Hands up for the band and feet down beating to the ground!


Written by Music Pills


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