Esa serves up hot new comp on Soundway

The London based South African DJ and producer curates an album of powerful music inspired by his homeland experience.


Soundway is one of our favourite labels, their fantastic work re-issuing hard-to-find world music and exposing it to entirely new audiences is as commendable as it is gratefully received by music lovers. Fortunately for us, recent releases of original work by the likes of The Mauskovic Dance Band, Lord Echo, and Flamingo Drive have lived up to the incredibly high standards they set themselves.

For their latest compilation, they employed the selection skills of another of our favourites - the hugely talented and stylistically far-reaching Esa Williams. He maintains a busy international gig schedule, has a regular show on Worldwide FM, and has released music on labels including Brownswood, Fina, Endless Flight, Dekmantel, as well as the essential Highlife Edits series.


The new album is entitled ‘Amandla: Music To The People’.

‘Amandla’ is the word for ‘power’ in the Nguni languages, and in apartheid-era South Africa, the call and response of ‘Amandla… Awethu’ was used as a rousing rallying cry - translating to 'the power is ours’, or ‘power to the people’.

Esa grew up in Cape Town in the last days of apartheid, witnessing first hand the power that music had to unite and drive those resisting oppression. The title and intention of this album are born directly from the phenomenal energy of that movement. In Esa’s own words, “Music was a crucial way of bringing people and communities together, and it’s what I hope to achieve with this compilation, too”.

As one might expect, the music on show is fully diverse and multi-layered, ranging in tone from the ultra laid back and haunting ‘Sifo’ by Nonku Phiri, the joyous zouk flavours of Os Panteras’ ‘Melo Do Anjo’, all the way through to the pounding bass energy of Masalo’s ‘Yera’.

Our pick comes from Esa himself, with his club-ready ‘Pantsula Traxx’. The mid-tempo groove rolls over a dominant organ hook, vocal chops roam in and out, but it’s the murky acid line that has us hooked. A subtly futurist take on an old-school sound, it definitely works for us (we heard our boy Seelie spin it out in Bangkok recently, and it sounded fierce on the system).

A selection of the tracks have been available digitally for a while now, but the full album is due for release on 6th September. You can check and buy the release right here.