A Chinese DJ who specialises in African music + African musicspam

I came across DJ Zhao's name earlier this year. It started with my then growing interest in listening to mixtapes with African music from different countries and eras. Somewhere between downloading and jamming to DJ Satelite's Luanda no Horizonte 1 & 2, Jumping Back Slash's The Uhambo Mixtape, Spoek Mathambo's #ApartheidAfterParty, I found DJ Zhao's House of Eshu.

I was drawn to House of Eshu for various reasons. First due to my special relationship with Eshu, the Yoruba trickster deity. Second, I was intrigued by the idea of a Chinese DJ creating a mixtape that features Yoruba talking steel drums, Cuban piano, Indonesian Gamelan, Cameroon Mbira (thumb piano), Black Panther poetry, South African Jazz among others. With my love for fusion music and mixtapes, it wasn't long before I became a fan of DJ Zhao's music. And then I became acquainted with DJ Zhao's writing, his thoughts and I became an even bigger fan. I mean he is someone who recognises the problems in playing African music to a privileged European audience "whose privilege largely comes from the exploitation of Africa" and who insists that "there has to be more awareness, culturally, politically" of African cultures so he actually speaks about issues in the middle or at the end of his sets. DJ Zhao also calls out Chinese racism, xenophobia, close-mindedness and racism towards Africans, which is honestly kind of rare coming from someone of Chinese descent.

According to this ThisisAfrica interview, DJ Zhao is "on a mission to demonstrate the connections between all cultures through music. Even more interesting is his special focus on Africa. How does a Chinese guy end up as an international DJ specialising in African music?" I too was curious about the reasons behind DJ Zhao specialising in African music however, the point of this post is not solely his music (though it'd be great if all BN readers got into African music after reading this post!), I'd like to shine a spotlight on a post DJ Zhao wrote recently. For ThisisAfrica, DJ Zhao wrote an excellent post examining "Why Africa is poor" in which he calls out the fools who ignore history and the role of European colonialism in the rampant poverty that exists on the continent. I was really blown away by the essay, nodding in agreement to practically every word before I stopped to see who had written it and saw DJ Zhao's name (I did not notice this when I started reading the post).

My favourite part from that essay;
Routine denial and systematic disavowal have always played central roles in our brave new world, but these attitudes seem to comprise a new intensified wave of right wing denial that renews a sense of European superiority during a time of economic turmoil, provides false moral grounds for the shirking of responsibility, and reinforces centuries old racism.Let us look at exactly what is wrong with this grade A bullshit:

• Claims of internal corruption being the primary reason for poverty in many parts of Africa today ignore historical facts of the African people’s chosen leaders being systematically removed by Western powers due to non-compliance with foreign interests, and corrupt lapdog dictators installed in their place, who then sell out their own people for personal gain, dooming entire populations to decades of famine, war, and disease.

• Claims of incompetence being responsible for under-development leave out a multitude of manipulative measures (such as “Aid”) with which foreign agents keeps real development from happening, thus keeping routes open for continuing exploitation.

• These claims disavow the long term interest of multi-nationals in keeping areas such as the Congo unstable and in conflict.
• These claims deny fundamental colonial causation of problems in the very structure of society and in every sphere of life, which are entirely too numerous to list here (but for starters, how about: arbitrary national boundaries which divide ethnic groups; long term inequality fostered within populations by systematically playing one tribe off against the other for decades; introduction of forms of governance and legal systems which go against local customs; suppression and outright denial of education; banning of local languages; destruction of indigenous culture; collective psychological trauma from centuries of violence and oppression; etc, etc, etc, etc.), the effects of which not only live on, but ripple and multiply with each day.

• These claims take none of this into account, saying instead: “Africans simply can not govern themselves, and as soon as we leave, they mess everything up” - calling a man weak after stabbing him in the back. 
Superficially, this kind of selective observation and false reasoning may seem either relatively harmless or at the most, only misinformed.  But upon closer inspection it unmistakably stems from and validates the same Eurocentric, Social Darwinist, and white suprematist ideology which justified systematic decimation of native peoples for the past 4 centuries. 

Ultimately, according to this logic, the only possible reason that “Africans can not govern themselves” is “inherent (racial) inferiority” - these claims which blame the victims not only reveal the deep racism of those who make them, they allow injustice and horror to continue unabated. (read more)

 It is a really excellent essay and everyone should read it. I'm still pleasantly surprised that a Chinese guy wrote so much truths regarding Western denial of Africa, because a lot of us still remain ignorant. I believe DJ Zhao just shows what the ideal world in which Chinese people understand the diverse faces of Africa beyond the superficial would look like. DJ Zhao is enlightened and deserves a shoutout for telling the truth as it is. I think his essay goes really well with Rwanda's President Paul Kagame's speech in which *he* spilled truths on aid and international justice.


And because I can't ignore any chance to spread the African music vibe, I must leave some links. Kuduro has recently become popular worldwide and one of Angola's favourite kuduristas, also happens to be one of the few trans women on the African music scene, here is Titica featuring Ary with "Olha O Boneco". I've been really into music from Angola this year, another big genre there is kizomba, listen to the absolutely gorgeous Pérola sing "Fala do Quiseres".

Mi Casa bring the South African house with "These Streets", some more South African house/kwaito with Kabelo's recent release featuring Big Nuz "Impilo", and Naija tunes via Iyanya's Kukere and because I'm Yoruba Eldee & LKT in "Ota Mi" (this song is a bit old but always great). If you've missed Ghana's azonto wave, it is still here Fuse's "Azonto" basically teaches you how to azonto . Also Sarkodie "U Go Kill Me", choppy video quality but good song. This is not a music video but a mix, that shows several Londoners dancing azonto. Because azonto is awesome, a link to ten videos for you to azonto to.

Finally Just A Band's "Ha-He" because it is an awesome video and song that apparently cause the "first" viral internet sensation in Kenya due to Makmende being badass superhero, "Ha-He" is a bit old but Just A Band has a new album coming out soon. And I've just recalled that one of their videos "Away" has some heavy Chinese themes and another badass (this time the bride with the baseball bat), yay Blasian themes in music but I'd like to know what the dialogue translates to.

Damn, I said "finally" but Just A Band are kind of sci-fi, Afrofuturist nerds so I'll end this with some more eclectic African musicians, my crush for life Spoek Mathambo "Mshini Wam" (this is sadly censored, I love the bleak chorus) and "Control" because the latter has a very excellent video and you can clearly see Mathambo's weird in it; and Iyadede's "F4L" (to really appreciate Iyadede's eclectic tastes, you need her Demo). And I think I'm done...for now!

I find it interesting that at least three of the videos above had Asians in them or as with Just A Band, Asian themes. Should we attribute this to China's growing presence in Africa?


  1. *brain exploded with happy.
    And many thanks for the music links!

  2. Thanks for sharing this! I'm going to read the essay.

  3. cosmicyoruba this is AWESOME! Thank you for the music and essay.

  4. cosmicyoruba. I enjoyed the essay. I have a question since I'm not fully up on the subject. Aren't there some countries now claiming that China is trying to colonize part of Africa?

    1. The only countries that claim that China is trying to colonise part of Africa are the Western ones (i.e Europe and the US) who feel threatened by Chinese competition with *their* neo-colonial interests in the continent. I find it rich that the countries which technically ruined, and are still ruining, Africa are claiming that China is "neo-colonial". Really?

      I also find it very insulting the way colonialism is brought up with any discourse of Sino-African relations. Yes China does problematic things in African countries, but are they really trying to say that Africans are so stupid that we'll let ourselves be colonised by anyone? You should look through the China tag here on the BN because we've discussed this before.

      I'm yet to know one African country that says China is neo-colonial, any other outside country's opinion is irrelevant. Do people even know what colonisation means? I'm sorry, not attacking you but that suggestion honestly pisses me off. I'm on my way to specialising in Sino-African relations, so these things can get tiring to hear. You should bring yourself fully up on the subject, and preferably not through Western sources.

    2. Interesting discovery! I don't get much access to esoteric music (if I may characterise Zhao's work as such), so it's really cool of you to showcase Zhao here.

      With regard to the matter of China's presence in Africa, to be fair there are Africans who complain of China's activities on the continent. However, by and large I think most Africans would at least agree that whatever China is doing it is better than that which the white West has subjected Africans to. I think the key difference between China and the West is that while the latter, as a matter of tradition or habit, regards Africans as pathetic, inferior beings that need to be saved from themselves (i.e. controlled and exploited), the former cuts out all the bullshit and says that they're there to do business with Africans.

    3. Personally speaking, most of the Africans who complain uncritically tend to be based in the West or generally removed from the situation on ground. I think the exception would be Zambia, but I doubt they called the Chinese neo-colonialist even in the height of anti-Chinese sentiment in that country. Africa is huge and the Chinese engage differently depending on the country. In some countries the Chinese government is largely present, while in others it is the small and medium scale entrepreneurs from China that maintain a large presence.

      I think Chinese people still do look down on Africans, generally speaking. For me, Africans need to wary of both the West and China, even South Africa, Brazil and India. But our governments don't give a shit about us so we continue to be sold out. China cannot be neo-colonialist when the Europeans never really left.

    4. I'm curious, why South Africa, now that the black majority have taken back the political control of that country? Does the black leadership there have a history of exploiting or manipulating other Africans?

      But yeah, you're right in that the attitudes of the Chinese, or East Asians in general, toward Africans can hardly be described as positive. However, I don't think this racism manifests at the policy level for the Chinese government or corporations. Or does it?

  5. Im going to read the rest of DJs Zhao.Sounds like a man on a good mission to further unify Blacks and Asians.

  6. This was a great post. In regards to Lor's question, I think we as westerners need to question every bit of information that we receive from the media. Remember that western countries have interest in all countries in every continent (except maybe Antarctica, well the US does have a base there) around the world. Information that we receive is censored so that is why we don't get the full story. Of anything. Domestic matters even. It's bigger than we can ever imagine. So we must be ever vigilant to find the true story and rid ourselves of the message of the corporate world.

  7. I've been meaning to find some African music so you have saved the day :D. The segment of DJ Zhao's essay that you showed was exceptional and I cant wait to read the rest. Brilliant post.

  8. Excellent job, as always. You really do find THE best stuff.

    Looking forward to enjoying the music.


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