To truly understand The Kiffness, you need to understand the title of their album Kiff. The term “kiff” is predominately used by English-speaking South Africans and especially people who, at one with the sea, aren’t afraid to tussle with sharks for control of the beautiful waves that crash against South Africa’s shores – I mean the hordes of surfers that seem to reside on our coasts. Take a short walk through Hout Bay and you’ll hear the word “kiff” dropped more than the F-bomb in The Wolf of Wall Street. It is a quintessential South African word for anything that we regard to be awesome. For instance: “That band last night were kiff.”
The Kiffness are as their name suggests: the epitome of kiff. This multi-talented electronic duo of Dave Scott (trumpet, keys and synth) and Mvelo Shandu (bass) have been wandering the sun-soaked streets of Cape Town and making a name for themselves in the electronic scene while following in the footsteps of local electronic legends like Goodluck and Goldfish. They’ve been turning heads and absolutely destroying radio charts with their funky blend of jazz, EDM and possibly the very thing that Johnny Clegg was seeking when he wrote “Great heart” – that being a wild African spirit and energy.
Their highly anticipated album Kiff features a wide spectrum of collaborations with various South African artists, songs that they wrote themselves and even a remix of “Stepping Out” by the little-known South African singer-songwriter Samuel Miller – possibly now only known because of this particular song. It isn’t just that there is a wide variety of collaborations on the album; it is also that each song has its own unique sound. Yes, there are the same basic instruments used in each song but they are manipulated in such a way to create a diverse range of sounds.
The album is kick-started by the upbeat progressive house beat of “Kiff”, which is underpinned by a grooving jazz rhythm that gets your body bouncing to both the beat and the sultry sound of a trumpet accompanied by a funky piano medley. Kiff then launches into the first collaboration which happens to be with Matthew Gold – a man who is well-known for featuring on some of Goodluck’s incredibly sultry electro-swing songs. “Where Are You Going” is no exception to the general rule that Gold’s voice makes every song he features in incredibly sultry and intimate – even if it’s a heart-pounding electro-swing song that destroys every dance floor it is played on.
“Pushin’ On” is yet another electro-swing song, except it tackles the genre from the side of female vocals with Zoe Modiga contributing her beautiful voice to a song that gets you on your feet and moving. Travel further into the album and you’re greeted with a series of songs where The Kiffness allow themselves to show off their individual talent. They weave brilliant melodies in songs that mash the bass-heavy beat of deep house with smooth jazz melodies, such as in “Camps Bay”. They even tackle a combination of dubstep and jazz in “Away From Here”.
The crowning glory of the entire album is their collaboration with indie-rock stalwarts Shortstraw. Their upbeat indie musings are perfectly mixed with delicate jazz melodies and a thudding bass line that supports the laid-back yet upbeat energy of Shortstraw. It is no wonder that The Kiffness chose this particular track to be their latest single off the album – it is truly a song that anyone can groove to.
The Kiffness have created more than an electronic album with Kiff. They have created an electronic masterpiece that successfully proves that being an electronic musician constitutes more than just pressing a few buttons on a laptop. It shows that some essence of skill and musicianship is needed to create great electronic music. They construct soaring melodies that tower above you like skyscrapers and then bring them crashing to the ground when they decide to unleash a pounding blast of bass and kick drum.