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The eye sees beyond the flooded riverbank: Interviewing Agord Lean and 128klan

Music September 3 2013

It’s late in the evening, the sun has set and the day’s deeds and errands, faces and conversations evaporate from your mind. In a calm state you catch a distant tune that guides you towards continents of wilderness, golden deserts and to a sea of dreams. It is South African musician Agord Lean following you like a dedicated, humble companion. The self-released mixtape ‘The Ghost in the Machine’ is a lo-fi, psychedelic and mystifying new age-experience that envelops the listener into novocaine-influenced heartbreaks and ghostly loneliness accompanied by traditional rap addressing the Apartheid’s aftermath permeating the townships of South Africa.

Agord Lean, is a 23-year old gentleman named Mandisi Lean, being a true DIY-artist: Producing, composing, writing, rapping and directing music and videos as a self-taught multi-talent.

“For me it began with a hum that turned into a synth lead on a keyboard – that was followed by a deeper hum turning into a baseline.” Says Mandisi. “When I got familiar with the notes on the keys, my hunger to compose became a wildfire that was fed by PDF books and Video tutorials.”

Agord Lean and the 128klan the Heart official music video WMV V8 // AGORD Lean and the The 128klan, THE HEART music video- enter the phycadelic visual dimension produced by the 128klan.

Hypnotising hip hop

Mandisi mentions some of the heavy boys in the parental advisory category being regular childhood figures; Bone Thugs, Bone Crusher and Ice Cube.

”Growing up I heard a lot of hip hop from the stoners who lived in the house behind ours.” Mandisi tells and continues; ”Hip Hop is one of those outlets for frustration that global street culture presents to urban youths.” Yet the music of Agord Lean is far from mirroring the insistently cursing deliveries of US-imported Hip Hop – and he is definitely not a big fan of duplicating American music for commercial gains, simply recycling issues that have little to do with South African conditions.“ But there are a few musicians who are on the ball with the originality,” he says and ensures that: “The underground, or unsigned music scene, is exciting and growing in a positive international direction.” He points to names such asOkmalumKoolkat, Stilo Magolide and Revivolution, as artists: “…Actually telling stories of a globalized and fast developing third world country and addressing that complexity in their music.”

Mandisi himself notes that besides being inspired by other contemporary artists and alternative street – and pop- culture, he is also intrigued by African religions, classic art and spiritual thinkers. Yes, the universe inspires him. And his music’s long passages of melancholic singing, spherical harmonies and the somewhat artistic, abstract approach, really do call for associations to a fuzzy, streetwise sort of spiritualism: “The trippy hypnotic sound comes from the idea that music can have a multi dimensional purpose.”He states that the hypnotic vibe in his music aims at easing the listener to receive new concepts carried in his songs, and adds: “Hypnotic sounds also force the listener to bring his or her own emotional response to the record.”

Mandisi categorises his sound as hypnohop and explains how he structures the tracks like a painter composing images –  by adding layers on top of each other. The reference to art does not derive from thin air, though. Mandisi holds a diploma in visual arts.

Agord Lean and the 128Klan- Flight Land Video // Agord Lean and the 128Klan

Iso liwela umfula ugcwele

Mandisi grew up in the township Thokoza (”be happy” in northern Nguni dialect), in East Rand, an outskirt area of Johannesburg. Here, the townships’ native names invoke associations to a spiritual and carefree lifestyle: Katlehong; Place of Peace. Duduza; Comfort. Thembisa; Promise.

”But the East Rand is not a holy or peaceful place as such.” Mandisi states; “it is just blessed, but still carries the curses of Apartheid and racial splitting.” He describes how unemployment and financial inequalities burden the black population and how these conditions create pressure in the townships: “Tension plus stress, plus no money equals that townships turn into ghettos: Ghettos with stressed out young men with no jobs.” After receiving a diploma in visual arts in Johannesburg, he returned to the township only to find that his friends were either imprisoned or had passed away: “At that point loneliness became a big reality. That is when the East Rand’s spiritual realms consumed the old me and I became Agord Lean.” Mandisi says. He started recording material for theGhost in the Machine mixtape in 2012 that was published later the same year.“Making music became an audio emotional response for me, ”Mandisi elaborates.

As both the visual and musical artist behind Agord Lean and the 128klan, Mandisi fully recognises his control with the final output and doesn’t mind talking about it as a sort of dictating audience’s visual memory in relation to the music. Yet his message is fairly bendable and soft, as he points to awareness of self, presence of absence and a dual existence in a spiritual and physical world as some of the underlying matters in his music.

“An old healer once told me that; “the eye sees beyond the flooded riverbank”, iso liwela umfula ugcwele,” Mandisi says and understood it as an appeal to constantly look beyond what is immediately presented to us.

Girls sing along with no one’s favourite artist/ Or Agord Lean and the 22 listeners

Agord Lean and the 128klan is so far a well-kept secret. With only four handfuls of listeners on Soundcloud and the same amount of fan-likes on Facebook, the music isn’t exactly a number-one hit targeting gun out there. So far, Mandisi has only performed at a random home party, from which he reports: “ I was crazy cause I didn’t know how people would respond. But the reaction was positive. It is always positive when girls sing along.“ Well, he does want to tour sold-out concerts one day, but being everybody’s favourite artist isn’t his aim. In a confident tone, he declares that the world might not be ready for his music just yet. The listeners ready for Agord Lean, are, according to himself;

“…aware, or have an idea of their existence beyond this single layered dimension.”He would rather engage a handful of the right kind of open-minded listeners, than thousands of people claiming to rigid structures of everyday life.“I do the music not for acknowledgement, but I hope it can have an impact on the listeners who listen to hear.”

Listen to hear – and find yourself being transported on roads made by transcendent, honest and sensual material by this young, South African, super productive multi -talent, who at this time already has announced a new album on the way.

For more on Agord Lean go to:  Soundcloud // Youtube //  Facebook //  @lean128

Make sure to also check out these following artist: OkmalumkoolkatRevivolutionSpoek MathamboZaki Ibrahim andDirty Paraffin

Interview by: Julie Rose Bach Køie

Check out Julie’s website: http://madeinschool.dk/julie-rose-bach-koeie

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