I know how this might be kinda suggestive, but the perspective of havin’ an chat with Ralf GUM is something I would never miss. Probably because of the so many souvenirs we’ve got in common despite the distance. From our meetings during the Winter Music Conference back by the end of the nineties, to our regular exchanges since upon the release schedule of his label, Ralf GUM, never missing an opportunity to give love in return to the ones who’ve shown interest into his music (something rare enough to be highlighted in this little introduction)…
Far are the days when Ralf GUM started his GOGO Music label, and even more when he did his first gigs in his native Germany. 15 years have gone since which have seen him climbing up the ladder, eventually becoming one of the most popular names in South Africa where he relocated a few years ago along with his wife and kids…
First and foremost, let’s go with the definition of your ‘In My City’ album as a concept…
“I intentionally put the skyline of Johannesburg on the cover as a tribute, South Africa is the most vibrant dance nation I know globally. I am grateful to be a part of its heartbeat and feel that I spiritually and musically now live in a place which I really call home. This said, it is clear that this album would not sound and feel like it does without SA. A lot of songs and the vibe of them are inspired by the dance scene of the country and the country itself. I wanted to produce an album which continues the legacy which was started by people like Vinny Da Vinci and Christos and take it further.
They created, together with many others, something which is one of its kind and became the biggest consumer market for House Music in the world. Considering the local market, my aim is to keep the movement up and to eventually enlarge it. Internationally, I hope to raise more awareness about the South African music scene. A global interest in SA House Music started already a few years back. But I feel that still much more needs to be done to exploit the great economical potential which lies in South African House Music for the country I call home now…”
Ralf GUM: from Würzburg to Johannesburg!
You’ve been around for quite some time now. How would you see your evolution as a producer, arranger, musician? Have you eventually come to a difference in terms of approach when coming to conceive this new album…
“Learning along the way is essential and of course more knowledge influences the approach. I see my career as a slow but steady rise and don’t mind this at all, as my skills had time to grow alongside my position in the music scene…”
An album is most likely a story from A to Z. Let us know about it?
“An album should always tell a story, just as a single song should, but I have to admit that I mainly concentrate on the individual tracks, especially in the early stages of them. Making them consistent in sound and even more importantly the message of them is something which happens along the way of the whole album production. This includes the choice of vocalists, musicians and of course as well the sequence of the songs on the CD.”
“In a globalized world, knowledge can easily be transferred from one part of the planet to any other, so there’s no real need to move to a specific place regarding this. But feeling can’t be transferred from A to B. Hence it was more to feel and inhale the energy of the country, than musical knowledge which made me relocate…”
Relocating to another country is already a thing and I suppose doin’ so to another continent must be a way different one. Let us know, if not indiscreete, the reasons that got you leaving Germany to go to Africa…
“As a DJ, I travel a lot. Almost 20 years of activity now have allowed me to see so many different places all over the world, but when I came for the first time to South Africa in 2008, I felt a special vibe right away. The more I visited the country on subsequent tours, the more I fell in love with it and its people. My wife started to tag along on SA tours and we extended our stays whenever possible to get a better feel of life here. The more time we spent in SA, the more we felt at home. We made good friends in the country, who played a role in the decision. The weather is much better than in Germany, my studio rent is cheaper and of course? the huge love for soulful music which exists in the country was dragging me here too.”
Was going to Africa for you like going to the cradle / the roots of the groove? Eventually get some necessary emulation? Feed your need for more knowledge???
“Definitely (South) Africans have a very good feel for groove. I believe that’s the foundation of and explains their love for soulful and jazzy musical genres. And surely everything surrounding an artist does influence his sound. ‘In My City’ is the first album which I fully produced in my new home and it would probably not sound as it does if I’d not be in the motherland. In a globalized world, knowledge can easily be transferred from one part of the planet to any other, so there’s no real need to move to a specific place regarding this. But feeling can’t be transferred from A to B. Hence it was more to feel and inhale the energy of the country, than musical knowledge which made me relocate…”
Ralf GUM & Co.
I can feel how you’ve always been attracted by Afro/Latin rhythms, judging now by your long time collaboration with Phil (Kullmann) of Raw Artistic Soul. Any comment???
“Rhythms, their tuning and the melodies of them have always been very important for me. Groove is the foundation of everything I musically do and it is the same for Phil. While he is an amazing percussionist and programmer at the same time, I am mainly programming. But feel for groove is something we share, which enables us to work together very well, next to the fact that we’re good friends…”
“I can pretty much go along with any genre, and I take them as as many interesting opportunities to keep my spontaneity alive. I’ve never met Ralf GUM in person. We had exchanges via Internet and he contacted my manager. I’ve been left caring of the lyrics…” (Omar)
As the arranger / the mastermind of the whole, how is it to work with so many different people almost comin’ from all around the world???
“It is challenging to work with so many people, all being top of their game. No matter if we speak about the vocalists or musicians. But this exactly what I am looking for. Facing challenges and overcome them helps growing as an artist and person in general.”
“Ralf GUM just simply contacted my management and myself about the collaboration. He sent me the track which resonated with me. I agreed to collaborate with him, and here we are today..” (Portia Monique)
Gathering so many people on one project reminds me, although on a different approach Louie Vega & Kenny Dope’s memorable Nuyorican Soul concept. Has this stood as an influence for you to a certain extend?
“It is an album I really was digging when it was released and which I always will like. It probably influenced my work in some way, too, especially when it came out, but I don’t see a direct reference to or influence on ‘In My City’.”
“Working with Ralf GUM has actually enabled me to connect with the Do It Now record label because Ralf has such a strong following in Africa. I love the fact that the internet has made it possible for me to work with producers and other artists who live overseas. Essentially, we are able to get a lot of work done by emailing tracks and files to each other. It is a great experience because it allows me to really expand my sound by working with such a wide array of artists and producers…” (Kafele Bandele)
How long has this album been in the making??? The same as usual for you???
“Yes, pretty much the same old story. All my albums took me more or less 2 years. It seems that I am simply not able to pull it of faster and I actually don’t see a need to try and rush.”