Telekom Electronic Beats

CTM and Boiler Room Curator Opium Hum Chooses His ‘Ones to Watch’ for 2020

Top 7 globetrotting selects, hailing from Lisbon to Sao Paulo

Words by Whitney Wei
Photos by Ryan Buchanan
Published on January 22, 2020 16:32 Berlin Time

There’s no question that some of the most dynamic artists that have emerged in recent years within electronic music hail from the far flung corners of the world. Considering the glowing praises circulating Nyege Nyege festival and its associated Hakuna Kulala artists in Uganda, as well as the cadre of progressive acts like Lechuga Zafiro and Linn da Quebrada holding it down in the global south, this new decade spells an exciting shift in culture at large. 

Oftentimes, these are the underground scenes–distant from the media centers in the Western world–that remain uncovered. Luckily, there are dedicated globetrotters like CTM festival and Boiler Room curator Opium Hum (aka Michail Stangl) with their ears on the ground and utilizing their platforms to infuse some outré talent into rapidly democratizing industry. Stangl, who is also a DJ, is based in Berlin, but can often be found partying behind the decks with local stalwarts in Lima, Moscow, and Sao Paolo, or playing host to international guests right here in Kreuzberg at his Hyper Real show on Radio Fritz. 

Ahead of the CTM festival opening this Friday, Stangl, in his own words, sings his praises about his top 7 talents to watch for in 2020. Below, you’ll find artists advancing the parameters of dance music as you know it. Stangl’s selects span from advanced permutations of kuduro, Lebanese-inflected hard drum, to star members breaking out all along the global bass continuum.

DJ Plead (Lebanon / Australia)

“DJ Plead is put into the hard drum bracket, a genre that has been slowly gaining more and more traction ever since it started to bubble up via the Her Records camp and then through producers like NKC, DJ JM, but also Nervous Horizon and TSVI. There’s this whole group of artists making convening things and DJ Plead, even though he comes from that trajectory, stood out among everyone else.

First of all, he uses quite a lot of very unusual rhythm patterns, which are informed by his Lebanese heritage. He’s half German, half Lebanese, and grew up in Australia, but nevertheless he references a lot of unusual time patterns and beat patterns in his productions, and you feel that. It’s incredibly organic, impactful and innovative. It’s a whirlwind of percussion but always very functional. I’ve basically heard everyone from Berghain residents to head bass music DJs play his stuff, and I have incredibly high expectations that he takes a Middle-Eastern sound to a completely new, very exciting trajectory. From knowing what he has in the making, I think we’ll hear a lot of him.” 

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KG (United Kingdom)

“I heard KG for the first time when she released an EP with Scratcha DVA, the old Hyperdub mainstay, but also one of the old Gs of UK funky and grime. Anyway, Scratcha DVA and her released an EP. Even though Scratcha was always a very remarkable producer, that release stood out immediately to me–mainly because it had a gqom influence. KG is mainly the reason for this influence. I would not reduce her skill set to being a UK gqom producer, but this is definitely something that she is driving forward.

She’s also part of this amazing young generation of female bass music producers that make London even more interesting than ever. For example, also Yazzus or L U C Y from the 6 Figure Gang. But KG both as a DJ and a producer is incredibly, incredibly exciting. I have the gut feeling that this, combined with the other stuff she’s doing–like hosting radio shows, her attitude, and how she goes about her music–will make sure we will hear quite a lot of her.

When I got to see her live, which was at the Boiler Room festival, I immediately knew she belonged in this particular slot that we booked her for [at CTM], which is opening night on a Friday, just because I just know this is the sound that needs to be played at Panorama Bar. So particularly looking forward to seeing that.” 

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Kai Whiston (United Kingdom)

“Kai Whiston is…something else altogether. I think he is probably one of the most talented producers out there–a once in a decade level of talent, but we just don’t know it yet. That kid is barely 20-years-old, and his first album, called It’s Kai Whiston, Bitch, was one of the most impressive takes on the post-deconstructed club, post-trap music movement. On his second album, he comes out with something that is basically a prog-rock opera that meets all current electronic music tropes. 

The level of complexity in his music and the level of talent in terms of songwriting, in combination with his styles of sound design, and beat programming, are all the things that make a producer actually worth their money. That kid signifies all of this for me. I believe that he is going to be a star if things align, but nonetheless, I will be a fan for years to come.” 

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PEDRO (Portugal)

“The first time I’ve heard of PEDRO was in 2015 or so–back then as KKing Kong. But ever since he stayed probably my favorite artist from then. His label Enchufada, founded by Branko, who used to be part of Buraka Som Sistema, represents a very different take on the kuduro continuum. 

Frankly speaking, every track that PEDRO releases drives everyone mad. It doesn’t matter what kind of party, or what kind of country. If you play a PEDRO tune at the right time, in a smart way, you have the dance floor poppin’ immediately. To be honest, as a DJ, very often I use PEDRO tracks if I realize that things aren’t going so well, and the wrong people are dancing. I’ll put on a PEDRO tune and from the on, it’s a pure, pure party. 

I hope that he will get the recognition he deserves because I think he’s one of the strongest producers in Lisbon and within global bass, which is a greater genre I’d put this into. He deserves to be way up there.” 

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Badsista (Brazil)

“I cannot even begin to describe how much I love Badsista’s stuff. First of all, she’s one of the best DJs that I know worldwide and I am not exaggerating. I saw her and Pininga, another DJ from South America and part of the Tormenta crew, play a back-to-back set in Sao Paolo and that has been one of the most insane rave sets I have ever seen. What those two do with three CDJs and a mixer is black fucking magic. She’s just incredible. 

In an hour, she can take you through the scope of a hundred BPM with every tune completely new to your ears and none of it will irritate you. It will just drive you further, further, and further. I love her attitude; I love her as a person. She’s an incredibly skilled producer and as a DJ. She’s also somebody who deserves the headliner slots all over the world because she’s better than 90% of the people who get paid way higher for 10% of the work and creativity they put into their DJing.”

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Mx Blouse (South Africa)

“I discovered Mx Blouse more or less by accident. A friend connected us, asking me if I could help him with getting his first music video out and, yo, I love this kid. He raps in Zulu, and has an incredible style, incredible musicality, and charisma. He’s really hungry. The way he approaches his career is just inspiringit’s this DIY ethos, but also you feel that he knows he can do much, much better, and you know he’ll do much, much better. This is something that I adore in artists, when they don’t hide behind the infrastructure of agents, booking agents, managements, and drive their own careers forth. Artists that do their own thing, they always get my ear first because they put in the work. That’s the thing with Mx Blouse. 

Johannesburg is probably one of the most important music cities globally. Artists like [Mx Blouse] just show how many amazing things are happening on the African continent that we just don’t pay attention to here in Europe and how we absolutely miss out. This needs to change, those kids need to get on the stages here – just because what’s being done in South Africa, and many other African countries is just so crazy good.”

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MC Yallah (Uganda)

“MC Yallah is from the Nyege Nyege camp. She’s a vicious MC. She’s like a rattlesnake spitting ferociously. She has the stage presence, she has the charisma, she has the flow – even though I don’t speak Swahili. I want to learn the lyrics so I can just rap along. With her, she will do big things for rap on the African continent, in Swahili, and will be somebody who will make quite big moves in the next year. Björk already played some of her music in her DJ a few weeks ago. 

I’m pretty sure that her CTM appearance will be one of the highlights of the festival. For me, it definitely is. She’s someone people should watch really, really closely.” 

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This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Opium Hum plays at Berghain for CTM’s ‘Subsurface Portal’ club night this Friday, 24.01. Catch many of these artists at CTM Festival, running from 24.01 to 02.02, in various venues throughout Berlin.