Afro/cosmic can be traced back to the late 1970’s, as Italian DJs like Daniele Baldelli tore up the rule book, crossing genre boundaries and slowing records down with reckless abandon to pioneer a new sound. A precursor to the “cosmic disco” tradition, Baldelli in particular was a trailblazer akin to New York disco’s David Mancuso and Nicky Siano. But while these DJs are often celebrated for an innovative approach to playing records, little attention is paid to the music they made.
Earlier productions mirrored the vibe of your typical Afro/cosmic set, but the growing influence of pitched-down trance and progressive records in the early ’90s ushered in a new era while retaining that chugging, trance-inducing aesthetic. It was by this time that the slo-mo sound had infiltrated the dancefloors of Germany and Austria thanks to the likes of Stefan Egger. Paying homage to that second wave, cosmic pathfinder Ygal Ohayon talks us through Studiolo, an Afro/cosmic-focused compilation curated for Parisian label Antinote.
1. Fred DJ & Boran DJ – Cosmic Patch (Lazy’gal Edit) (1995)
The Afro/cosmic scene, from the early years, could be found in three different locations: Northern Italy, Innsbruck and Munich. It was important to have all three scenes represented in the compilation.
Fred and Boran are from Munich, discovering cosmic music during the late ’80s through one of Stefan Egger ‘Afro Meetings’ in Innsbruck. Fred became one of the main cosmic DJs in Munich, and also a producer with his own label. This track show how these production could turn into a dark and strange mood, when the cosmic’ 90s production had a kind of cheesy and borderline reputation. You can also feel the influence of ’90s UK tribal, a style which was really present in the cosmic DJ’s set.
2. African Project – Ethno Beat (Afro Version) – 96 BPM (1993)
African Project is one of many aliases belonging to Austria’s Stefan Egger, one of the most important DJ/producer of ’90s cosmic scene. He’s produced hundred of tracks/remixes/edits since the late ’80s, had a record shop and also several labels, the most important of which was Sound Station Records. He started organising an Afro Meeting in Innsbruck, bringing Italian DJs for this ‘cosmic festival’ that gathered thousands people. ‘Ethno Beat’ is one of the first tracks I dug from him, totally charmed by this insane mix between some kind of new beat (think Opium Monks’ ‘Secrets Of Afrika’), angry pan pipes and crazy vocals. As for the vocals, we’ve learnt it was from a german TV show soundtrack..
3. Mamukata – Tantawina – 105 BPM (1995)
It was clearly not possible to make such compilation without any Tribal Italia tracks, the most important italian label of the genre. To be honest, our first choice was on a DJ Fary and another Mamukata song, but due to the samples used, it was not possible to clear them. Tantawina is maybe the less « obscure » track form this compilation, as it was played for years by some DJs. Behind Mamukata moniker, you find DJ Ebreo, one of the pioneer of Cosmic Sound in early 80’s. Ebreo was involved in most of Tribal Italia releases.
4. Zendy – Zymotic (Plastic Version) – 105 BPM (1991)
Zendy is taken from a 12″ featuring one of the all-time Afro/cosmic anthems, ‘Ponta De Lança Africano (Indian Version)’. It was released on American Records, a record shop based in Modena and a key spot for all the Afro/cosmic DJs. Owned by Bob One, also the producer behind Zendy, it was also a label with hundreds of releases from Italo house to trance, progressive and of course, cosmic.
5. Claudio Diva – Funky Nephos – 115 BPM (1999)
Claudio Diva illustrates the link between cosmic, progressive house and trance on Tomahawk Records, a sub-label of American Records. He did several Afro/cosmic-oriented 12″s alongside his trance and progressive project.
6. DJ Fred, DJ Otti, Jay Pee – Indien Summer – 96 BPM (1994)
This a collaboration between DJ Fred with DJ Otti and Jay Pee from The New Morning, the key figure within Munich’s cosmic scene. The vocals are taken from Max Werner’s ‘Indian Summer’, an anthem from the cosmic early years, but played at 45 RPM. These accelerated voices were a ‘trademark’ of the cosmic style. Daniele Baldelli explained these voices were like an instrument, as most of people on the dance floor didn’t speak english and didn’t understand the lyrics. I have the feeling than the lot of pan pipes used in the ’90s production were a kind of reminiscent of these chipmunk vocals.
7. DJ Stefan Egger – Cosmic Esmeralda – 110 BPM (1994)
Again we find Stefan Egger, this time with what could be considered cosmic’s biggest main commercial tune. Originally released on Egger’s label Sound Station, major German dance music label ZYX licensed it as a promo 12’’ for DJ and radio, with a leaflet explaining cosmic music, its influences etc. (a ‘pedagogy’ effort to make discover this style). However, it seems 1994 was a bit too early for club trance at 107 BPM and it never saw a proper commercial release. This was (very much) inspired by the trance track ‘Espiral’ by Dunne (a Spanish producer also behind Boa Club), a hit for Cosmic DJs once played at 33RPM, of course…
8. Virtual Roots – Sonar (Virtual Version) (Ygal Ohayon Low Gravity Edit)- 105 BPM (1993)
Behind the mysterious name Virtual Roots, you find the three guys that can be considered the core of Italy’s cosmic movement. First there’s Daniele Baldelli, the man responsible for inventing this unique style of DJing called cosmic in late ’70s. In this project he teamed up with Claudio Tosi Brandi, AKA TBC, and Bob One. TBC was one of the pioneer of the cosmic style, a protégé of Baldelli, and when that style DJing faded in early ’90s, he produced more than 20 EP, mostly on Tribal Italia.
This track from 1993 shows the uninhibited approach of Cosmic Music, mixing ragga riddim with church organs on a progressive house production… The original track is at 125 BPM, but the edit extends the track while slowing it down to 105.
Studiolo: The 90’s Afro Cosmic Era is out now on Antinote | Buy it here