Archive’09: Rattex vs Filewile – Khayeltisha ‘spaza kaltsha’ goes Swiss

Back in 2009, Khayelitsha rapper Rattex adds some ‘Spaza Kaltsha’ to the Swiss duo Filewile’s globe-spanning blend of dub, electronica, hip-hop and street-edge. The collaboration was made possible courtesy ProHelvetia and Pioneer Unit, and also included 340ml’s Pedro da Silva, and Fong Kong Bantu Soundsystem amongst others.

Swiss duo  Filewile, in South Africa courtesy ProHelvetia

Swiss duo Filewile, in South Africa courtesy ProHelvetia

Rattex, Khayelitsha "Spaza Movement" rapper

Rattex, Khayelitsha “Spaza Movement” rapper


This article by Evan Milton originally appeared in the Cape Argus ‘Good Weekend’ on 2009/12/05-06. It has been edited to correct the country of origin of Swiss duo Filewile.

Andreas Ryser is one half of the original Filewile club-duo and now a quarter of the group’s touring four-piece incarnation. He speaks on the ‘phone at the Swiss Arts Council‘s ProHelvetia offices in Johannesburg with, dare one say it, a very polite Swiss demeanour to his greeting, and it’s hard to imagine that this considered and urbane voice is also Dustbowl, the dancefloor-packing producer who teamed up with  Daniel Jakob (aka Dejot) to tear up the European left-of-centre dance scene with their debut, “Nassau Massage“. They then added vocalist Joy Frempong and bassist Mago Flück to their sonic arsenal to produce “Blueskywell” (released in late October) bringing vocals, analogue instrumentation, tape machines and, yes, the venerable sound of the vintage Space Echo to their dub-driven blend of “jiggy breaks, ambient electronics, rootsy reggae and funky jazz”.

Meanwhile, Rattex answers the ‘phone from his Khayelitsha home-base with a quiet demeanour that almost belies his lightning-cipher stage persona, but with an intensity that hints at the kind of socially-based urban issues he is wont to take as inspiration for his rhymes. “Bread And Butter“, the debut album from this stalwart of the so-called “Spaza Movement” is one of the flagships of the innovative Cape-based, internationally-angled Pioneer Unit Records. It was hailed as “fulfilling the promise South African hip hop has failed to deliver” and the lyricist’s mixing of isiXhosa, English, Afrikaans and Cape Flats slang over beats created by top-rated producers like Hipe, Nyambz and D-Planet proved a local and international hit amongst hip hop heavyweights. Recently, Rattex also contributed the conceptual track, “AirMaxin“, to the global Nike IAM1 campaign.
“How do you say nachhaltigkeit, the German word… It is about being sustainable”
   – Andreas “Dustbowl” Ryser, Filewile
“The Johannesburg gig was amazing,” says Andreas of Filewile‘s first South African stopover. “We did a collaboration with Pedro (Da Silva, frontman of Mozambican-born, Gauteng-based SAMA-winning dub outfit 340ml), sending files and IDs of a track for him beforehand, and then rehearsing for maybe half and hour and it just worked. The music was a fit, but also he was a really nice person and we could work well together. That’s very important, to have a relationship when you are working like that, and we created an amazing track together, and we’re definitely going to release it. The biggest part of this ProHelvetia project is that we don’t just want to go down to South Africa and play gigs and go home and that’s it. This should be something that grows, with these shows and the tracks just being the first part. Of course, now we can try to get Pedro to Switzerland, or maybe the whole band to perform there with us. It is about being.. how do you say nachhaltigkeit, the German word… It is about being sustainable.”
For Rattex‘s part, at the time of the interview he had yet to meet the international visitors. “The Filewile were coming to Cape Town, and they wanted to collaborate with a South African rapper, and I guess I was the chosen one. You ask what people should expect, and they can look out for a mad fire performance, with Rattex adding more flavour to their flavour. My man, they have sent me two songs already, and I listened to the songs. I wrote new songs for their songs; I have added a few verses; maybe I will also do some freestyle – when it comes to Rattex, I prefer anything. These gigs will be good, working with Fong Kong and people like DJ Rozzano… I have been working with them since back in the, since even before I became the famous Rattex.”
Before Johannesburg, Filewile did a single concert in Dar Es Salaam; after the Cape Town shows and workshop, they play in Maputo. “Dar Es Salaam was quite an amazing beginning of our tour,” says Andreas. “Most of Filewile has not been to Africa before, and it was really surrealistic to arrive from cold Switzerland, stepping off the plane into hot Tanzania. We played at quite a cool club, close to the beach to a mixed crowd – white and black people – and they all really enjoyed it because they were curious about our music. It was stressful also, though, we could go to the beach just before soundcheck, and then after the concert we went back to the hotel at 3am in the morning  and had a shower and then directly to the airport. One day in Tanzania was good, but go no further is not so good. This is why the performances and the collaborations for South Africa and Maputo are better.”
“Things are going good, much better than when I used to suffer, or was growing up as a kid.”
   – Rattex, circa 2009
For Rattex, the Filewile show is another step in his plans after releasing “Bread and Butter“. “Things are all going good, much better than before when I used to suffer or was growing up as a kid,” he says, quietly. “When there were problems to get transport to go to gigs or to find money to even make a record demo. I stayed focused and last year I got signed by Pioneer Unit, so now I have people who are behind me, who can get me gigs and help with the recording.”
“My plan next year is to open a recording company in the township whereby I can help upcoming artists,” says Rattex. “Especially from Khayelitsha, there are a lot of people who are talented, but there are not people to support them financially. It matters such a lot if a rapper can get a demo, and these days to do two songs in a studio costs maybe R30 000 – you’ve got to buy the beat from a producer, then pay for studio time, and where can they get the money? I want to open something, a bedroom studio, to help these rappers and do their demos. That’s my plan; that’s what I am.”
After guesting at the Mix ‘n Blend “Look Mom, No Hands” launch at Assembly “Discotheque”, Filewile joined The Fong Kong Bantu Soundsystem to play with Real Rozzano, Dubmasta China, Ntone Edjabe and Boeta Gee at All Nations Club (281 Main Rd, Salt River), and then the band participated in a jam session courtesy Ghetto Sound at the Nyanga Arts Centre – details 082-9767010. More on, and
This article by Evan Milton originally appeared in the Cape Argus ‘Good Weekend’ on 2009/12/05-06. It has been edited to correct the country of origin of Swiss duo Filewile.