Based: East London
Ismail Mohamed-Jan, better known as Pops Mohamed, is South Africa’s unofficial Minister of Music. With a philosophy that states, “If you don’t know where you come from, surely you won’t know where you are going to”, Pops is renowned for his dedication to protect and preserve the indigenous tribal music from his homeland. Interestingly however, he is simultaneously at the helm of the current world music movement experimenting with global sounds and digital electronica – fusing tradition with modern technology.
He successfully combines his deep-rooted African sounds with contemporary instruments and electronics making him the living embodiment of cross-cultural co-operative music. A pragmatist as much as an idealist he recognizes the need to create a palatable way of producing indigenous sounds. Dance music has therefore become a base from which to do this. As he explains, “I don’t see all the new dance styles (hip hop, trip hop, house, jungle, drum’n’bass) as a threat to traditional music. I see them as a new platform to voice ourselves.”
This platform has been used in his project ‘Pops Mohamed Meets The London Sound Collective’, released in August 2000. A collaboration between the cutting edge underground drum’n’bass outfit LSC and Pops himself; this album demonstrates his remarkably versatile and innovative vision. Marking a new step forward in the evolution of trance music, the essence of which can be captured on both traditional and electronic instruments, this project is an explosive fusion of East London urban sounds with indigenous instrumentals, bringing traditional music into the sphere of modern dance music.
At the other end of the spectrum, Pops has also been involved in the raw and undiluted sounds of the San Bushmen on the Bushmen of the Kalahari CD, released in August 2000. This was the result of a visit to the Kalahari instigated by Pops in 1995, the unique recordings made there making up this CD, providing a rare glimpse into the world and music of this resilient tribe of people. Some of the recordings also provided the backbone of Pops’ acclaimed album ‘How Far Have We Come?’ which delves deeply into the lives and stories of this ancient culture. Here the raw recordings were worked on and mastered in London with a team of global musicians. The idea being not to fuse the Khoisan’s music with other sounds but rather to maintain it’s own identity, creating “a swirling tapestry of sound that one minute evokes the timeless world of rural Africa and the next a sweaty dance floor that could just as easily be in London as Johannesburg.” (Nigel Williamson, Mojo, Feb 97)