Pressure Cooker creates the sound of South Africa for Spotify Premium

Pressure Cooker was given the monumental task of creating the sound of a nation for Spotify Premium for the South African market. No easy feat when you consider the sheer volume of diversity in our country’s music and cultures. We catch up with the creators and take a look at how they pulled it off.

First off, how in the name of Beyoncé do you go about creating one 2-minute track that authentically encapsulates all the sounds of South Africa? How do you weave together genres like afropop, house, gospel, amapiano, rock, gqom, maskandi and world music to create an inspiring musical journey through our country without sounding like a dog’s breakfast? Well, you enlist the help of a dream team of course. Pressure Cooker in collaboration with Bioscope Films’ Fausto Becatti, TBWA\Hunt Lascaris and South African poet Koleka Putuma, managed to create an iconic (and very cool) piece of advertising that celebrates South Africa’s diversity within music and within our people.

Spotify Premium ‘Unleash’

‘From the beginning, it was fundamental that the ad sounded 100% authentic, and we really wanted to reflect the styles, people, and talent of South Africa’ says Pressure Cooker Co-Founder Daniel Caleb.

Behind the scenes shots from the Spotify set

‘The Spotify film was a real challenge to find the marriage between movement, image and sound. Without all three in sync, I don’t think it would have worked. The film was also rooted in an expression of South African culture, old and new, and still needed to feel current and cool. We had to be careful to not force too many references in or it would become a schizophrenic mess. Pressure Cooker took the brief and I think really nailed a journey through the sound and composition that carries the dancer’s movement and journey as well as capturing a rich and authentic cultural soundscape of South African sounds for this very first spot for Spotify Premium in South Africa. Legends.’ – Fausto Becatti, Director at Bioscope Films.

How Pressure Cooker takes what’s in your head and makes it real

Once poet Koleka Putuma had penned the words that would accompany the track, the process of finding the sound for the Spotify film began. Pressure Cooker is home to 11 full-time composers and sound designers, including a number of international partners that make up the wider team. Being able to pick from such a wide pool of varied talent, meant they could present three really unique tracks, each composed by a separate composer from their stable.
‘Music is so subjective, so presenting a wide range of choice to agency and client is always a priority. Having a large team like we have means we can pair the right talent with the right project. Once we successfully do that, our team can collaborate and offer support to deliver at the highest standard. This process means we can always give our clients the best possible outcome.’ says Pressure Cooker Co-Founder James Matthes.

In the end, it was Composer and Sound Engineer Keith Kavayi’s piece that resonated with what the client and creative team were imagining. ‘Keith created something truly unique yet familiar and a wonderful piece of music we could all collaborate on’ adds James.

‘When I heard this track, it was exactly how I imagined it in my head.’ – Melanie Triegaardt, SSA Music Strategy & Operations Lead.

Keith, who began his journey with Pressure Cooker as an intern back in 2015 and is now one of the leading composers at the studios, says of the track: ‘It’s not a conventional track where you are working with one genre and you can just dive right in. There are so many genres here and you have to pick the right moments from each genre to enhance the picture. The pressure is to keep the emotion and intent of the ad, but Fausto (director Fausto Becatti) knows what he wants, so he can communicate clearly which moves our process forward. This was very much a collaborative effort music-wise.’

Speaking of collaboration, Pressure Cooker was not only responsible for creating the musical track, but also the sound design and final mix for the film. The power of being a music and sound house with multiple capabilities means the team could implement a holistic collaborative approach to the project, where the music creation process influences the sound design process and vice versa. ‘While the music was still being finished, we were able to start on the sound design, which leads to a real synchronicity between all the elements.’ says James.

We couldn’t talk about Pressure Cooker without giving you a peek inside their new studio space in St George’s Mall, Cape Town. Look, we wouldn’t say no to a toastie and coffee in this place!

Founded over 11 years ago, Pressure Cooker has always maintained that they are about ‘building a platform for talent to flourish’ and this is something they are actively passionate about. James says: ‘We like to think that’s what Keith’s journey represents. He has grown from an intern to an artist kicking our asses during pitching (PS. He has just won ANOTHER commercial we all pitched on). Watching his growth proves that nurturing talent, sharing knowledge and open collaboration within our studio really works. Instead of losing talent overseas, we want Pressure Cooker to be the vanguard of the African audio arts industry and put great briefs in front of great musicians, making it a lot more viable for musicians or audio engineers to thrive on our continent and collaborate on crafting high-end work like this film for Spotify Premium.’

There is no way something as complex and nuanced as this ad could come together without acknowledging the red-carpet-worthy credit list of amazing people involved:

AGENCY: TBWA Hunt Lascaris
CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER: Peter Khoury
EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Kabelo Moshapalo
COPYWRITER: Greg Lavagna
ART DIRECTOR: Melissa Grundligh / Muhammad Gangat
ILLUSTRATOR: Gerhard Human
HEAD OF TV PRODUCTION: Sandra Gomes
PRODUCER: Sandra Gomes
CLIENT SERVICE: Tandi-Lee Silberman / Michael Garrett
COPYWRITER: Greg Lavagna

PRODUCTION COMPANY: Bioscope Films
DIRECTOR: Fausto Becatti
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Daniel Kaplan
PRODUCTION HOUSE PRODUCERS: Naledi Kgope / Maurice Dingle
DOP: Fabian Vettiger
EDITOR: William Kalmer
GRADE: Joseph Bicknell
DANCER: Chelsea Samuels

MUSIC AND AUDIO HOUSE: Pressure Cooker Studios
MUSIC BY: Keith Kavayi
LEAD ENGINEER: Neil Leachman
MUSIC SUPERVISORS: James Matthes / Daniel Caleb
PRODUCER: Astrid Iverson
POET / VOICE: Koleka Putuma
PRODUCER & ARTISTE MANAGER: With Love The Agency – Robyn-Lee Pretorius
Manyano Media

Contact Pressure Cooker Studios

Studio Producer: Astrid Iverson
production@pressurecookerstudios.co.za

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Produced by the IDIDTHAT Content Studio – Credits: Anne Hirsch (Writer) / Julie Maunder

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This Editorial is paid for by Pressure Cooker Studios. Want our studio to create content that puts your agency/company/kickass ad you made in bright lights for the whole industry to see? View or editorial packages or contact julie@ididthat.co and we’ll make it happen! #Boom