Bonobo is easily one of the most important live downtempo acts of our generation. After releasing six studio albums, two live albums, 11 EPs and 27 singles over the last 20 years, he has become a key figure in downtempo electronica, and has brought world music to the forefront of electronic dance music.
The 42-year-old British producer born Simon Green rose from obscurity back in 1999 with his debut EP Scuba and the single “Terrapin” on the independent Tru Thoughts label. Using a sampled-based style of production for his trip hop tunes, his first releases gained the attention of XL Recordings and Mute Records who offered to sign him, to which he declined.
The year 2000 saw the release of his debut album Animal Magic on Tru Thoughts, which, despite mixed reviews, earned Green a cult following and landed him a deal with Coldcut’s legendary Ninja Tune imprint. He went on to release two albums on the label, Dial ‘M’ for Monkey in 2003 and Days To Come in 2006, with the latter being voted Best Album of 2006 by Gilles Peterson’s listeners. He also released the bootleg compilation Sweetness in 2002.
In 2010, Bonobo’s fourth album Black Sands gained him critical acclaim from BBC’s Paul Clarke stating: "Green has progressed from predominantly sample-based production to more live instrumentation [and] has become equally adept at mastering [...] multi-layered atmospheres." The album featured a number of seminal Bonobo tunes like “The Keeper”, “Eyesdown” and “Stay The Same”, all of which feature British singer Andreya Triana.
It was only until the release of The North Borders, Bonobo’s fifth album, that he eventually landed in the album charts in the UK and US, reaching 34 and 122 respectively. The album release was led by a music video for the lead single “Cirrus”, created by British animator Cyriak. As of February 1st 2019, the video has racked up 13 million views.
In last year, his 2017 album Migration and the track “Bambro Koyo Ganda” were nominated for Grammy Awards for Best Dance Recording and Best Dance Album. He also won Album of the Year and was nominated for Live Act of the Year at the 2017 Electronic Music Awards.
Bonobo also released his latest single “Ibrik” on January 23rd—to coincide with the announcement of him doing the first mix for the new Fabric Presents series—which will surely be a welcomed addition to his repertoire while on tour this year.
Here are six more essential Bonobo tracks:
"Flutter" - Dial 'M' For Monkey (2003)
"Nightlight" - Days To Come (2006)
"Stay The Same" - Black Sands (2010)
"First Fires" Live on KEXP - The North Borders (2013)
"Flashlight" - Flashlight EP (2014)
"Kerala" - Migration (2017)
Bonobo performs at Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town on February 8th and at Fox Junction in Johannesburg on the 9th. Tickets available here.