While New York City has been the hotbed for electronic dance music, South Africa is staking its claim in the genre by ushering in a new age of African sensibilities. Courtesy of BACARDÍ, this year’s Governors Ball Music Festival pre-show featured two of the most buzzed-about DJ duos on the international club scene: disco/house mavericks the Martinez Brothers and amapiano visionaries Major League DJz. BACARDÍ is no stranger to the live music space, and the party was another event in a long series of celebrations that the brand has powered as part of its “Do What Moves You” platform.
On Thursday, June 9, the showcase kicked off with a set by the Martinez Brothers. Straight from the festival grounds’ BACARDÍ Stage at Citi Field, the sibling duo returned to their hometown to coax the crowd into perpetual motion. Atop a tropical-themed stage and flanked by two bottles of BACARDÍ, brothers Steve and Chris Martinez brought in the summer vibes during a bright 75-degree evening.
Donning gold chains, the Bronx brothers spun a lively mix of techno, dub, and a dose of classic New York house for good measure. Early in their set, the twosome, who got their start at New York’s legendary club The Paradise Garage, performed their latest genre-spanning single, “Rizzla”—a collaboration with Guatemalan-American dance artist Gordo (fka Carnage), featuring Nigerian singer Rema. The release, which dropped last month, also comes ahead of their first-ever headlining residency, which kicked off in Ibiza on Tuesday, June 14.
“During the pandemic, us and Gordo made a bunch of music, one of them being ‘Rizzla,’” the brothers mentioned in a statement. “It’s a special one because it bridges so many different parts of the world while at the same time crossing genres. We have [the] utmost respect for Rema as an artist and to have him on this straight-up club jam is insane.”
While sipping on BACARDÍ—Chris’ drink of choice was a Bahama Mama while Steven opted for a classic mojito—the duo also showed love to Nuyorican DJs and producers like Louie Vega by spinning his jazzy jam “Mozalouge.” A few years ago, the Martinez brothers and Vega, who are all of Puerto Rican descent, stood strong together performing in a fundraiser where they donated all proceeds to survivors of Hurricane María. As the night progressed, the pair continued to rock the house with uplifting tropical-tinged club grooves until it was time to pass the baton to the Major League DJz.
From the gate, the pair spun a heated hybrid of Afro beats, deep house, and lounge to a crowded dance floor at the BACARDÍ Rum Room. Between couples cozying up and friends in pure bliss, their energetic set proved more rousing against the backdrop of a mesmerizing Manhattan skyline.
The Boston-born, Johannesburg-raised twins, composed of Banele and Bandile Mbere, proudly displayed the exhilarating beats of amapiano, a style of house music from their native South Africa. Dripping in Balenciaga gear and toasting with a pair of their favorite BACARDÍ cocktails (the Ocho Old Fashioned) in hand, they spun tracks by genre-peers like Kota Embassy (“Lying in the Sun”) and Kabza de Small (“Jwaleng”). Of course, their electric set was bolstered by plenty of their own tracks, including their latest remix “Velletjes,” in collaboration with Rich2gether and Smallgod. “Let’s go, let’s go, party people!” Bandile shouted while fiercely turning knobs behind the deck to amp up party-goers even further.
The performance was just another highlight in what’s been an eventful month for the sibling duo. A few weeks ago, the 31-year-old pair received a BET Award nomination for Best International Act after headlining a sold-out O2 Academy Brixton show, a “career-defining moment” for them, as they described it. “We’re going to make the impossible possible,” Banele told Clash while reflecting on the pair’s career aspirations. Though they’re just in the first stretch of what’s sure to be a fruitful career, their set at Gov Ball’s opening party proved to be a serious step in the right direction as the Major League DJz look to bring amapiano to the world.