This was my second choice.
...and some others... Ayanda Jiya, Aksak Maboul, Shirley Collins, Hedgehog, Veronique Sanson, SASAMI, Cidade TormitorioLiked Sharon Van Etten
Ask any house head worth their money for a top ten list of the genre's greatest songs and Nick Holder's "Summer Daze" is sure to feature. The song came screaming into the 21st century in the early 2000s, and has remained a permanent fixture on dance floors and playlists across South Africa and the rest of the world. If it were possible to synthesize the feeling of a South African December, it would most likely sound like the racing percussion and twinkling piano keys on "Summer Daze."
Twenty years after its release, the song's influence can't be overstated. In the same way you can't imagine hip-hop without "Juicy" or "C.R.E.A.M," "Summer Daze" is a song that has ironed itself into the history of modern-day house music. Recently, "Summer Daze" has seen something of a return in contemporary South African music.
"'The Sun' is a song about resilience. Life has so many challenges, and sometimes it's easy to feel like there's no way out: that there is no hope for a better day. The song speaks of seeing a better day," she adds.
The same is true of "Summer Daze." The story behind the Canadian house legend's 2001 classic is a tale of what happens when the perfect sample falls into the right hands. But, beyond that, it's a story that illustrates the alchemical nature of music and sampling and influence.
"The funny thing about 'Summer Daze' is that it almost never got released," says Nick Holder to OkayAfrica. "I sat on that sample for so long I thought I'd never end up using it. And even when I did release it, I had no idea it would ever be that big."
How did the song move through the decades to become one of the greatest house songs ever made?
With all of this unfolding, Nick Holder wiped the dust off the records he found from his local library and stopped on a song called "Slip Away" by the Pat Metheny Group. Like he did with "Da Sambafrique," he took large parts of the jazz-rock number and sped it up. Suddenly, the percussion sounded more pronounced, the keys more distinct and the song (which could easily have been mistaken for muzak if it were played in an elevator) had the feeling of a house song.
Still, he wasn't convinced he had a hit record.
"When I released the vinyl with 'Summer Daze,' there was a song on flipside called 'Slow Motion' that I thought would really take off. It had a Fela Kuti sample and, if anything, I thought that was going to be the song," he says.
Let's get the obvious out of the way: "Summer Daze" sounds a whole lot like "Slip Away." In fact, if you were to play both records next to each other, it would be easy to think the former is a remix of the latter.
But you'd be wrong. Holder's style of sampling brings to mind hip-hop producer Madlib, who also has an ear for the perfect loop. One of the self-described loop digga's biggest talents is knowing when to chop a sample and when to leave a loop as is. Like Madlib, some of Holder's earlier sampled work seems to be anchored in the belief that there's no reason to chop a perfectly good loop.
Besides, Holder imposes enough of himself on the sample (filtering, adding deceptively simple drum work and bass lines) to make the sample his own.
"Summer Daze" eventually led to a lawsuit by the Pat Metheny Group (something Holder has spoken about in previous interviews), but thankfully, the song was allowed to exist. Still, the Canadian house legend has a few regrets.
"The one thing I regret was not going to South Africa when 'Summer Daze' was released," he says. "I was touring quite extensively at the time. So, I just couldn't go. I just didn't have the time. But I also had no idea how big I was there. The house scene over there reminds me of Canada's golden age in the '80s. You hear house music in cars, elevators, television, radio. It's the craziest thing ever."
One wonders if Nick Holder has any idea just how seminal his 2000 release is on this side of the equator. He concludes the interview by sharing a story of his mid-2000 performance in South Africa.
"A friend of mine from Kimberly brought me out to South Africa in mid-2000. It was me, DJ Fresh, Euphonik, and a couple of other local cats. I remember dropping 'Summer Daze' and it was so overwhelming. I couldn't believe that many people knew the song.
"I came back to South Africa a few years later, and I'll never forget this: I'm walking through customs and the guy who checks my passport, scans it then looks at me and at the passport again. I've never met this guy before, but what he said next was so wild.
Cool story. Wasn't aware house music is so big in South Africa..."'So that's your real name?' the guy from customs asks.
"'What do you mean?' I ask.
'I thought it was a stage name. Anyway, would you mind putting me on the guest list?'"