Soulful ballads with an African feel are making a comeback in South Africa as we witness a few such artists being given the recognition they deserve.
While many minds may immediately run to the likes of Simphiwe Dana and Camagwini, they would be overlooking a group named The Soil, who have coined a new genre they call Kasi soul.
The trio, made up of Buhlebendalo Mda, Ntsika Ngxanga and Luphindo Ngxanga (Master P), have brought a fresh approach to a capella music.
The group’s music features an eclectic mix of musical genres such as jazz, hip-hop, Afro-pop and Afro-soul in a contemporary township style. Its style is evident in its rhythmic vocal bass line, with constant beat-boxing, which is a distinct feature in the music, while the remaining voices contribute to the choral and polyphonic accompaniment.
The Soil work together well and the group speak of how they have their own unique roles in ensuring a smoothly run production process. “Master P provided his out-of-this-world beat-box and went further to provide the foundation in the form of his beautiful bass for our songs. Buhle provided the sweet and gentle alto and soprano. Then Ntsika provided a sincere tenor and some high pitched dynamics” they told the M&G.
The deluxe edition of the groups self-titled debut album, which recently went gold, is soothing and entertaining, while the group mixes versatile abilities of producing good sounds without the aid of instruments. A capella can be limiting, and it's easy for songs to start sounding the same. This group, however, pulls it off by maintaining the Afro feel with their beat-boxing and harmonising.
The group is influenced by local greats such as Miriam Makeba, Busi Mhlongo, Brenda Fassie and Simphiwe Dana. Drawing from a wide range of genres, they are also inspired by Coldplay, The Script and Kings of Leon.
Two songs that have been receiving a lot of airplay are Baninzi and Inkomo, which they recently remixed with Zakwe. Listening to the album arouses nostalgia for old Sophiatown (or what I have been told of it) and the classic jazzy sounds that encompassed it. Baninzi in particular has a jazzy yet distinctly African vocal bassline coupled with a blend of vocal harmonies that harks back to the South African mbube vocal music, made famous by the likes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
The group maintains an organic approach to their sound, but also to how they want their creations to be interpreted by their audiences.
"The album is a reflection of the group’s aspiration for a world full of joy, hope, faith, goodwill and love," is a message they carry out with each performance and each song.
Wth the success of this album, a show at the Apollo Theatre in New York next year in March and a busy schedule of local gigs, the trio's message is sure to take root with a much wider audience soon.
"We are really happy with the overwhelmingly positive response. We are already working on a lot more songs. So long as we keep producing sincere music that says a lot about our values and preserve our heritage then we will definitely stay on the right track."